Is Adobe Considering Linux?

Back in 2010, when I started to get really annoyed that Apple was abandoning its creative pro customer base in order to focus on consumer gadgets, I bought a small HP laptop that ran the Linux operating system. I wanted to see if Linux and its associated open-source software would be a feasible replacement for my Mac workstation.

If you’ve never worked with Linux, you may not be aware of some of the issues that I discovered. The two primary ones were:

1) In Linux, programs aren’t installed the way they are under Mac or Windows: first, you have to find an online “repository” that contains the software you want, install the repository (which acts sort of like a catalog or index), and then you can go into the repository and select the applications you want to run on your system.

2) The biggest obstacle I encountered was dealing with “restricted formats.” Linux is open-source, and in order to stay free, it can’t contain any copyrighted intellectual property. This includes the code required to play common video files. In theory, installing a media player and associated codec libraries would be easy. It isn’t.

I’m old enough to remember running programs off 5.25″ floppy disks. The idea of having to locate and tie into remote repositories in order to install software is, frankly, quite unappealing. I like to physically own what I pay for, and I don’t like to be dependent on internet connections. I especially don’t like wasting time trying to make simple functions like video playback work properly.

For all the same reasons, I was less than thrilled to hear Adobe’s recent announcement that all future versions of their Creative Suite of applications would be exclusively available on the cloud.

However, this similarity of approach – “repository” and “cloud” – makes me wonder … Could Adobe be considering making their software available for the Linux OS.

There’s historical precedent for my query. Originally, Adobe applications ran exclusively on the Mac OS. But, in the early ’90s, Adobe started releasing versions not only for Windows, but also for NeXT, Silicone Graphics, and Sun Solaris. None of those alternate operating systems had the longevity or the market share that Linux does today.

So, they’ve done it before. Would they have reason to do it again?

In my opinion, Apple has answered that question. Remember the furor that erupted in 2008 when Apple locked Adobe Flash out of the iPhone? At that time, Flash had become the dominant format for interactive websites. Customers WANTED to be able to use Flash on their iPhones, but the ability to run web apps on Flash websites was a threat to the Apple App Store business model, so Apple refused. In other words, Apple leveraged the popularity of their new product to seriously harm a company – Adobe – that had partnered with them for close to 30 years. Would Apple ever have survived the ’80s and ’90s without Photoshop, Illustrator and Pagemaker?

More to the point, don’t you think that the folks at Adobe are well aware that Apple stabbed them in the back, after years of faithful service?

So, Apple has certainly given Adobe reason to pursue friendlier pastures. But what about Adobe’s customers? The creative professionals that use CS6 tend to be heavy Apple users as well. This is partially a function of fashion, and partially a function of history. The original Mac business model revolved around empowering users to do great work quickly and easily. Compared to Windows, Mac was the easy-going, free-thinking little guy … You installed Final Cut, and it worked. You plugged a DV camera into the firewire port, and it worked. No compatibility issues, cutting-edge software, no viruses. It was easily the best option for creative professionals.

Contrast that with the Apple of today, which offers no particular benefit to creative professionals, and has refocused its business model on locking as many casual consumers as possible into its “ecosystem” of gadgets, computers and software.

That ecosystem, by the way, infuriates me. I can buy an MP3 on that will play on – and freely be copied to and from – any non-Apple device. Or, for the same price, I can buy a “license” to play an identical track from iTunes that will ONLY play on an Apple device, and ONLY if it has been “authenticated” with my user name and password.

The only reason any rational human being would choose a far more restrictive version of the same product is if it’s easier to do so. By tying iPods, iTunes, iPhones and computers together, Apple has created a path of least resistance for consumers, and it has clearly worked very well for their bottom line over the last decade.

How well it will continue to work remains to be seen.

Designers, filmmakers and photographers formed the nucleus of Apple’s customer base. And they are not typical consumers. They are early adopters, they expect to be able to do things, and they get annoyed when they can’t.

Here’s an example: a few years ago, I used Apple’s “Grab” app to pull a few images off a DVD so that I could print them out and take them to a shoot for lighting reference. On a first-generation MacBook, it was no problem. A couple of years later, I tried to do the same thing, only now when I used Grab on the DVD Player window, all Grab captured was a blank gray screen. Apple had become so diligent about digital rights management that it had voluntarily crippled its own software to keep people from “stealing” images from DVDs.

It no longer mattered what I – the customer – WANTED to do. It only mattered what the lawyers told Apple I should be ALLOWED to do. That attitude typifies the current Apple approach, and it makes me more than willing to do a little extra work to gain some measure of freedom.

I suspect that I am not alone. Look at the mass migration from Final Cut to Premiere Pro that occurred after Apple jettisoned most of Final Cut Studio and boiled what was left down into the prosumer-grade FCPX. It’s not easy to switch from one video editing platform to another, but thousands of video pros – myself included – have done so.

We didn’t abandon Apple; Apple abandoned us.

