Social Enterprise

MAX 08: Adobe lays out future directions

At Adobe's MAX conference this year -- Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch identified three trends that Adobe will address: client and cloud computing, devices and desktop computing, and social computing.

At Adobe's MAX conference this year -- Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch identified three trends that Adobe will address: client and cloud computing, devices and desktop computing, and social computing.

Like any tech conference, the daily keynotes where met with lots of oohs and ahhs and cheers from an enthusiastic crowd of attendees. For the first day's keynote, Lynch ran the show in his usual understated fashion and sharing the stage with Disney Interactive, The New York Times, Salesforce.com and Google.

On the subject of client and cloud computing, Lynch discussed the popularity of the Flash player and announced that the MBL (Major Baseball League) will be broadcasting all its games live via Flash for the 2009 season. Also announced was the immediate release of Adobe AIR 1.5 with new features including the integration of Flash Player 10, encrypted SQLite for secure database storage, an updated version of Webkit for HTML rendering and the latest version of the SquirrelFish JavaScript engine.

The New York Times demonstrated an AIR-based newspaper with the help of Flash Player 10 and its new text handling features –- the application is able to wrap text in columns that automatically resize with the application. Lynch then demonstrated a copy of the application working on a Linux-powered mobile internet device.

Lynch demonstrated an AIR application, Tour de Flex, that has over 200 examples of Flex code including a number of examples of cloud APIs in action from the likes of Amazon, AOL, eBay, and Salesforce.com.

In terms of social computing, Adobe demonstrated Cocomo, a project the company announced at last year's MAX. Currently in public beta, Cocomo is a "platform as a service" that leverages the communication capabilities of Connect servers. Developers have a number of Flex components that they can integrate into their applications that enable functionality such as VoIP, cursor sharing, webcam, chat, whiteboard and user management.

Lynch also demonstrated Adobe Wave, a common notification API that Adobe has in development that will allow for a single source for notifications from social sites, where users can have a single desktop notification for a variety of sources.

On devices and desktop computing, Lynch identified that Adobe's challenge is to have the full version of Flash Player 10 working on mobile devices, particularly on smartphones -- not to port the player as they've done with Flash Lite in the past.

Lynch demoed a number of phones with a variety of operating systems running a full version of Flash Player 10: Symbian OS (Nokia), Windows Mobile, and Google's Android. The audience was teased with an iPhone with the remark that while they were working on a version of Flash Player for it they still have to get Apple's approval.

Adobe is also addressing the challenges faced by developers of Flash Lite applications by creating a way to package applications with the Flash Lite player. The company demoed an application that installed both Flash Lite and itself after a link from within an SMS was clicked.

The second day's keynote was a collection of demonstrations of new and recently released technology. Product highlights for Flash CS4, Photoshop CS4 and Dreamweaver CS4 where shown. Flash Catalyst, formerly known as Thermo, was demonstrated with a Photoshop composition easily converted into a Rich Internet Application with all sorts of application interactivity.

While discussed at some conferences earlier in the year, one of the big standouts of the second day's keynote was Alchemy. Alchemy is a tool that allows developers to compile C and C++ code into ActionScript for use in Flash movies targeted at Flash Player 10 and Adobe AIR 1.5. It is best suited to libraries that are not platform dependent, for example media and encryption. Demonstrations of Alchemy included playing Ogg Vorbis audio files, displaying a RAW image from a digital camera, opening a PDF in a Flash movie, and Flash versions of Quake and a NES emulator.

Another new project demonstrated was Bolt, the codename for a new ColdFusion IDE based on Eclipse. Features demonstrated were the ability to manage and monitor ColdFusion servers, code insight and completion, tight database integration including code completion, and support for Object-Relational Mapping by right-clicking on a database table.

The next version of Flex Builder, code named Gumbo, was demonstrated as well. With improved support for data management one of the features demonstrated was the ability to connect to a ColdFusion component, have it introspect the component and then identify specific methods, you can then have it assist with the writing of event handlers. Gumbo includes a network monitor that allows the developer to observe data communication between the application and the server, which will really assist in debugging. Themes are easy to apply thanks to the use of FXG in Flex 4.

The virtual user that Adobe and Google worked on for indexing of online Flash content was demonstrated, it was interesting to see how it could analyse content.

Flash Media Server 3.5 was also demonstrated, with new streaming options including dynamic streaming which means that there's less time buffering for the end user. A new feature of Flash Player 10 was also shown: Real Time Flash Media Protocol, which allows Flash clients to talk to each other via P2P without a server -- it will be interesting to see how this gets implemented.

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