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Adobe banking on its cool factor

Software company sees "YouTube generation" of aspiring creative professionals as its next consumer base, CEO Bruce Chizen says.

BOSTON--Adobe Systems sees the so-called YouTube generation as its next big customer base.

At the JPMorgan Technology Conference here on Tuesday, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen explained how his company sees the market for its line of Creative Suite 3 software packages.

While Adobe has traditionally considered its base to comprise about 3 million professionals who return for each new software edition and continue to buy other Adobe products, that base is skewing toward nonprofessionals.

Chizen said his company estimates that there are about 38 million "aspiring professionals or amateur users" who want to be able to say they use what the pros use. They are now buying Adobe's lower-end packages. He cited several examples of young family members and friends who have suddenly become interested in getting "freebies." He contends that Adobe software is the new cool thing to have among the Web 2.0 set.

"Because of the social sites and sites like YouTube, everyone wants to create stuff that looks cool," Chizen said.

Chizen was pressed with questions from analysts on the price differences between Creative Suite 3 and Creative Suite 2 products. He initially said that because of CS3's new features and configurations, the comparison is akin to that of apples to oranges, but then he decided to answer the question.

"We still have lower price SKUs 'cause we don't want to alienate the 38 million-plus noncreative professionals. We have a lot of customer loyalty. We know customers will pay more, but we don't want them hating us 'cause we know that that will come back to haunt us," Chizen said. "I don't want our customers to have a perception of Adobe like the perception some have with Microsoft--like they're being held hostage."