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Adobe Considers Manufacturing Custom Processors

Intel must be starting to feel like Frito-Lay. It had an entire market to itself for a while, but now that other companies have started to sense weakness, it's hard to find someone that isn't planning to make its own chips. The latest would-be competitor? Well, according to Axios, it's Adobe.

That's right: the company that makes the software that creative professionals have to sell their organs to pay for each month is reportedly thinking of making its own processors. Or at least licensing Arm's designs so it can better integrate the software it's known for with the hardware on which it runs.

Adobe certainly isn't the first company to consider making--or actually make--its own chips. Axios noted that Apple, Google, Samsung, and Amazon already do just that. (And speculation runs rampant among the Apple community about if or when the company will decide to ditch Intel for good.)

Those companies don't make their own chips for the fun of it. They do it because it gives them more control over their products, rather than forcing them to make their software for standard hardware. The idea is that this leads to better performance while also reducing dependence on outside companies. Imagine that right now every product is like a flavor dust applied to a Lay’s chip. Eventually, someone was going to make their own spuds from scratch.

From that perspective, Adobe making its own chips would make sense. Its software is an ecosystem unto itself—there are people out there whose livelihoods are directly affected by their proficiency with and performance in Adobe’s creative tools. (Sorry, sorry, the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription service. Branding!) Improving performance with custom silicon would help those people and, of course, give Adobe yet another way to make itself all-but-indispensable to creators.

But there are a lot of unknown factors here. Companies don't just license Arm tech and release products with custom chips overnight. They have to hire people who know how to design processors, build the chips, optimize the software for those chips, and then follow a thousand other steps on a process we’re already oversimplifying. Does Adobe plan to hire those people? Could it win in a bidding war against, well, any of the other companies we've mentioned so far in this article?

Then there's the matter of selling the chips. Facebook, Google, and Amazon primarily use their own chips in their data centers. Even though their usage affects hundreds of millions of people, then, the vast majority of them don't care. Meanwhile, Apple and Samsung use their chips to sell their products. Those are very different scenarios even if they both start with custom silicon. The former is suited to servers that only have to support a predefined software suite. The latter has to support countless apps, utilities, and other products over which the companies have relatively little control.

It's not clear what approach Adobe might attempt to emulate in that sense. Would it make a bunch of custom chips to use in a server and then off-load compute-intensive tasks to the cloud? Or would it try to convince people to buy a processor specifically because they need Photoshop to run faster? The former is reasonable; the latter could prove to be a hard sell even for Adobe.

Best not to fret too much about it. Axios quoted Adobe CTO Abhay Parasnis as saying: “Do we need to become an ARM licensee? I don't have the answer, but it is something we are going to have to pay attention to." Parasnis was bullish on Arm—the company changed its branding a few years back, folks, it's time to accept it—but not clear on what that meant for Adobe. Probably the responses to articles like this one will help inform the company's decision.

As for us? We’re just the taste testers. You put a chip in front of us and we’re going to eat it...erm, uh, run it through a rigorous series of tests to determine how it compares to its counterparts. Definitely the second one. Tom’s Hardware has not consumed any processors. (To our knowledge.)

  • gggplaya
    Adobe software has become buggy and crappy over the past few years. Creative cloud was the final nail in the coffin for me. I switched to CaptureOne and never looked back.

    I don't think they should make their own processor, but instead a dedicated co-processor would be nice in the form of a video card type of device PCIe, or integrated into apple computers and some windows computers as an option. Or even as a thunderbolt connected device connected to a monitor like many of these eGPU's are doing. Or even built into certain monitors, then pc manufacturers would need to get certified to work with them.
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    21747320 said:
    I don't think they should make their own processor, but instead a dedicated co-processor would be nice in the form of a video card type of device PCIe,

    thta's pretty much what i was thinking as well. unless it was so overwhelmingly powerful for adobe suite that it could be used in a rendering farm type capacity, i don't see a dedicated cpu type chip working out.

    of course price is also the biggest factor. like the quadro and firepro workstation cards, many smaller companies or independents can't afford the super expensive add-on cards. and considering adobe's pricing for the suite, i doubt the card would cost less than $3-4000 starting with almost no price ceiling for extra features
    Reply
  • PapaCrazy
    21747320 said:
    Adobe software has become buggy and crappy over the past few years. Creative cloud was the final nail in the coffin for me. I switched to CaptureOne and never looked back.

