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MAX 2006 Conference Round-Up: Around the Adobe Blogosphere
Our regular round-up of what's being written around the Web about Adobe technologies and the i-Technology future...

'It's not often that I wish I was in America,' wrote one (UK-based) developer, 'but this week sees the MAX 2006 show in Las Vegas.' He was not alone in wishing he'd been able to make it: around the Web world, bloggers both outside the US and inside have been discussing the many announcements made at this year's MAX and their implications for working developers and designers everywhere. Web Developer's & Designer's Journal brings you here a brief but representative round-up.

Starting with Design
"You are designing an experience, which the coding language is there to support."

by Andrew Brown

"It’s not often that I wish I was in America, but this week sees the MAX 2006 show in Las Vegas. To read a review of what happened at the keynote on Day 1, click here.

I’ve heard Kevin Lynch speak a few times online, but never in person. For me though, he seems to be approaching things from the right direction. Take for example his discussion about web design starting in Photoshop - I have long held the principle that web design ought to start from a ‘design’ point of view rather than a ‘language’ point of view. For me this is central. I want to first think of the experience I want to convey online, before thinking through how best this can be achieved. When Maggie and I first received professional training in Dreamweaver, our tutor laboured this point - start with big bits of paper and magic markers. You are designing an experience, which the coding language is there to support.

I was particularly pleased to hear about the future native support of Photoshop PSD files in Flash, and was not surprised by this. Integration of Adobe’s powerhouse was long overdue with Macromedia’s strongest application. It was encouraging to hear that Fireworks is still going to be developed and supported however, as it offers many aspects of ease of use that Photoshop does not (and to be fair vice versa).

Think about the reach of Flash across the web though. 97% of internet users running the Flash player, and less than a year to develop and deploy a new version. Add to this the power of Flash video, and it seems clear to me that the future of web/desktop application development lies here. If you are not sure about this, then think how often you have had to ‘compromise’ or ‘work around’ browser limitations when developing online resources (for example, if you are reading this on my site as opposed to the feed and are using IE, then a completely separate CSS had to be written just for you). As you are only writing Flash applications for the Flash player, this ceases to be such a big issue. You also have far greater control over the presentation of your content, which, coming back to my first point is where we should be starting from - design. "

Fireworks does MXML, Acrobat does 3D, and More
"You are designing an experience, which the coding language is there to support."

by John Nack

Wrapping up a packed week at Adobe MAX, on Thursday a number of teams provided glimpses of what they've got cooking for the future.  Jen deHaan has provided a great overview, taking notes during the session.  Some highlights:
  • Fireworks is now geared towards rapid prototyping.  Dani Beaumont dragged buttons and other widgets into a Fireworks doc, set JavaScript parameters, exported the results to MXML, and opened it in Flex.  If this trips your trigger, you can sign up for their beta.
  • Adobe is working with Yahoo on integration with the Acrobat Connect (neé Breeze) communication platform. Peter Ryce & Dean Chen showed PDFs being displayed directly through Connect (using the Flash Player).
  • Hart Schafer pointed out spectral view in Soundbooth, where you can visually eliminate unwanted noises using tools much like Photoshop's Healing Brush.  Played a bahw-tschicka-WAaoow funk groove appropriate to Dirty Vegas.
  • Scott Fegette demoed cross-browser compatibility checking in Dreamweaver, plus a CSS Advisor on that lets users share solutions, add comments, rate articles, etc.
  • Beau Amber of Metaliq showed new Zoomify components written in ActionScript 3.0. Fast and smooth loading of a 1.2GB file through Flash Player. [More thoughtful chin-pulling ensues.]
  • Michael Kaplan displayed an interactive, 3D Razr phone running inside a PDF. A Flash UI inside the PDF caused a 3D hand to appear and dial the phone, which then proceeded to play Flash video on its (virtual) screen.  And at this point, the audience completely lost it.

You know, Adobe (the old, pre-Macromedia Adobe) had great technology for years, but in my experience the company was often a little shy and unassuming about promoting it. When the Adobe-Macromedia deal was announced, a designer remarked, "Adobe will make Macromedia grow up a little bit, but Macromedia will take Adobe out clubbing."  I see that now happening, and I'm getting visions of Michael rocking out to The System Is Down. :-)

Apollo Browser
"You can sign up to be added to the public beta when it is available"

by Rich Tretola

The new HTMLControl for the Apollo runtime is very impressive.  It will have full support of html based on the standard originally introduced by Apple and also used for the Safari browser.

Adobe has also committed to support the pdf and swf plugins for the control. 

The HTMLControl will be fully extendible just like any other ActionScript class.  Also, because it is an ActionScript control you will have full control over the properties of the control.  There was a demo shown where an HTML page was loaded into the control from an http address and then the control was blurred, rotated, and scaled while still remaining fully functional.  Very cool.

