What if I told you that Apple failed? It wouldn’t be the first time a giant took a wrong step, right? Think about AOL, Netscape or even Palm; all fell from the cover of Time Magazine (no pun intended AOL) due to a series of bad choices. Except in the case of Apple’s decision to not play nicely with Adobe, the failure might actually be calculated. Apple claims this is a performance issue and that Adobe’s platforms are inferior to HTML 5. However, I see this as “Clock Blocking,” a tactic meant to preserve market position for as long as possible until enough time has elapsed and the inevitable happens.
In order to understand my position on this matter, it is important to understand how The Buddy Group and I spend our days. You can often find me in war rooms and corporate boardrooms working with brands, product innovators, media moguls, C-level types and others on their businesses. We (at The Buddy Group) specialize in helping brands connect with their audience using all forms of technology. A brand comes to us to develop a digital strategy, a product roadmap or marketing plan. We develop the plan, determine the platforms and tools most appropriate to the brand and goals, and develop the content as required. We are in the trenches. We are looking at what technology works, what is scalable and what technology is the best long-term investment for each tactic.
Times are tough and every dollar is scrutinized against KPI (Key Performance Indicators) like never before. Digital is one of the only mediums that provides real-time, measurable results. So you can imagine how it feels when it comes time to tell them that each piece of content, each application, each tool must be developed two if not three times, thereby increasing the cost of production and maintenance exponentially. Let’s just say, it doesn’t feel good especially when it is Apple’s strategy of “Clock Blocking” Flash that is the culprit.
But it shouldn’t be like that. We should be able to create it once, have it live in one spot and be accessible by multiple platforms and Apple knows it. They know that by allowing Flash to play in their sandbox even just a little means that their iphone App , iPad App and iTunes as we know it is threatened because most of what we do in an Apple app can be done with an Adobe product (note: I said most). As I discussed today with a colleague (conversations on this topic are frequent and usually end in frustration) I believe that we have not seen the true revolution in the pad and mobile device space yet. This will come as Android, Chrome and other non-Apple OS come to market and welcome (with open arms) Adobe.
Take, for example, a Toy company. They have 40 years of experience producing their own Intellectual property and licensing blockbusters for the purpose of creating physical products that kids (and some adults) can enjoy. They invent a product, manufacture it and sell it in. While that might be an over simplification, what you don’t see me pointing out is the need to create a different product for each shelf that it sits on. Multiple SKUs are created for the purpose of creating differentiation, not to comply with the retail requirements themselves. Enter, digital. The same Toy company wants to take their IP online, extend their toy or game to an online audience. Today, if they want to be accessible to all audiences they have to develop their IP on multiple platforms. Each platform (Apple, Android, Web browser, Palm) requires a different build of the experience. Each experience might need to be different as well as each platform functions slightly different based on whom they are. The Toy Company in this scenario is lucky. They can afford to produce the content 3 times where as small businesses simply cannot. They produce it once (if lucky) and usually dumb down the experience to the lowest common denominator. Using the old adage, “you have one dollar to spend, where to do you spend it” we look to Apple’s iPhone as the first choice. But…what if you had HP, Sony, Google, Microsoft, Motorola and everyone else in the world supporting Adobe? Yup, you might just switch your priority, right?
What really bothers me is not the need to produce the content for multiple platforms so much as the shelf life of that effort. The window is debatable (as is the idea that someday Apple will support Adobe) but my guess is that we are looking at 12-18 months. I base this guess on the predicted success of non-apple tablets and the rapidly growing non-apple mobile device marketplace supporting Adobe. There are those that say content should be refreshed every 6 to 12 months anyway and I agree. But there is a big difference between updating campaign creative or key messaging and rebuilding a suite of apps already in the marketplace. It is going to be a welcome day when we, on behalf of brands, can create one piece of super high-quality content and know that it will be accessible by all important devices. When that happens, we will see more content, more tools and most important, something the U.S. needs right now, more small businesses leveling the playing field with their larger competitors.