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Getting Creative on Campus: Adobe CS4 Launch

Q & A with Adobe VP Peter Isaacson

This week Adobe Systems Inc. made public the software suite it calls its biggest release ever--the fourth version of its Creative Suite. Campus Technology talked with Adobe Vice President for Worldwide Education Peter Isaacson about the Adobe CS4 launch and some implications for higher education.

Campus Technology: Your CEO, Shantanu Narayen, says that CS4 is the biggest launch Adobe has ever had. Do you think higher education users are expecting major changes in the new version – say, compared with CS3?

Peter Isaacson: CS3 was such an important launch for us, coming together with Macromedia and Adobe products for the first time, that I think there might be a little less anticipation for CS4, because so many campuses are really just digesting CS3. We recognized that, and knew that we had to do a pretty big hit to get people’s attention with this new release of CS4, and that’s what we did. Across the product line, from our video products, to our interactive products, to our digital imaging products, there are just some incredible new features that are going to be and have proven to be really compelling to customers.

CT: What, for example, might peak interest in higher education?

Isaacson: We’ve talked under NDA to some media departments within higher ed about the metadata that exist, an issue that commercial broadcasters and editors face all the time – how do you sort through content and find the relevant clips. We’re finding out from customers in education and media departments that this is a daily issue for them as well – how do they source material, and how do they access clips that can be used royalty free for their students so that they can use them as source material for their creative and media workflows. So, we’ve gotten tremendous response from educators just on that specific piece of our video technology.

CT: Do you think that colleges and universities are going to pick up on CS4 quickly in order to make their students ready for the market?

Isaacson: Sure. What we’ve found is especially when we talk to our core customers in education, the ones that are really training the creative professionals of tomorrow, they have an absolute requirement – a self-described requirement – to get their students on the latest technology, so when the students get into the workforce they are going to be more easily hired and they’ll have skill sets that are relevant for the workflows of commercial business. Schools have to train students, and they want to train them on the latest technology. And if they feel like the commercial side of the business is adopting CS4, then they need to adopt that technology pretty quickly into their curriculum.

CT: What do you do when you make big version changes to give institutions a heads up so they have time to change curriculum?

Isaacson: That’s really the most difficult thing. It’s one thing for an interactive agency to get surprised by a new release, though ultimately they can buy the product, start playing with it, and start creating with it fairly quickly after it’s been launched. Educators are in a completely different timeframe. In order to incorporate a new piece of technology in the curriculum, they need at least months and sometimes six months or a year. And they’ve got to be thinking about it well in advance in order to do it. So what we’ve heard time and again from our education customers is, “Give us a heads up. Include us in your beta program. Give us sneak peeks into the technology. Provide demos under nondisclosure agreements so that we can anticipate what’s coming and we can start thinking about how we are going to incorporate it into our curriculum.”

One of the most important things that we do is our community effort with Partners by Design, which is a program with 26 of the top design schools in the US and in the UK. We bring them in at least once a year, sometimes twice a year, and give them sneak peeks, demos, and in-depth reviews of upcoming technology that we’ve got so that they’re able to see it first-hand and understand what’s coming from Adobe. And that gives them a head start on incorporating it into their curriculum.

CT: Does Adobe get a lot out of the schools’ feedback from that process?

Isaacson: It’s very much a two-way conversation. We’re presenting to them and usually we try not only to get the next cycle, but the cycle after that in terms of what we think is going to be the roadmap for the next couple of products. But they’re giving as good as they’re getting basically, because they’re giving us feedback on what’s relevant to education, what their students are saying, what they see as a critical need for where the product is going to go – what is important to them and what is unimportant to them. So it’s very much a feedback loop, where we incorporate their comments into the next rev of the product.

CT: If there are schools out there that aren’t yet connected either to Partners by Design or to your beta program, how could they begin to get involved?

Isaacson: We have purposely at Adobe, over the past two or three years, been much more open with our beta program. Instead of holding back and keeping it a secret about what’s coming up in a product, as some companies have chosen to do, Adobe has tried to go the exact opposite path, which is: “Let’s be as inclusive as possible, open up more products to beta programs, and get customer feedback early – get them playing with the product so that they can tell us what’s working and what’s not.” So the beta program, for the broader group of education customers, is probably the most effective way to get integrated and really understand where Adobe is going with its technology.

About the Author

Mary Grush is Editor and Conference Program Director, Campus Technology.

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