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Tough job for Adobe's Indian boss

November 16, 2007 15:29 IST
As Adobe inches towards the $3 billion revenue mark, a new Indian-born CEO, Shantanu Narayen, replaces Bruce Chizen. He will be joining Adobe's board of directors on December 1 this year.

He's not new to the job, though, having been the company's president and chief operating officer for the last three years. However, he wants to waste no time resting on past laurels.

His career began when he moved to Silicon Valley to work for Apple. Narayen earned an MBA from the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley, in 1993 - studying nights while also working.

Following his tenure at Apple, Narayen did a stint at Silicon Graphics and then founded Pictra - an early entrant into the field of online digital photo sharing.

Narayen joined Adobe in January 1998 as vice-president and general manager of Adobe's engineering technology group.

In January 1999, he was promoted to senior vice-president (worldwide products), and in March 2001 he was made executive vice-president (worldwide product marketing and development). He will now be at the helm of affairs.

Narayen faces global challenges as he takes the top spot at Adobe. Adobe, which offers Flash technology, widely used (installed on approximately 98 per cent of Internet-enabled desktops) to deliver media applications to computers, is seeing growing competition from Microsoft, which began offering a competing technology called "Silverlight" earlier this year.

Adobe has since combined Flash technology with its Reader technology to create a product called "AIR", expected to be released next year.

Narayen says Adobe will continue to nurture innovation through its entrepreneur-in-residence programme. He intends to follow Chizen's vision, which is to increase the core value of PDF across horizontal usage and also start shifting to a business model more geared to on-demand (or subscription) services and launch disruptive enterprise technologies.

What about India? The company is fast adding its headcount, building strategic products from India and capitalising its position in the emerging mobile market.

"With Adobe achieving a position in the digital media arena, I see our India centre becoming instrumental in our success story. India will emerge as an important centre, not because I am the CEO but because our development centre in Noida is one of the best. The research and development that happens out of India is second to none," he says.

"There are a billion-odd customers in markets like China and India who access the Internet for the first time from mobiles. Getting the portable document format (PDF) on alternative devices is central to our strategy too."

Also, as the set-top box becomes more a part of the living room to do things like browsing the web, Narayen believes it represents a great opportunity to extend the company's PDF and Flash support.

Priyanka Joshi in New Delhi
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