How Facebook Controls Adobe's Future

Playing an unhealthy dose of Zynga's Empires & Allies has taught me two things. First, even in my 40s, I can still like act like I'm 12. Second, Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) , which supplies the underlying platform for E&A, is in a very dangerous place right now.

I'll understand if that sounds confusing. How could powering some of the world's most popular games be dangerous? Isn't it good to be the development runtime of choice for Zynga when more than 200 million users actively play its games monthly? Yes, of course. On all counts.

Unfortunately, Flash isn't the only platform Zynga is toying with. Facebook is also experimenting with a pure HTML5 app layer for Mobile Safari that would entirely circumvent Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) App Store. Gamers and Facebook alike are about to get a lot of data about how Flash compares to HTML. Adobe may not like the outcome.

Why? Flash chews up processors the way dogs chew on bones, pummeling them with workloads til they run hot enough to burn your lap. I've seen this firsthand. The TweetDeck app would routinely push my Mac's CPU well beyond 100% capacity. Before long, the rising heat pushes the twin internal fans to close to 6,000 rpm, and my computer begins to sound like an idling jet engine.

TweetDeck runs on AIR, Adobe's platform for Web-based apps, but Flash is notoriously no less inefficient. That's not a big deal when you're only talking about a passive YouTube video viewer, but gamers are anything but passive.

I don't want to overstate the potential impact here, because Adobe's diversified business embraces far more than Flash. But Flash has been -- and at least for a while, will be -- an essential technology for delivering audio, video, and apps via the Web. Both Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) have taken steps to change that by publicly committing to HTML5. Facebook and Zynga could reverse the tide, but only if Flash keeps white-hot social games such as Empires & Allies from leaving CPUs similarly scorching.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Google+ or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2011, at 4:29 PM, nildmot wrote:

    ugh. Playing Empires and Allies does not count as research on this topic. Ask any programmer that makes web games. You'll quickly find out that complex games like that will be nightmare for developers in html5. HTML5 is going to be very cool but not for long time. Maybe in 5 years we will see complex html5 games but not anytime soon. Also, html5 games suck up cpu resources too. It's not Adobes fault that Apple did not until recently give access to their gpu.

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