Why did Apple hire former Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch as vice president of technology?
Adobe and Apple spent years fighting a much-publicized battle over the latter’s decision to ban Adobe Flash from iOS devices. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was very public in his condemnation of Flash as a tool for rich-content playback, denigrating it in an April 2010 letter posted on Apple’s Website as flawed with regard to battery life, security, reliability and performance.
“Flash has not performed well on mobile devices,” Jobs wrote with characteristic bluntness. “We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it.”
Lynch was very much the public face of Adobe’s public-relations pushback to Apple’s criticism; in a corporate video shot for an Adobe developer conference in 2009, he even helped run an iPhone over with a steamroller. (Hat tip to Daring Fireball’s John Gruber for digging that video up.) As recently as 2010, he was still arguing that Flash was superior to HTML5, which eventually surpassed it to become the virtual industry standard for Web-based rich content.
It’s interesting to speculate whether Steve Jobs would have hired someone who so publicly denigrated Apple’s flagship product. But Jobs is dead, and his corporate successors in Cupertino—tasked with leading Apple through a period of fierce competition—obviously looked at Lynch and decided he’d make a perfect fit as an executive.
Earlier in his career, Lynch developed software for the Macintosh. Before joining Macromedia in 1996 (which was acquired several years later by Adobe), he also worked for General Magic, which began life as an internal project at Apple. He’s seemingly well-versed in mobile devices and cloud subscriptions, two areas of focus for Adobe over the past few years.
“It could be a signal Apple is interested in more than just the device—Adobe has done a good job transitioning its products to the cloud and putting in place the elements of a subscription model,” Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond wrote in an email to Bloomberg about Lynch’s hire.
Like every other tech behemoth, Apple is focused on the cloud in a big way, building out its data centers to deal with the customer load from iCloud, iTunes and other services. But as the company’s experiences with MobileMe have shown, the cloud can be a difficult thing to do right. Apple’s executives may have decided that Lynch is the perfect person to help them move the company seamlessly in a cloudier direction—and they’ve evidently decided to let bygones be bygones, at least with regard to that whole steamroller thing.
Lynch will report to Apple senior vice president Bob Mansfield.