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Is it time for Adobe products to come to Linux?

April 21, 2014

The issue of Adobe possibly releasing its products for Linux is not a new one. It seems to pop up every once in a while in various articles and discussion threads here and there. There was even a petition to encourage Adobe to release its software for Linux. But is it a good idea? Should Adobe finally begin releasing its products for Linux? I think it would be a smart move on Adobe’s part and I’ll tell you why in this column.

There was a recent thread on Reddit that examined this question. It was started by someone who is interested in Adobe products for Linux, and the reactions were quite mixed in the comments. Some users seem to be in favor of it, while others scoffed at the idea of buying Adobe products for Linux.

I had initially hoped that Adobe’s Creative Cloud might be a sign of the company possibly offering its apps for Linux. Alas, I checked the site today and it looks like it’s only available for Windows and Mac users according to the section of the FAQ about OS compatibility. How unfortunate that Adobe still seems to be living in the past by supporting just those two operating systems.

We have Acrobat Reader (if that’s what they still call it!) and Flash for Linux but their development are being scrapped off. Adobe has stopped upgrading Flash support for Linux. And a lot of their products like Photoshop, AfterEffects, Illustrator aren’t available for Linux. I can tell why Microsoft doesn’t push Office for Linux. But I don’t see any reason why Adobe has to be Linux-phobic.

More at Reddit

Adobe Software for Linux

Is it time for Adobe to release its products for Linux?

Adobe’s software is not a threat to open source applications
Some users also definitely do not like the idea of Adobe products becoming available for Linux. The feeling seems to be that Linux is better off without Adobe’s proprietary software and that such software could be a threat to open source applications. I can certainly understand this position, but I don’t agree with it because it doesn’t take into account the strengths of open source applications and it neglects the usage cases of certain Linux users.

Proprietary applications are definitely not going to be a threat to open source applications. At most they would be an additional choice for Linux users, and their usage would probably be limited to a certain segment of desktop Linux users. I doubt very much that tons of GIMP users would suddenly drop it in favor of Photoshop. Most likely some would never use Photoshop while others would use it for certain things and GIMP for others. GIMP and other open source applications would continue to flourish if Adobe software was available for Linux.

Some users actually need proprietary software from Adobe
But this brings up an uncomfortable fact for free software purists. Sometimes there are usage needs that can’t be met with just open source software. This varies from user to user but I have seen comments by people who would love to use Adobe software in Linux because it provides features that they need and cannot quite find in open source alternatives. This does not mean that these users wouldn’t use other open source applications, it just means that they need special functionality that they can only get in Adobe’s products for certain uses.

Some folks would consider Wine to be the solution for running Adobe apps in Linux. Wine is fine, but it doesn’t always work well on some people’s systems. At best it can be used as a last resort or stopgap, but native Linux versions of Adobe’s software would be a much better experience than the hit or miss situation with Wine. Why futz around with Wine if you have a native version instead?

Is Adobe really linux-phobic?
The starter of the Reddit thread used the term “linux-phobic” to describe Adobe’s decision not to release its software for Linux. I wouldn’t go so far as to use that term. I don’t think that Adobe dislikes Linux out of spite or anything like that. I think Adobe has made its decision based on what it thinks the market might be for its products on Linux, and it may not consider desktop Linux large enough in terms of market share right now.

But that could change over time with the popularity of Android and Chromebooks. Android is on millions of phones and tablets, and Chromebooks have been burning up the bestseller charts on Amazon. Both platforms offer Adobe a chance to profit from Linux, and they could encourage the company to also eventually release its software for desktop Linux distributions such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint. Given the mobile revolution, it makes very little sense for Adobe to put all its eggs in the Windows or OS X baskets.

Adobe does have some mobile apps available for Android and iOS, but they are touch-oriented apps that are probably not quite in the same league as their desktop apps for Windows and Mac. Adobe needs to go beyond the more limited functionality of mobile apps and provide a complete desktop experience for Linux users. The existence of the mobile apps at least indicates that Adobe is thinking about other platforms though and that’s a positive thing.

