Adobe’s Wowza Litigation, Flash Waning Passion, and Mobile Hype

Just reminder of a few things & comments on realities that have seeped into the Flashmedia list thread; Stefan already said most of it, but re-iterating.

If you’re not on the list, the quick summary is Adobe’s suing Wowza for patent infringement caused a lot of frustration in a already-extremely-pissed-off-at-Adobe user base.

I wanted to point out Adobe’s proven history at making money from defending their patents, some misunderstandings of how this is related to Flash’s second PR problem, and trying to crush some of the mobile hype misunderstandings.

First, litigation….

Macromedia built some phat tabs into Photoshop. Adobe sued Macromedia for copying back in 2000. They won $2.8 billion dollars. That’s almost 3 Ominiture purchases, not counting inflation. Macromedia then reverted GUI work they had done in 2 of their products (which probably cost a few hundred k + valuable software dev time).

Macromedia sued Adobe back the following year saying they owned patents on Photoshop, and won  $4.9 million. This kind of sue/counter sue went on for awhile.

Even a shareholder with a litigious history sued Adobe for hurting Macromedia shares during the original buyout.

So, there is money to be made in such suits vs. innovating on your software. Additionally, you need to defend certain aspects of your software/brand, otherwise it becomes public domain.

Second, Flash dying…

Incorrect. Flash isn’t dying. People’s passion around Flash is. The marketing around HTML5 has successfully identified this trend without naming it, yet fails to recognize the reality is you have zero choice for reliable, cross platform delivery of highly visual experiences at a reasonable expense unless you use Flash.

Like Stefan said, there is a ton of Flash and Flex work. If you’re having problems finding work, talk to me. While performance on mobile blows compared to Desktop, 2 things are happening: Adobe is iterating and continuing to invest money in making it perform better. Also, phones are constantly increasing in performance. Some of the experiences you can create right now on mobile using Flash CS 5.5 and Flash Builder 4.5 are good enough for certain types of work. More on that in a bit.

On the Enterprise side, they still generate ghetto fab AJAX from 2004. Whether .NET and Atlas, Java’s Tapestry derivatives, or Oracle’s ADF… it all looks like forms from the early 2000’s. These aren’t RIA’s, they’re just really large form applications in the browser, not experiences that can be easily sold unless they make up a large, boring product portfolio for a specific, non-tapped niche. Until GWT generates Flex on the client vs. HTML/CSS/JavaScript, we’re golden here too. Cross platform/cross browser drag and drop, high performance visualizations, and video with REST/SOAP/JSON/XML/binary socket connectivity? That’s all us. Being able to actually integrate with those technologies I mentioned above? That’s also all us.

Yes, iOS, Android, and Corona are hot right now. They are different markets than traditional Flash/Flex Development. If you wish to quit Flash/Flex, there is plenty of room & opportunity for you in those tech spheres. You can have while working there and making a great living. You can have fun and pay you’re mortgage.

Third, Mobile hype…

While the press will lead you to believe that the only jobs currently being hired for, and done, are for mobile, it’s a complete untruth. Many companies, specifically Design Agencies, are running into challenges in selling reasonable mobile packages. If you’re selling a $100,000 website, and it’ll take another $20,000 to get your team to make a mobile version, most clients (currently) aren’t buying. They just opt for the desktop website. While you could reduce scope in the desktop website, most clients contacting design agencies aren’t willing to bend on the Quality part in the Quality/Time/Cost circle, thus, you don’t really have a lot of room there.

For mobile apps that make use of native code speeds and functionality, it’s worse. If I pay an iOS dev $16,000 to knock out a small mobile app, I usually have to hire another skill set to knock out an Android equivalent one… for another $16,000. This assumes, too, that we add the standard 20% for past device support (iPhone 3Gs with 4.0 SDK, iPhone 3Gs with 4.1 SDK, etc). This, in addition, to usually some marketing website advertising the brands campaign around the new mobile applications for all devices.

Right now there IS money floating around for the larger companies willing to fit the bill. That’s not sustainable for the industry at large since not everyone is Coke or Turner. Eventually, lower fidelity HTML/JS/CSS or Flash code bases that allow cross device, and sometimes desktop web support are more cost effective. While they’re not native, they do work, have positive customer perception, and can be sold at reasonable prices. Both HTML/JS/CSS and Flash are just now beginning to make this type of work a reality. While the code is write once, and deploy… the design still requires some rework, but the skills required can be learned, optimized, and made into a reasonable workflow.

This is the future. It isn’t here yet. If you ask many agency’s, yes, their mobile work is increasing, but it’s not the sudden “death of radio because TV came out” that the press would have you believe. There’s opportunity here, folks, not death of your career. Growth!