When you pull together Apple’s shift in focus from creative workstations to consumer gadgets, their short-sighted betrayal of Adobe, and their loss of everything that made them appealing to creative professionals, it’s easy to see how they are practically driving Adobe – and its legion of users – into the arms of Linux.

There’s no doubt that Linux could support Adobe apps. Pro-grade creative applications like Blender 3D, Scribus, and GIMP have been around for years. More recently – and of particular importance to filmmakers –  the Lightworks NLE Linux Beta was released last month, which means that there is now a truly full-featured video editing application available for Linux.

Given the programming horsepower under the hood at Adobe HQ – and the fact that Mac OS and Linux are both derived from the UNIX architecture – there’s no way that the technical hurdles involved with releasing a Linux version of “Creative Cloud” would be much of a challenge. Given the scorched-earth policy that Apple has taken towards Adobe, it’s doubtful that Adobe lacks the motivation for a Linux version. And, to fit the third puzzle piece into place, the delivery infrastructure associated with the Creative Cloud dovetails perfectly with the Repository needs of Linux workstations.

Everything’s in place, and the time is right. Adobe, if you’re reading this, I’m ready to make the switch to Linux. And I’m not alone.



  11 comments for “Is Adobe Considering Linux?

  1. Omar
    September 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    I dont think adobe is intersted in making a new software for lunix.
    see adobe flash and adobe reader, they are stuck at 2 versions behind Windows and Mac OS X
    if its possible to run the software in the cloud only, it will be availabe in liunx.

    btw, I very much enjoyed reading your artical and the way you took to descripe detials 🙂

  2. Patrick
    October 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Great article! I’m a Linux user that only has two uses for my Windows machine iTunes and the Adobe CS Suite. I was just having this conversation this morning with my wife. I would love to be a full Linux house but the Adobe Suite is ruining my plans. Come on Adobe, make it happen – Please!

  3. Larry Smith
    October 25, 2013 at 1:38 am

    They better start thinking about it. If you want them to, pledge to end your subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud:

    That’s one consequence of the subscription model that I bet they didn’t think about.

    • Alexander
      October 25, 2013 at 6:17 am

      Excellent! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Tom
    November 23, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Adobe CC Suite/Programs still have to be downloaded and installed on the computer, their cloud function is more for sharing and getting updates. Which means the software is not really cloud operated – it just marketing that’s not telling the full story.

  5. January 10, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Classic catch22 for a publicly owned company; virtually no “Adobe people” are on Linux because Adobe isn’t on Linux, but Adobe isn’t going to write a version for Linux unless it has a lot of subscribers on Linux. I think that Adobe not having a Linux version is the only thing keeping Apple’s “pro-grade” side (mac pro, final cut, etc.) alive, just because it’s filled with Apple zombies that will never touch a Windows computer no matter what.

    Also, the real “Pro-grade” companies like Autodesk, The Foundry, and a myriad of others have been developing strictly for Linux for years and have only recently started to develop for Mac and/or Windows in an effort to gain more sales. Granted some of those solutions come with an extremely large price and probably a custom build of Linux. Even Maxon has a Linux version of C4D.

  6. Rex Deaver
    February 4, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    One gripe. “Linux is open-source, and in order to stay free, it can’t contain any copyrighted intellectual property” is simply a completely untrue statement. All intellectual property is copyrighted at the moment of creation. Period.

    Open source is a license — actually many different licenses — that allow the source code to remain free. The resultant products can be free or not. They just have to abide by the license. And whether or not the OS is free does not impact whether software that runs on that OS has to be free. There are all kinds of products that run on Linux that are not free.

    Propagating the myth that creators give up their copyright when using open source is not a good way to get vendors to supply the software you want for Linux.

    • Alexander
      February 4, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks for the clarification, Rex. It was not my attention to imply that software running on Linux wasn’t copyrighted. Your point is well taken.

  7. Wesley
    April 24, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Take a look at Ubuntu Studio, I have been running it for a while now. To me it feels a lot like a Mac. There are numerous applications for creative workstations. Things like audio, video, publishing, photograpy, animation, office tools, 3D modelling and this list goes on are all supported. Also, they have a snazzy Ubuntu Software Center that works much like an app store. When you want to find something just install it and done. The installer puts it in the proper places in the menus and all. I am a UNIX professional by trade, an automation develper. I use Studio on my Sun Workstation for graphics design and video presentations. Take a look you may be impressed.

    • Alexander
      April 24, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Very cool! I was aware of Gimp and Lightworks, but I did not realize that there was a whole quasi-creative-cloud suite of applications. Thanks for the info!

  8. Wesley
    April 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    The other interesting feature about Ubuntu Studio is the low-latency kernel that it uses by default. Most Linux installs you have to add the low-latency kernel yourself if you need it, but due to the audio processing and the video processing, a real-time mode is needed. The system is designed and well suited for this type of use. The only thing I would say that it could benefit from is more development support to make better use of CUDA cores or OpenCL. Some of the apps use it but we are still in the entry level stages.

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