Adobe should take a page from Valve’s book and embrace Linux
I think somebody at Adobe should call Gabe Newell and ask him why Valve didn’t want to be dependent on Windows any more. It might be a bit of an eye opener for Adobe. I can’t imagine a worse business decision than being almost completely dependent on whatever Microsoft does with Windows. Ugh. Talk about living in the dark ages of computing, it’s not 1995 any more. The days of the Windows hegemony are well and truly coming to an end, and Adobe would be smart to take careful note of this.

Right now nobody seems to know if Adobe has any real interest in Linux, beyond the Android apps that are currently available. My hope is that the company will follow in Valve’s footsteps and realize that the future isn’t on Windows or even OS X. This might seem far-fetched but remember that many people said that Linux would never be a platform for games too. Then Valve shocked the world with Steam for Linux, and then SteamOS and Steam Machines. Adobe could do the same thing someday if it releases its applications for Linux.

What’s your take on this? Tell me in the comments below.


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22 Responses to Is it time for Adobe products to come to Linux?

  1. Matthew Davis on May 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Hey Jim,
    Nice post! I just wanted to reach out and let you know that I included your article in the Future Hosting roundup of May’s best Linux/Open Source content. http://www.futurehosting.com/blog/mays-mid-month-roundup-of-the-best-open-source-linux-and-web-hosting-content/ Thanks for a nice post that I could share with our readers.


    • Jim Lynch on May 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Thanks, Matthew. :)

  2. dragonmouth on May 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Adobe is in business to make money. Because of the nature of Linux universe (most of software is free) Adobe does not forsee making profit on porting their apps to Linux. How much is it going to cost to write Linux-compatible programs and how long is it going to take for Adobe to recover their investment, and start making profit? How many Linux users will take a look at Adobe product prices and decide that they can get by with GIMP and/or Inkscape?

    • Kirk Tirakian on May 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      Yes, there is getting by and having a very good tool. After all this time GIMP still has a texting tool that I find archiac. Good for the 1990′s or early 2000′s BUT NOT 2014. IMHO.

  3. juan erasmo on April 29, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Nice news here…but I’ll soon get rid of windows and buy some day adobe products.

  4. Hillel B on April 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Photoshop for Linux, sure; but Lightroom first!!!

  5. Alex Cox on April 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I would like to see Photoshop available for GNU/Linux since there are some
    plugins (like Nik Silver FX monochrome conversion software) which are very
    useful. Once they are available for GNU/Linux I can give up Mac OSX for good!

  6. Albin on April 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Adobe was interested in supporting desktop Linux so long as Linux appeared to be growing into a real competitor to MS and Apple, but Linux has apparently plateaued at about 1.5% of desktop operating system market share and was not ready for the termination of XP. It costs money for big companies to develop and maintain software, and Linux shows no prospect of a return on such investment. End of story. Obviously not the same for Android or cloud products accessible through browsers, Chrome OS, etc. for which Adobe is actively developing, so on the expanded definition of “Linux” Adobe the premise of the article is off-base.

    • dragonmouth on May 1, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      “Linux has apparently plateaued at about 1.5% of desktop operating system market share ”
      On what do you base your number?

      “was not ready for the termination of XP”
      How should Linux have made ready for termination of XP?

  7. Kirk Tirakian on April 26, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    I started on Macs and Adobe products. Three years ago, fresh out of working Macs and a found working Dell 9150 in a city recycling center, I turned to Ubuntu. I’m using it now. I’ve worked with Windows as well including with the computer impaired i.e. I help people figure out how to use their Windows machines.

    With Linux you get a lot for free and I have enjoyed using it.

    I’m working my way back to having my own Mac. As much as the open-source software can do, NOTHING matches the Adobe Suite of products. I have not seen an employment ad for knowing Gimp, inkscape, or other such software. It is always Adobe. I would love to see Adobe come to Linux in some way that is fully functional.

    • dragonmouth on May 1, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      “I have not seen an employment ad for knowing Gimp, inkscape, or other such software. It is always Adobe.”

      Have you actually tried responding to the ad and telling the prospective employer that you know open source equivalents of Adobe or are you just assuming? Adobe has become a generic term like “coke”, “xerox” and “kleenex.” You do not ask for a cola by a brand name, you ask for a “coke.” You do not Recoh a document, you “xerox” it. You do not use a Puffs or Charmin to wipe your nose, you reach for a “kleenex.” Are Coke, Xerox or Kleenex better than productys from other companies? It depends on your tastes and preferences.