Adobe has the right, and should, defend their patents.

Macromedia traditionally was extremely good at asking honest, forthright, non-assuming questions to community members & customers. This helped drive product direction, and ensured their products actually did what we needed it to do both now. They still put innovation in as well. It wasn’t always right (Behaviors Panel in Flash), but when it it was, magic happened (YouTube).

…except the velocity in FMS was excruciatingly slow compared to the other product lines. If you only occasionally did a Flash streaming project, oh well. If you built a career around doing Flash video, it was quite frustrating. The only community I ever saw throw so much vitrol back at Macromedia was the ColdFusion community; they did this in an Emo, I-just-need-a-hug way, and usually things worked out for them. For the FCS/FMS crowd, not so much; they were, and still are, pretty pissed off, even before the lawsuit. If history’s any indication, they’ll keep using FMS.

For whatever reason, Macromedia, and later Adobe, didn’t seem to see ROI in investing in higher velocity feature sets for FMS releases in relation to customer expectations. At least compared to other product offerings. Maybe it’s a niche market.

Bottom line, people would love to utilize this incident as a way to say Adobe needs to reep what they sow with regards to ignoring their most valuable assets: product evangelists & community engagers.

…and as an incident that will cause their existing customers to move to Wowza/Red5 away from FMS. Um, no, not going to happen in a large enough capcity to matter, methinks. We’d all prefer they spend the litigation money on buying out Wowza instead.


11 Replies to “Adobe’s Wowza Litigation, Flash Waning Passion, and Mobile Hype”

  1. Macromedia built something into Photoshop? Are you thinking of the lawsuit regarding how Homesite allowed you to organize tabs; which was similar to how Adobe’s Photoshop operated?

    That lawsuit–if that is what you’re thinking of–went the same way you describe. Adobe sued Macromedia and won. The Macromedia sued Adobe and won.

    Unfortunately, all big companies compete in the courts these days. The chances that Wowza didn’t violate a patent is extremely unlikely. Especially if Adobe can “Borrow” any H.264 related patents for their lawsuit. Patents are easier to get than toilet paper these days.

  2. No problem getting work. Yes problem keeping existing customers happy because they are demanding mobile with an urgency I’ve never before witnessed. There is a shortage of competent developers for mobile, and all the digital agencies are feeling the pinch.

  3. …and as an incident that will cause their existing customers to move to Wowza/Red5 away from FMS. Um, no, not going to happen in a large enough capacity to matter, methinks.


    It already is happening, that’s probably the prime reason they are suing. Not making any money anymore. This move will definitely push more to use Wowza and shun Adobe, it certainly won’t help at all which in turn means the only revenue they should expect to get out of this is whatever they can rip from Wowza, from there they can continue to watch revenue from FMS fall off probably precipitously. Sad.. I feel sorry for the FMS team.

    Definitely don’t want Adobe buying Wowza.. they’d ruin it and probably just let it stagnate and only get updated once every year and a half compared to now where updates come out just about monthly if not more for the little bugs.

  4. Disagreeing here slightly with Graeme. Yes, some people move to Wowza, or use both (you and me included). But those ones that matter, the big boys, will be even more careful now as they are scared about using potentially patent-infringing products. I predict that they will stick to FMS and it in turn will be just fine (like Flash ;-) – I’m sure the CDNs regularly buy and upgrade a few copies and will keep doing so…

    What if a client asks you tomorrow if you could 100% recommend Wowza for an upcoming project in the light of this suit? If you are honest you couldn’t until the issue is settled and cleared up.
    Even if they settle out of court it could easily push Wowza’s price up if they have to pay license fees to Adobe for every copy sold. Does that suck? Oh yes it does.

  5. As I understand it, Adobe hasn’t licensed RTMPE for public use, only RTMP, and that is the crux of the lawsuit. It’s unfortunate as I personally use Wowza, but if Wowza are using technology that they are not licensed to use then I don’t see that Adobe are out of line protecting their tech. It might be nice if we lived in a world where one company would send another company a polite email before taking them to court though…

  6. I think instead of “Macromedia built some phat tabs into Photoshop. ” you meant to say “Macromedia built some phat tabs into Fireworks”

  7. In reply to user “Dags” who said:
    “It might be nice if we lived in a world where one company would send another company a polite email before taking them to court though…”

    I must say I couldn’t agree with you more! It would be nice indeed if companies would send each others such emails first, instead of starting a lawsuit right away. Certainly a some form of warning to try and find an agreement before going to court would be preferable to expensive and harmful lawsuits that often hurt us all in the end, by creating a culture where everything has to be resolved in court and where the end user eventually ends up paying the price by picking up the tab of lawsuits in the form of higher costs of products and services and delayed progress.
    Who knows… there may even be draconian laws which would not make it possible to proceed in the way Dags suggested, even if a company would want to do so. For such non-litigious way to become a reality, some kind of reform to the entire body of laws on patenting may need to be done first.

