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Apple Launches iAd Producer Pack to Steal Adobe’s Business

Apple’s suite of software for crafting its next-gen iAd advertising apps is an unashamed attempt to snatch some of Adobe’s business.

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Apple’s unveiled its suite of software for crafting its iAd advertising apps, promoting rich media experiences that use HTML5. It’s an unashamed attempt to snatch some of Adobe’s business.

Apple’s iAds have been gently (or not so gently, if you believe some reports) attempting to shake up the online mobile advertising business since being introduced in April. The most recent effort, aimed at promoting the new Tron: Legacy movie is a sophisticated hint at how adverts may be pitching to us in the future–with higher value user experiences prized above the mere eyeballs-on-ads metric that current web ads use.

Until now iAds have been the providence of Apple itself and a select group of advertisers, a move which has caused creative tensions. But Apple’s just revealed the iAd Producer platform which should change all that: It’s a sophisticated suite of code that lets advertisers build their own iAd experiences. Glancing at the screenshots, it seems Producer comes with Apple’s traditional high design ethic even in its simple interfaces, and the emphasis is definitely on ease of use. As Apple’s blurb puts it “iAd Producer makes it easy for you to design and assemble high-impact interactive content.” It “automatically manages the HMLT5, CSS3 and JavaScript behind your iAd” so that “creating beautiful, motion-rich iAd content” is as simple as “point and click.” There’s also a package of clever JavaScript editing and debugging code for “advanced developers” so Apple’s trying to have all the bases covered.

iAd producer is a necessary part of Apple’s plan, of course–it can’t go on curating each and every iAd at executive team level forever if it wants to turn it into a multi-billion dollar business. But it’s also the latest play in Apple’s battle against Adobe. Remember this? It started as a spat over Flash’s inefficiencies on Mac OS X, turned into a pitched battle in the press about iOS ditching Flash (which even garnered government attention) and then fizzled into a war of words as neither side was prepared to move on the matter. Now a significant proportion of web video is in Apple-friendly format, driven by the wild successes of the iOS devices, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt Adobe too much as the company’s just posted a record-breaking profit. 

Now there’s iAd, designed to eat some of Adobe’s lunch, since Adobe’s creative software packages are often used to craft simple and rich-media online adverts. And Adobe’s already actively promoting it’s own digital publishing suite, which includes a system for outputting magazine-style layouts to iPad.

But HTML5 is at the heart of iAd Producer, and it therefore represents another swipe at Adobe’s Flash technology–Apple is, in comparison to Adobe’s proprietary systems, promoting iAd as “standards-based web development.”

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The question is, will this hurt Adobe’s business, or at least help Apple capture significant chunks of the online ad business? It’s tricky, but given Adobe’s recent financial success it would seem insulated against Apple’s onslaught–at least for now, particularly since iAd is such a young system. But with many commenters expecting the iPad, boosted by the imminent iPad 2, to dominate the tablet market until 2012, and with the iPhone still surging in sales around the world, Apple is certain to convert some of its iAd efforts into serious cash. If it can pull off a de facto change of web tech from Flash to HTML5 at the same time, then it’s all the better.

To read more news on this, and similar stuff, keep up with my updates by following me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.

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I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise.

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