You can sign up to be added to the public beta when it is available at

MAXimum Burn
”The combination of Macromedia’s product momentum and energy and Adobe’s design sensibilities made the keynotes worth seeing”

by Simeon Simeonov

I’m still recovering from Adobe MAX 2006. Yes, it was in Vegas and, yes, the Macromedians (at least) know how to party till very early in the morning. Plus, two of my companies are fundraising and I’m looking at a couple of very cool new startups in depth. There just wasn’t enough time for ego enlargement through self-publishing… MAX had great energy. The combination of Macromedia’s product momentum and energy and Adobe’s design sensibilities made the keynotes worth seeing. Kevin Lynch’s quiet credibility worked especially well. Of course, there weren’t any Steve Job’s-style mega-announcements but that’s the difference between a consumer play (where you keep everything secret till the last second) and a developer/enterprise play (where the Labs concepts works great).
I have too many notes from the conference so here’s just a flavor of what’s important:

Flash Player. The new Flash runtime is ridiculously fast thanks to a large extent to the efforts of former JRunners Edwin Smith and Tom Reilly and JIT compiled code running on a new VM. Unofficial numbers are 1/3 the speed of natively-compiled Java. The good news is that the team has a few additional optimizations up their sleeve. The even better news is that in the future, these types of radical performance improvements should make their way into Flash Lite, where they’ll matter even more than on souped-up PCs. 

Apollo. After a false start with Central, the company has regrouped and solved the basic problem of cross-OS installable applications with access to local resources. Don’t know what this means? Check this video out. Two of my startups at the conference were quite interested in the technology–it saves a lot of time and offers online apps a simple way to have a desktop presence and deeper integration with local resources. eBay had built a cool demo (can’t find a link to it, for the life of me).

Tools. The real power of the MM/Adobe merger is in streamlining workflow for web developers & designers. This is great for people who live in the tools. Notable is the push towards better mobile content publishing. Video tools have gotten better and Adobe is for the first time getting into audio (for video pros as opposed to audio pros) with SoundBooth. The Builder Eclipse add-on for Flex is starting to look pretty good.

Servers. Flex 2.0 is maturing rapidly–discussions I overheard at the conference were sophisticated. People are building real apps. Lots of stories about pain in getting DHTML to work just right cross-browser. With the Flex SDK selling for $0 and that message spreading in the industry, I expect to see a lot more Flex-powered apps next year. The combination of Flex and Apollo is particularly powerful. The ColdFusion team is continuing to innovate on the ease-of-use front, both with new server features and with great wizards/frameworks that integrate key technologies cross products into solutions. It’s great to see that kind of passion on the team of an eleventh-year-old product. LiveCycle is now in the same BU as ColdFusion and Flex. Expect to see more Web-PDF integration and multi-channel deployment of PDF forms.

Mobile. Adobe is really starting to get mobile. They are expanding their focus away from OEMs to operators through FlashCast (good) and are also now starting to leverage the developer community more (great). They have hired a head of developer relations for mobile, a great step. The ecosystem around Adobe Mobile is growing. The Wednesday keynote featured John Stratton (on video) and Peggy Johnson. The biggest news is that Flash Lite apps distributed through a select set of aggregators don’t have to go through a separate certification process. This is a big help for smaller mobile ISVs and content shops and a step in the right direction. Adobe can do much more, though. They have to push to clarify the economic model and simplify the business negotiations with aggregators and carriers on behalf of publishers. 

Strategy. It seems like the post-acquisition integration is going well. I heard only a few meaningful complaints from various teams and, on balance, many more positive comments. As a friend of mine put it “Adobe has been lucky that the world waited for them to get their act together.” While the post-Vista assault from Microsoft will be intense, the company has a great base on the design side, a fantastic reach to the desktop and the theoretically best technology for mobile experiences. I bet there is a lot of thinking going on about SaaS and getting deeper into the applications business (based on the success of products such as Breeze).

Ecosystem. Adobe announced $100M available for distribution through Adobe Ventures to help build the ecosystem in critical areas. In talking to John Leckrone (head of Adobe Ventures) and John Brennan (SVP corpdev) about it, I got the sense that they have a solid yet flexible model in mind that combines the cash with real value add rooted in Adobe’s reach and industry influence. Update: Adobe took a $30M piece of MobiTV’s $100M Series C. This is about getting into the Flash video ecosystem.

Clubs. The sampling included Tao, V, Mix, Pure and Tabu. Pure was voted the clear favorite.

Topics to think/write more about:

  • Apollo + X = Revolution. X = ?
  • What’s the tipping point for Flash Lite?
  • What’s Adobe’s SaaS strategy?

About Flex News Desk
Flex News Desk provides the very latest news on the cross-platform Flex development framework for creating rich Internet applications, and on Adobe's AIR/Flex/Flash product combination.

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