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Adobe CEO to Apple: "Let the games begin"

shantanu_narayen.top.jpgModerator John Battelle (right) pressed Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen on the company's relationship with Apple and Microsoft. By Julianne Pepitone, staff reporter


SAN FRANCISCO (CNNMoney.com) -- Adobe's CEO says he's tired of the debate over Apple barring Flash from its products, but that didn't stop Shantanu Narayen from taking a few shots at the iPad maker.

"Anyone who wants to design for a multiplatform world is our customer," Narayen said Tuesday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. "Apple would like to keep it closed and proprietary. Well, let the games begin."

But in almost the same breath, Narayen minimized the controversy over Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) favoring the fast-emerging HTML 5 standard over Flash for Web animation. In discussing the debate, he invoked the title theme of the Web 2.0 Summit: "Points of Control."

"It's all about how you control content on the Web," Narayen said. "Apple has their view. To a large extent, the media doesn't want to let it go. "

Narayen dismissed the idea of HTML vs. Flash, saying Adobe is "all about creating the best tools [for both]. It's really described in a narrow way [in the media]."

With Narayen clearly eager to discuss topics other than Apple, conference moderator John Battelle asked about a rumored meeting between Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) and Adobe on October 7. News reports saying the idea of a merger was discussed sent Adobe's stock 12% higher that day.

"We meet with [Microsoft CEO] Steve [Ballmer] periodically," Narayen replied. On the stock spike, he said: "It's just the nature of the beast."

Adobe (ADBE) has no plans to sell itself, he added.

The company has drawn criticism from some who think it's resting on its laurels with Flash, which for years was the unchallenged technology of choice for Web animation and video snippets. Now, in Microsoft's Silverlight and HTML 5 -- supported by a growing number of browsers -- Flash faces its first serious rivals, a point Battelle pressed Narayen on.

Adobe's CEO says his company is up to the challenge. "Flash has changed the world," he said. "When you change the world with what you deliver, you'll have fans and supporters -- and you'll have your detractors. We have to continue to innovate, and we will."

The session ended with questions from audience members, who were generally tough on Adobe's stance as a company and on the shortcomings of Flash. The first participant asked what Adobe "stands for," saying "I feel like it's gotten all muddled."

"We will continue to revolutionize how society utilizes digital," Narayen said -- though he acknowledged that will become trickier with HTML 5 moving into territory that traditionally belonged to Flash.

Another audience member pointed out that Flash can be a battery suck, especially on mobile devices. He asked whether Adobe is working to fix the issue.

Narayen didn't directly answer the question, saying instead that Flash is a big, established technology that's tricky to shove into a small mobile device. While it would have been easier to rebuild a mobile-friendly Flash, he said, Adobe didn't want to alienate Flash developers.

"Web video is becoming huge," Narayen said. "And in that respect, Flash is better than or equal to the power of any technology out there." To top of page

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