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.
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.