The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Adobe Systems

Adobe Systems logo

Adobe Systems is a computer software company headquartered in San Jose, California that was founded in December 1982 by John Warnock and Charles Geschke. They founded Adobe after leaving Xerox PARC in order to further develop and commercialize the PostScript page description language. Adobe played a significant role in sparking the desktop publishing revolution when Apple Computer licensed PostScript for use in the LaserWriter printer product line in 1985. The company name Adobe comes from the Adobe Creek, which ran near the company's original offices in Mountain View.

In 2003, Adobe Systems had about 3,700 employees, at least half of whom were located in San Jose. Adobe also has major development operations in Seattle, Washington; Noida, India; and Ottawa, Canada. Minor Adobe development offices include a location near Minneapolis, Minnesota and in Hamburg, Germany.



Adobe's first products following PostScript were digital fonts. Adobe has continued to be a strong presence in the fonts market: in 1996, the company, in combination with Microsoft, announced the OpenType font format, and in 2003 Adobe completed the conversion of its library of Type 1 fonts to OpenType.

In the mid-1980s, soon after introducing PostScript, Adobe entered the consumer software market with Adobe Illustrator, a vector-based drawing program for the Apple Macintosh. Illustrator was the logical outgrowth of commercializing their in-house font-development software. Additionally, it helped popularize the use of PostScript-enabled laser printers. Unlike MacDraw (then the standard Macintosh vector drawing program), Illustrator described all shapes with more flexible Bézier curves, providing a level of accuracy not seen in other programs. Font rendering in Illustrator, however, was left to the Macintosh's QuickDraw libraries and would not be superseded by a PostScript-like approach until Adobe's own Adobe Type Manager software was introduced, preceding Apple's eventual adoption of TrueType.

Although Illustrator was an excellent product and continues to be highly valued by the prepress industry, Adobe introduced what was to become its flagship product, Adobe Photoshop for the Macintosh, in 1989. Although Photoshop 1.0 had competitors, it was extremely stable and well-featured—and Adobe had the resources to market it. This combination enabled Photoshop to soon dominate its market.

Arguably, one of Adobe's few missteps on the Macintosh platform was their failure to develop their own desktop publishing (DTP) program. Instead, Aldus with PageMaker in 1985 and Quark with QuarkXPress in 1987 gained early leads in the DTP market. Adobe was also slow to address the emerging Windows DTP market. In a classic failure to predict the direction of computing, Adobe released a complete version of Illustrator for Steve Jobs' ill-fated NeXT system, but a poorly produced version for Windows.

History has been kind to Adobe, however. Because the company always had licensing fees from the PostScript interpreter to fall back on, Adobe was able to simply outlast many of its rivals in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and, like Microsoft, eventually acquired its main competitors or continued to improve its applications until they became industry standards. For reasons unknown, Corel never leveraged their CorelDraw product to do professional illustration—users quietly derided it as something only office users would touch—so when Illustrator was finally revamped for Windows, prepress users found it too good to ignore. Corel's interest in acquiring WordPerfect from Novell Corporation around this time may have proved to be a key distraction. In 1994, Adobe took over Aldus and acquired PageMaker and the TIFF file format; in 1995 they acquired the long-document DTP application FrameMaker from Frame Technologies.

Adobe's latest efforts are mainly centered on its Portable Document Format (PDF). Although sales of Adobe Acrobat, which generates PDF files, were slow to start in the mid-1990s, Adobe continued to develop the product, perceiving its long-term potential for revenues. History has since shown this to be a wise investment. Adobe has also seen several ancilliary benefits: PDF provides a common, high-quality data exchange infrastructure for its DTP applications.

Among open software advocates, some see Adobe as overly aggressive. This image was created with their decision to use an encrypted, proprietary format for their high-quality Type 1 fonts, thus allowing them to charge licensing fees for any other company that wanted to produce or use Type 1 fonts. The size of these fees was a factor in Apple's development of their own TrueType technology as well as Microsoft's decision to license TrueType from Apple. At the presentation at which TrueType was introduced, Adobe head Warnock followed TrueType talks from both Apple and Microsoft VPs, and was near tears as he said that they were being sold "smoke." In fact, TrueType had definitive advantages: it provided not only full scalability, but also precise pixel-level control of a font's pixels. A few months later Adobe published the Type 1 specification, and soon released the "Adobe Type Manager" software, which allowed for WYSIWYG scaling of Type 1 fonts on screen, just like TrueType (though without the precise pixel-level control). However, these moves were too late to stop the rise of TrueType, which quickly became the standard for business and the average Windows user, with Type 1 retaining a large portion of the graphics/publishing market.

It acquired its former main rival Macromedia on April 18, 2005.


Adobe's reputation suffered in the eyes of some free software advocates when the FBI arrested Dmitry Sklyarov in 2001 for what Adobe claimed was a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. According to a DOJ complaint, Sklyarov was arrested July 17, 2001 at the DEF CON conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, apparently at the behest of Adobe Systems, and was charged with distributing a product designed to circumvent copyright protection measures. Sklyarov helped create the Advanced eBook Processor (AEBPR) software for his Russian employer Elcomsoft. The incident particularly angers those who see copyrights and protection as opposing free speech rights, as Adobe co-founder John Warnock said in one interview that "I am probably the strongest free-speech advocate you will ever meet; I own a copy of the first printing of the Bill of Rights! I hate censorship in any form. From this you can probably guess how I feel about the telecommunications bill." Yet, according to some, Adobe used a bill similar to the one denounced by Warnock to attack Sklyarov.

At the same time, in many circles Adobe is considered one of the most principled of the major software companies, and one that treats its large corporate customers and employees well, although customer service for smaller businesses and individuals has often received unfavorable press. Adobe has climbed Fortune magazine's rankings as an outstanding place to work over the last several years (2001-03). Adobe was rated the fifth best American company to work for in 2003 and sixth best in 2004.


Financial information

Adobe Systems entered the Nasdaq in 1986. As of December 2004, it has a market capitalisation of roughly US$15 billion and its shares are traded at about US$62. Its 2002 revenues were about US$1.2 billion.

On April 18, 2005, Adobe Systems announced that it will acquire Macromedia for $3.4 billion.

See also

External links

  • Adobe's website is
  • Adobe's font library is available at
  • As of November 15, 2003, Adobe LiveMotion is no longer distributed. See


Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04