Adobe is reportedly investigating the possibility of designing its own processors or partnering with a processor company on a semi-custom solution, though its focus is likely to be accelerating artificial intelligence workloads.
Founded in 1982, in the traditional Californian garage, Adobe won early investment from Apple's Steve Jobs and spent the next few years selling its PostScript page description language, followed by digital fonts - a market in which Adobe's Type 1 format would go head-to-head with Apple's TrueType - before shifting into user-facing software with vector art program Illustrator, bitmap editing program Photoshop, and perhaps its most well-known product Adobe Acrobat and its Portable Document Format (PDF).
In the years since, Adobe has dabbled in everything from rich media and ecommerce to digital marketing, before branching out into artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (MI). One thing it hasn't done, though, is produce its own hardware - but that's something which could be set to change.
According to a piece published on Axios based on comments made at an internal innovation conference attended by Ina Fried, Adobe is seriously considering the creation of custom or semi-custom silicon to accelerate its products. While no firm decisions have been made on the matter, chief technology officer Abhay Parasnis asked attendees whether 'we need to become an Arm licensee,' which 'does afford a model for a software company to package its technology much closer to silicon'.
Claiming, Fried reports, that it will be Arm-based processors that deliver the gains Adobe needs, rather than x86 products from Intel or AMD, any such custom silicon would likely be concentrated around the company's AI efforts - in particular image- and video-related workloads such as facial recognition and tracking, image categorisation, and the like. It's here that Adobe already has a partner who could be willing to lend a hand: The company has been working with Nvidia on its AI and ML products, and Nvidia is already an Arm licensee with a range of high-performance system-on-chip (SoC) designs under its belt.
Neither Parasnis nor Adobe offered a timescale for any product launch, nor even a guarantee that an Adobe-branded processor will ever appear - but Parasnis did claim that 'we are firmly entering a world of Arm inside every device.'
March 26 2021 | 18:30