Middle East business title AME Info has published an in-depth and extensive interview with Adobe president and CEO Bruce Chizen (illustrated).
Chizen is credited with turning the company around in the late 1990s, and with seeing-off a hostile take-over bid from desktop publishing rival, Quark. The company recently announced the most successful quarter's trading in its history, beating analysts – and its own – expectations.
Things came to a head in August 1998, according to the interview. It was at this point that the company was hit by trembling economies in the Far East. Company founders John Warnock and Chuck Geschke decided to engage in a major streamlining of the company.
On Quark's attempt to take over Adobe, Chizen said: "Right after Quark announced its takeover bid, there was the Seybold publishing show. There was a session where the people in the audience were asked to vote – how many people want Quark to take over Adobe and how many people don't? I don't think anybody raised their hand [to express] their desire for Quark to take over Adobe. That is because our customers like what Adobe does and stands for, and that gives us a great deal of permission."
Chizen discusses the way the company chose to focus on its critical market of creative professionals, and also on document workflow products, such as Acrobat. The company also had to integrate its disparate sales and marketing groups, which all used different systems.
"As a result, it took us three weeks after the close of a quarter to report our earnings. There were some quarters in which, on the Wednesday night prior to the disclosure deadline, we were still trying to figure out what the real numbers were," said Chizen.
Describing Adobe today as a "technology platform provider", Chizen said: "What we've done recently with the Creative Suite allows us to provide not only a great solution for our customers but it provides a vehicle in which to build more products and services".
On Photoshop he says, "More than half the people who use Photoshop – a product targeted at professionals are not professionals". The company also intends building "products and services on top of that desktop platform".
"You can imagine, over time, providing services that might allow us to participate in mobility as well as in print workflows for photo finishing. We might do this directly or through partnerships," he said.
The company leader is proud of Adobe's achievements: "We truly have made a difference in the world. In the early days, our challenge was about taking pretty stuff on a screen and expressing it on paper through PostScript. Then think about our graphics applications; just about any logo you see was probably created with Illustrator. The type you see is probably an Adobe font. The image you see on the Web was probably touched by Adobe Photoshop. The title effect you see in a movie was probably enhanced by Adobe After Effects. And just about any important document you see on the Web is communicated with PDF and Acrobat."
"The fact that we have had that kind of impact on society – and the belief that we could continue to have that impact on society – is, I believe, what has motivated our employees more than anything else".
He describes the main impact of Adobe's corporate reorganization as: "Trying to become more customer focused. We're not exactly where I think we need to be, but we're much better than we used to be. We used to develop the technology, ship the product, and then figure out who should buy it. I'm overstating this to some degree, but in some cases it's true".
Looking forward, Adobe's CEO said that in five years: "I believe we'll be thought of as the enterprise company. However, we'll continue to have a very loyal following of creative professionals, and we'll continue to provide solutions for the digital photography enthusiast".