  8. Mike on April 26, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Please god no.

    Adobe never made anything that wasn’t absolute crap…and yes that inlcudes Photoshop, Premier, Acrobat, and Flash.

    Buggy, insecure, crash prone…it shares so many traits with Windows, it obviously should stay there.

  9. Josh Reuben on April 24, 2014 at 3:33 am

    Adobe’s codebase is most likely riddled with Win32, MFC, COM & ATL APIs – it would require a massive rewrite

  10. trevor on April 22, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Sorry Jim, but you a just terrible. How about for once you actually write an article worthy of publishing.

    I only see your articles because they show up on lxer, and to be quite honest, the titles give them away as the absolute drivel that they are.

    For christs sake: Is it time for Adobe products to come to Linux?, Does OpenSSL need a Linus Torvalds?

    Your articles are equivalent to the crap that you see in the latest teeny bopper magazines or on silly media-centric American rubbish like ‘Extra’ or ‘Entertainment Tonight’.

    • Jim Lynch on April 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Trevor. You can also purchase each of my articles in ebook format on Amazon. Here’s a link to my author page:


      I figured you’d want to know. ;)

  11. Glenn Thigpen on April 22, 2014 at 4:04 am

    I wish there were open source software that would do the job as well as some of the proprietary products. I am not opposed to paying for a good product. I have shelled out money for the ABBYY pro OCR software because it does a better job of ocr and document replication compared to anything else I have found. I have one windows 7 machine dedicated just to that purpose. Adobe reader offers some functions that Okular, Evince, etc just do not have, yet.
    I would be happy to join a crowd funding effort to develop open sourse alternatives to those products.


  12. Serge on April 22, 2014 at 3:50 am

    Warning: The following post was written by a cynic.

    I don’t think that Adobe content creation software is in any way “threatened” of getting locked in to Windows, nor do I think there is any other kind of threat to this software from the presumed current Windows development direction. Some of Microsoft’s activities are most definitely a threat to other Adobe technologies, such as Adobe’s various data formats and languages, but just not their content creation software. Valve, on the other hand, is in an entirely different situation. Valve, when wearing the hat of software distributor, is very much threatened by Windows Store and the way the integration of Windows Apps with the new Windows interface may give Windows Store a native advantage over Steam as a distribution platform. Valve, seeing a future in which Microsoft gobbles up Steam distribution revenues, decided it is in its best interest to foster the growth of an alternative gaming medium that is not controlled by Microsoft so that Steam can continue to be the dominant form of digital video game distribution. This is also the reason why other top rate video game development studios, which do not participate in ecommerce the way Valve does, have not been jumping into Linux with both feet the way Valve has.

    Adobe, on the other hand, doesn’t have to worry about this kind of stuff. Windows can wax and wane and invert colors and become dependent on motion tracking as input sources. Adobe’s content creation software generally occupies the top quality tier, which is why it is the industry standard in more than a few industries, and Microsoft’s control over Windows does not strike me as having the potential to affect that. But I do want to think that graphic design studios would benefit greatly if they were able to combine the user control and flexibility of Linux-based systems with Adobe content creation software running on top. So for the sake of benefitting their customers, I think it would be very wise for Adobe to port its content creation software to Linux.

  13. David Brown on April 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

    Adobe should get together with a computer manufacturer (like Lenovo) and spec out a high-end package (computer, monitor, etc.). Then they should build their own Linux distro to suit the hardware (all necessary drivers, etc.), load it with their software and sell it as an Adobe branded computer. This could outperform a Mac Pro at 60% the cost and sell like hotcakes into the professional graphics art community. The software could be “free” for a year, and then the monthly charges would start.

  14. C. Wizard on April 22, 2014 at 12:38 am

    “…The days of the Windows hegemony are well and truly coming to an end, and Adobe would be smart to take careful note of this…”

    Because google has taken over from microsoft.

    adobe stopped development of all of their products for Linux, including flash, but who makes pepperflash for google chrome?
    When all else fails, that is, when nothing else makes senses, follow the money.

  15. Hunkah on April 22, 2014 at 12:25 am

    I personally don’t use Adobe products, but that’s because they aren’t available for Linux. I made a vow to myself and my own sanity that I won’t use software that isn’t available natively for Linux.

