Adobe Systems, Inc. was founded by Charles Geschke and John Warnock in December of 1982. Adobe’s corporate logo was designed by Warnock’s wife, Marva, who is a graphic designer.
The two creators established Adobe after leaving Xerox, in order to develop and sell their PostScript page description language. Apple Computers licensed it in 1985 for use in their LaserWriter printers. This helped bring about the desktop publishing revolution.
The company got its name from the Adobe Creek that ran directly behind the house of one of the company’s founders. Adobe was a former competitor to Macromedia, but acquired that company in 2005, adding newer platforms and software products to its product portfolio, including Adobe Flex and Adobe Flash.
Adobe Systems has major development operations in San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Newton, Massachusetts; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ottawa, Ontario; Hamburg, Germany; San Luis Obispo, California; Bucharest, Romania; Noida, India; and Bangalore, India.
Somewhere around 40% of its entire work force resides in San Jose, California, and as of January 2007, the company had around 6,677 employees. In fact, Adobe Systems has been ranked as one of the most outstanding places to work by Fortune magazine ever since 1995. Adobe also ranked the 9th largest software company in the world in 2007. India ranked it as the 19th greatest place to work in 2008. In 2008, it was featured in Maclean’s newsmagazine, and ranked one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.
Adobe’s first products after PostScript were digital fonts, which they released in a proprietary format called Type 1. Apple subsequently developed a competing standard, TrueType, which provided full scalability and precise control of the pixel pattern created by the font’s outlines, and licensed it to Microsoft. Despite improvements of Type 1 by Adobe, they were too late to stop the rise of TrueType. Although Type 1 remained the standard in the graphics/publishing market, TrueType became the standard for business and the average Windows user. In 1996, Adobe and Microsoft announced the OpenType font format, and in 2003 Adobe completed converting its Type 1 font library to OpenType.
In the mid-1980s, Adobe entered the consumer software market with Adobe Illustrator, a vector-based drawing program for the Apple Macintosh. Illustrator, which grew from the firm’s in-house font-development software, helped popularize PostScript-enabled laser printers. Unlike MacDraw, then the standard Macintosh vector drawing program, Illustrator described shapes with more flexible Bézier curves, providing unprecedented accuracy.
In 1989, Adobe introduced what was to become its flagship product, a graphics editing program called Photoshop. Stable and full-featured, Photoshop 1.0 was ably marketed by Adobe and soon dominated the market.
In 1993, Adobe introduced PDF, the Portable Document Format, and its Adobe Acrobat and Reader software. PDF is now an International Standard: ISO 32000-1:2008. The technology is adopted worldwide as a common medium for electronic documents.
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. However, Adobe made great strides in that market with the release of InDesign and its bundled Creative Suite offering. In a 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.
Despite these missteps, licensing fees from the PostScript interpreter allowed Adobe to outlast or acquire many of its rivals in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In December 1991, Adobe released Adobe Premiere, which Adobe rebranded to Adobe Premiere Pro in 2003. In 1994, Adobe acquired Aldus and added Adobe PageMaker and Adobe After Effects to its production line later in the year; it also controls the TIFF file format. In 1995, Adobe added Adobe FrameMaker, the long-document DTP application, to its production line after Adobe acquired Frame Technology Corp. In 1999, Adobe introduced Adobe InCopy as a direct competitor to QuarkCopyDesk.
For 2010, Adobe reported revenue of $3.791 billion.
Editor Phil Robertson is an award-wining journalist and graphic designer. With a degree from the University of Florida’s School of Journalism, his career in journalism and publishing spans over 30 years, and includes positions as editor and publisher for several newspapers and magazines. During his career he has received a first-place award for investigative journalism from the Society of Newspaper Editors, and five ADDY awards for advertising design.