The big event of a Flex, Flash or ColdFusion developer's year is Adobe's annual conference held this year in Chicago. Builder AU's Andrew Muller attended this year and reports on the first day's opening.
This years MAX is being held in Chicago at the maxi-sized McCormick Place with a record attendance of 4300+ attendees, well exceeding the anticipated level. As in years past with loud thumping music and giant high definition screens it was opened by Kevin Lynch, Adobe's Senior Vice President and Chief Software Architect.
Kevin talked about Adobe Developer Connection the revamped Developer Centre, and revamped it is with a radical working over. It's worth the look-see as there's extensive use of Ajax been made to create a great site. There's now an AIR Developer Centre as well.
Shantanu Narayen, President and Chief Operating Officer, followed Kevin speaking about how well attended this year's MAX is. He also spoke about good experiences and how Adobe is involved in making them happen, giving five experience rules:
- Content is king
- Make it personal
- Less is (still) more
- Movement has meaning
- Create an experience, not a UI
Kevin Lynch then talked about the Adobe Technology platform. The Flash Player now accounts for 70% of all video online. There is a point release of Flash due soon code named "Movie Star" which will include the H.264 code which is used by all sorts of devices to deliver high definition video.
Kevin demonstrated a clip from CSI encoded in 720p high definition running at full screen, which looked sharp and clear up on the large screens located both sides of the stage. He then showed a promo Flash video running on the Halo site that could be navigated with hotspots embedded into the video.
The beta of Adobe's Media Player built with the AIR runtime was release today on labs.adobe.com. This takes Flash video feeds via RSS with the capability of downloading and caching the files for offline viewing. It will have ads associated with the feeds so that content producers can monetise content.
FlashLite 3 for the mobile phone was demonstrated, this new version will support streaming video. There are 300 million handsets with Flash installed currently, with 1 billion expected by 2010. The player will be available for free for Symbian devises from labs.adobe.com next month.
Ben Forta and Scott Fergette demonstrated some of the capabilities of the new ColdFusion 8 integrated with Dreamweaver CS3 and Spry 1.6 which is available for download from today from labs.adobe.com. Dynamic PDFs generated by ColdFusion was one of the new features shown off. ColdFusion 8 will compile Flex code (MXML) into Flash movies, Ben demoed a mini Flex app that took a text entry and generated a bitmap image where the Flex application passed the raw image as a bytestream that ColdFusion could then convert to an image.
Ed Rowe from the AIR team talked about the release today of Adobe AIR Beta 2. He talked about some of the features already in AIR, pointing out that there's an embedded SQL database. He then gave some examples of AIR in action showing "Customer Manager" an application built in Ajax that integrates with a Salesforce backend. Records can be managed either via the web or via the AIR application, Ed dragged a vCard into the AIR app which automatically added the cards details. Ed said that they're about to freeze the API so now's the time to consider putting in feature requests. The betas for AIR Beta 2 and the Flex Beta 2 are available for download right now at labs.adobe.com.
Heidi Williams from the Flex team spoke about what's new in the latest build of Flex 3, demonstrating the new profiler what can be used to determine what code is slowing your application down. The new Flex IDE has improved language intelligence with the ability to do refactoring - the most requested product enhancement. There's also a new Advanced Data Grid and improved charting. Another performance enhancement is Flex framework caching in the Flash player.
Adobe had a competition for AIR developers with first prize being an air ticket to anywhere you like, Kevin Lynch came out and named the category winners along with the fist prize which was a very cool project manager built in Flex called Agile Agenda. The prize winner is considering visiting Australia and New Zealand.
eBay have release a public beta version of their AIR application today that was demonstrated at last year's MAX. AOL have also release an AIR application today that allows you to view the top 100 videos on AOL.
Disney and Frog Design have got together to build a travel planner for travel agents with AIR. This could manage clients, display news and events and do quotes with the option of saving them as PDFs. One cool thing that the application can do is drag text from a document straight into a record as an extra detail.
Kevin then returned to the podium and demonstrated a number of AIR applications including Snippage with which you can highlight part of a web page to have it create a desktop widget that displays the highlighted content, very cool. Other AIR applications were shown from AOL and SAP (with drag and drop of highlighted text straight out of an Excel spreadsheet).
Buzzword, a word processor that can run on the web or within AIR was shown - I think that we saw an early version of it at last year's MAX. This is all ActionScript built in Flex with the raw documents in an XML format, it supports all the standard word processing features and can even open Word documents. Adobe announced today that they have acquired the company that created Buzzword.
The catalogue for a company Anthropologie was demonstrated, it has some very nice design and UI features including a colour picker that could then display all the products in the catalogue that matched the selected colour.
Emmy Huang and Justin Everett-Church came out from the Flash team and demonstrated "Astro" the next version of the Flash player. This will offer greater support for text layout and bidirectional languages. One of the demos that they showed had text flowing over a three column layout, delete a couple of paragraphs and the columns readjusted appropriately.
Another interesting demo was blocks of text that contained Japanese and Hebrew that knew where exactly to break characters correctly for wrapping.
Astro will also offer native support for 3D perspective transforms with rotation possible on the Z axis. Astro, through a new effects programming language Hydra, will allow you to build your own effects. Hydra is available for download right now from labs.adobe.com.
All in all it was an interesting morning with a lot of news around AIR. Adobe had a number of high profile companies demonstrating applications for the AIR runtime built with both Flex and Ajax.