    …but here’s the funny thing. EVERYONE I know that uses Adobe products on Windows, has a hacked version of it. I know that most people using Linux pay for everything that has a cost. So I am SURE that they would get a much much higher financial return than those of Windows. I also know that many people are waiting for Adobe to release to switch over…

    Which brings me to what I think is really going on. Adobe has many killer apps. I think MS is giving Adobe a big fat deal under the table. It is the only real explanation as to what Adobe is waiting for.

  16. Rich Hunn on April 21, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    I wouldn’t care if Photoshop for Linux was $500, I’d buy it, I don’t like GIMP. I also don’t like the Adobe response I’ve
    been given when directly asked about Linux applications but then I wonder if they think we’d expect everything for free. There
    must be some reason behind their reluctance.

  17. Brian Masinick on April 21, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I’ve believed, for well over a decade now (closer to two decades), that there are a great number of areas of potential convergence – and also the possibility of a primary source for innovation and platform standardization, if more companies used free software platforms as a basis for their development.

    Before the turn of the century, such ideas seemed futuristic and just dreaming or wishful thinking, yet in the past fifteen years we have seen numerous cases of companies in multiple, diverse spaces, of basing an entire software ecosystem on free software platforms, all of which have experienced a great deal of success.

    The first areas of success we saw were Web and Internet-based: back end, server systems containing databases, networking infrastructures, and so forth. These were the first, and they occurred during the mid to late nineties. Over the past decade they have matured consistently, to the point that many of them now form the nucleus of many businesses that sell, service, and maintain such things, and many large companies that simply use them.

    The next area of success involved mobile devices and embedded systems. This was the area where I saw potential convergence with the back end network components in the late nineties. This has possibly been the biggest area that has created a number of new business segments and has, as I predicted long ago, also caused those back end services to grow considerably.

    After the turn of the century we’ve had tremendous growth of companies we’d never even heard of in the nineties and quite a few of them did not even exist in the nineties. A few did: Yahoo, Google, Amazon. But many more either didn’t exist or were just getting started: Facebook, Twitter; we’ve added more: Pinterest, and there are countless others, some of which are household names, many that are not, but are still vibrant, profitable businesses.

    Who would have thought that gaming platforms would be anywhere except on proprietary platforms? But when games came to mobile devices, you had to think that there was a possibility of convergence and growth there. I believe that there is tremendous, untapped potential there.

    Adobe has plenty of competition, many of whom are attempting to take Adobe right out of their areas of business, where they have been leaders for a long time. Apple, a number of years now, decided not to invest in supporting Adobe software; don’t know how that’s gone, but look at how areas where Microsoft once dominated have withered. No, they’re not gone, and neither is Adobe. But I have to wonder what both of those companies would be like now if they had chosen to be leaders in free software instead of either avoiding it completely or only reluctantly participating, mostly when their hand was forced to do so because of market pressures.

    What if those companies, instead, took leadership positions in these areas, considered the potential, and led the charge instead of waiting to see if it EVER catches on?

    To me, the move to more and more collaboration has been a move that was ready to happen as far back as the mid eighties when Richard Stallman first foresaw it, mostly at the time to protect his own interests. There was no convergence at that time, and yet the elements for that convergence were beginning to take place even that far back: faster microprocessors, more widely available networking capabilities, and the first signs of increased use of mobile technology.

    What if a few others had seen these elements as potential areas of convergence and had called upon the masses of developers and innovators to create collaborative development, even that long ago? Had such things become the “Way to do business” that far back, maybe we wouldn’t even be having this conversation now.

    To me, though, the fact of the matter is that there are still countless areas where collaborative research, development, invention of new technologies have, even now, barely scratched the surface of what could be possible.

    Will somebody like Adobe or Microsoft ever step into that space? Maybe, maybe not. But if not, my prediction, which may actually take place while I’m still alive, is that continued collaboration in software, hardware, networking, research, all have the potential to create many more multi-billion dollar industries. My question is who will be there to take advantage of the rich potential in each of these areas, and others we have not yet even dreamed about? No reason it cannot happen. I still believe that it will happen, and some gutsy entrepreneurs are quite likely to do it, with or without the help of the current giants. Those giants can be a part of it, or they can also become extinct dinosaurs. It’s their choice.

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