    Their software has become notoriously unreliable, forcing people to keep older versions because new versions keep introducing different bugs. The cloud model is extortion, they have not made major updates or given people a reason to upgrade otherwise. They are squeezing every last dime out of their decades old patents and tech, and I doubt very much the talent is still there to do anything different anymore. They resemble a scam company more than a software company now.

    I am not in a position to switch as I use too many of their programs, but I am extremely embittered. To think they are trying to get into silicon is a complete farce. It will be the buggiest, slowest, most insecure and locked down chip ever made. I wish them nothing but disaster.

    Reply
  • jupiter110
    Adobe can adopt Risc-V
    Reply
  • Blitz Hacker
    I think that regardless of intel tanking lately, thinking that any sub group that isn't cpu dedicated can make any reasonable gains that will be lasting over maybe a quarter or 2 is stupidity. Intel/AMD will just have to see how they're leveraging their chip/chip sets they make themselves (adobe) and do the same thing better themselves.
    Only profitable way I can see Adobe doing this is locking software to hardware, which will be a major departure. People will end up producing content on older versions as they costs won't justify the gains. Unless Adobe is getting heavily into like Rendered environments using some kind of ray tracing engine I couldn't see the market even consider the additional cost.
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  • nitro912gr
    This can't be truth. I mean adobe thanks to it's almost monopoly have some of the worst software packs out there right now.
    A custom made CPU can't help the blotware they are selling (oh sorry not selling, RENTING! Stupid cloud sub...).
    A move like this doesn't make any sense, if they are sitting on a pile of money they can use them to make their software work...

    I have switched to affinity suite now, way more efficient programs and cost a month of adobe subscription to keep for ever.
    Reply
  • epobirs
    Sounds like a return to the early 90s, when dedicated boards for the Mac accelerated PhotoShop filters. While $3000 for a board seems like a lot, I had more than one busy graphic artist tell me it would pay for itself in just a few months if it allowed just a few extra jobs to be completed that year.
    Reply
  • bigpinkdragon286
    They do it because it gives them more control over their products, rather than forcing them to make their software for standard hardware.
    This I agree with.

    The idea is that this leads to better performance while also reducing dependence on outside companies.
    That is a nice utopian ideal to strive for if human motivations were benevolent, but most large tech companies seem to operate more sociopathically.

    Apple is a perfect example of this. Does anybody believe Apple will produce a custom ARM CPU that outperforms an x86 CPU from Intel or AMD? The point is tighter control over Apple products and to lock out all of the Hackintosh style machines, and at the same time unify the underlying desktop and mobile ecosystem to make Apple's development work easier. The issues of backward compatibility on the desktop taking a giant leap into the waste bin isn't exactly a step toward improving the customer experience.

    Why then might Adobe look at custom hardware? Either because they want to become a yet another custom hardware vendor in the rough sea of hardware vendors, or because they want to stem the tide of migration from their software products.

    This certainly won't decrease Adobe's dependence on other companies. Somebody is going to have to fab, assemble, package, and distribute any new hardware equipment, so I could easily see their dependence increasing.

    Could this be a result of the subscription model not working as well as they hoped, or perhaps even working too well?
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Or would it try to convince people to buy a processor specifically because they need Photoshop to run faster?
    If they were selling a product to consumers, it seems less likely that it would be a processor or standard computer, and more likely that it would be a specialized portable device. Perhaps something along the lines of the Wacom Pen Computers, only built with a focus on running Adobe's Creative Cloud. It could simply be something for the server side of things though, seeing as their software is now based around an online subscription service with cloud storage.
    Reply