    I believe that proceeding to warn first and then followup with a proposal to meet and discuss the alleged infringement, would be a far better option for all parties involved. The advantages of trying to first resolve a dispute over an infringement using mediation over lawsuit are self evident and hard to argue (unless one is a patent troll that is). Sadly mediation does not seem to be the current practice, probably because it would not allow patent law firms to maximize their revenue because mediation would make them pennies, while lawsuit will shower them with gold.

    Mediation could lead to reaching an agreement where a company that realized they committed a patent infringement not even being aware of it, would agree to apologise and pay a licensing fee or share revenues with the patent holders. That would allow the patent holders to capitalize on their intellectual property and be compensated for it while keeping both companies in business and possibly even allowing both to be mutually beneficial to each others success.
    Only failure to reach an agreement between the parties would trigger a lawsuit… therefore quite obviously the initial mediation attempt, does not cancel the possibility of lawsuit, but, by first trying to settle a potential patent infringement in a non litigious manner, would mean that lawsuits should always be the last resort rather than being the very first.

    I absolutely agree that companies must remain entitled to defend intellectual property and that nobody should be allowed to unfairly monetize other people’s ingenuity if they have no right to do so… and if something like that was in place over a century ago, it may have avoided quite a few heartaches to poor Tesla and at the same time it would have allowed him continue to bring into this world more of those precious products conceived by his absolutely awesome mind… but I digress.

    Before my next statement, I have to first point out that I am not even remotely hinting that Adobe or Macromedia may have ever considered to go down that path. That said: I despise patent trolling and I believe that the patenting system, in the way that it’s been currently set up, does more harm than good. The way it’s being used now, it only hampers progress when it doesn’t completely bring it down to a grinding halt. What could be a much faster process of inventing and improving upon inventions with a mutual cooperative environment, has been instead reduced to a bureaucratic battlefield where progress is immensely delayed (when not completely stopped) by the current litigious system where those who benefit most are patent trolls, legal firms and the ecosystem built around it… In other words a system that would be praised by all Vogons of planet Vogspehere.

    The sad part here is that there is no interest in reforming the current patenting system and to what extent a patent holder can prohibit or limit use. What’s worst is that leaving the patent system as is, we all loose in the long run. How about allowing to patent, but limiting guaranteed exclusivity only for the first few years and then making it mandatory to provide licensing options via licensing agreements, or via per-use royalties?

    Even pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to patent their formulas forever. And that’s one of the most regulated industries, certainly far more than software is. Whether one like or dislikes pharmaceutical companies is beyond scope here, what matters is that from a patenting standpoint, those companies are allowed a limited timeframe for ROI, after which they must release the original formula so it can be produced as a cheaper generic product (which continues earning royalties for the company although at fraction of the revenue while the product was under exclusivity patent)… every now and then there is a Jonas Salk, but that’s the exception.

    To be clear, I am not suggesting that software company should give away their intellectual property for the good of mankind… but I would think that there could be a better way to make use of creative energy and brainpower than to wast it all in litigations and lawsuits. Why should not be possible to find an agreement? Where there’s a will there’s a way.

    There should be no full patents lasting forever, where a patent holder could deny it to the world even after hundreds of years. Limited exclusivity for first few years, license/royalty based revenue for a further number of years following exclusive rights, and possibly open source it after a longer period.
    A system working in such way, should sound fair for patent holders and I am referring to reasonable people, not endlessly greedy ones who would be satisfied only by forever patents.
    Fair patenting laws and regulations, would allow patent holders to be properly protected while keeping at bay the complacency which could arise when feeling entitled to be able to own patents indefinitely and simply sit on the laurels, reaping benefits that at a certain point will start becoming unfair and that will eventually become even harmful to a healthy, creative and inventive environment since for each new idea there would be a “can’t be done”, because of a patent prohibiting one thing or another for hundreds of years. But perhaps most importantly a fair system would help minimize unnecessary litigations and will help foster a higher and continuous motivation to move progress and innovation forward at a much faster pace.

    I may even be delusional, but I believe that a fair patenting system would be a win/win situation for everyone (unwelcome only to greedy companies) and would not even be so impossible to achieve if only there was a will to do so.

    (You may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one…)

    Thanks for the interesting article and info, keep up the good work Jesse.

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