About Adobe MAX 2011: Flash and HTML

MAX 2011 was the sixth MAX for me and I have to admit it was by far the most interesting to attend. Judging by the discussions I was involved in or I overheard while being at MAX, I think that this is a feeling many share.

Fellow evangelists Ryan Stewart, Mark Doherty, Greg Wilson, and Michael Chaize already wrote about MAX so I won’t reiterate all of the news and announcements. However, I want to highlight some of the things I consider quite important.

Adobe Touch Apps

I’ve been arguing for a while that (1) tablets are not just bigger smartphones and (2) tablets could be used for more than just consuming digital content. So you can imagine how happy I was when I first heard about Adobe Touch Apps.

Adobe Touch Apps is a suite of applications that works on tablets and enables you to create and share content:

  1. Adobe Photoshop Touch – the name says all, doesn’t it? But make sure you check the video because you’ll be surprised by how powerful this app is.
  2. Adobe Ideas – a digital sketchbook for artists.
  3. Adobe Collage – create moodboards with ease. You can search for images, bring them into the app, and modify.
  4. Adobe Proto – this product has a good amount of magic. Using simple gestures you can create wireframes or interactive prototypes. In a matter of seconds you can add a header, a content area, a menu, pictures, and text
  5. Adobe Kuler – Kuler has been around for some time (2007 to be precise). It is the little app that helps you find colors that work together. There is a large community who adds new swatches. Once you find a theme you can easily customize the colors.
  6. Adobe Debut – helps you to share design/digital content created with Creative Suite anywhere right on your tablet.

You can find here a number of videos that show these apps in action.

As I said at the beginning of this section I’m glad to see apps for tablets that help people to create content on the go. However there is another thing that this suite is trying to address: device fragmentation. But first, let me present you the high-level vision. We announced a new initiative called Adobe Creative Cloud. Adobe Touch Apps is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud along with other services (such as Adobe Digital Publishing, Business Catalyst, and Typekit) and products (such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Edge).

And one of the many benefits of these offerings is the seamless cross device synchronization. In other words you can take a picture with your phone or tablet and then open up your desktop or laptop and you will find the picture there. The bits are moving magically from one device to another (well you do need a Internet connection for this :D).

Stay tuned and early November you will find Adobe Creative Cloud prices.

HTML and Adobe

We talked a lot about HTML at Adobe this year. I bet you couldn’t believe the acquisition announcements of Nitobi/PhoneGap and Typekit :) However this is only one part of what we are doing at Adobe for the HTML world. These add to work around jQuery Mobile (last year we announced that we will contribute to jQuery Mobile), tooling for HTML5 (the Edge project and Wallaby are just two examples of new initiatives that complete Dreamweaver CS5.5 support for HTML5/CSS3).

So as you can see the work Adobe is doing around HTML5 is pretty significant and has reached the point where people from outside Adobe or Adobe’s community recognize this.

One aspect that is fast growing is the work Adobe does in moving web standards forward. Let me step back and tell you a short story. Back in 2007, Adobe AIR (called Apollo back then) saw the lights for the first time. And from the beginning we wanted to build a new runtime that would appeal to all web developers. What technology did developers use for building amazing websites and applications? JavaScript and ActionScript. Thus Adobe AIR brought support for both technologies. And the JavaScript/HTML/CSS support was made possible by including the WebKit engine in the AIR runtime.

Of course, we had to extend the WebKit engine in order to have the same APIs/capabilities as we had in ActionScript. For example to have access to the hard disk, to write/read encrypted data, SQLite support, camera and microphone access, and so forth (does this sound familiar? :D).

By doing this, our engineers became experts in WebKit. Fast forward to 2010 and we announced the CSS Regions proposal. Our engineers provided an implementation for this feature for WebKit. And this year we have two Adobe engineers who obtained the WebKit committer status. This is something great and I am proud to say I’m a friend of these two guys. I hope to see them getting the WebKit reviewer status :).

As the work with CSS Regions was moving on nicely, Adobe engineers didn’t stop here. At MAX 2011 we showed a new CSS feature that we are working on called CSS Shaders. Working with Apple and Opera we already submitted this proposal to W3C. Go here and watch the videos.

I have to admit that first time Alex showed me this (he’s one of the two Adobe WebKit committers) in action I was sure it was just some Flash application. When he told me that it is, actually, a modified WebKit and some CSS and JavaScript I was speechless.

So yeah, I think it is safe to say that Adobe “gets” HTML and we have lots of proof for this. And I know more things will come in the near future so stay tuned.

Flash Platform

Despite what others might think, my personal belief is that the Flash platform had an amazing year in 2011. With AIR 3, I think we have one of the best solutions for building mobile apps across devices and operating systems. The Native Extension feature makes it possible to extend the runtime and have access to all the other APIs available on the device right from your ActionScript code. The upcoming version of Flex, 4.6, will extend the support for mobile components and improve the performance.

With Stage Video and Stage 3D (Stage 3D is available only on desktops for now) you can build amazing applications that can handle video, sound, and complex 3D content. So playing Unreal Tournament in a browser through Flash Player became a reality.

What about new stuff? Well, take a look at these two sessions about the future of Flash Player from MAX: Flash Platform roadmap and What’s new in the Flex SDK. Workers (concurrency), a new Flex compiler, better tooling support (Flash Builder), and an amazing telemetry tool for profiling the release SWFs (Monocle) are things we are working on.

HTML and Flash

Last week I had an interesting discussion with two community leaders in the airport (hey guys, I hope your trip back home was fine :) ). And they were asking me about the future of Flash and what Adobe will do (they are first and foremost Flash guys). The main reason for all these questions was how the keynotes were perceived.

Since then, I thought more on this and watched again the keynotes. My personal belief is that all the effort Adobe puts in both HTML and Flash will actually serve developers and designers independently of what their first choice is. Joseph Labrecque has a good post on MAX 2011 and what some felt right there when everything was still hot.

Let me explain why. First, Adobe will be able to provide the best tools and frameworks for both technologies. If you are a developer or a business owner who uses Adobe technologies you’ll find easier to pitch your solutions. Clients would not see you as someone who only cares and knows only HTML or Flash. You’ll be able to propose the best technology for each project/client need. Definitely, this makes our life as Adobe evangelists much easier. Instead of being pushed into a defensive stance or fighting to be credible now we can just focus on the two sides of the stories.

Second, if you take a look at the history of Flash and how Flash relates to HTML it has already been about Flash doing stuff that wasn’t possible just with HTML. And the relation between these two was “AND” and not “OR”. “OR” implies that there can be only one choice. “And” means that they will co-exist. Some people after watching the keynotes they left with an “OR” in their hearts.

Third, if you are a guy who’s been building interactive content with the Flash platform then you are incredibly well positioned. Because you already know how to design and choreograph great content and apps. Without these skills all the JavaScript and HTML5 knowledge in the world can’t do much.

In reality for the foreseeable future the Flash platform will still be able to do things that are either impossible or more expensive with HTML. Certainly amazing 3D capabilities seems to be the main Flash usage. But let’s not forget about all the other goodies (improved Flex framework and Flash Builder, concurrency, and a faster compiler). These are things that will help developers who build interactive applications for desktop or mobile to be more efficient while building better apps than today.

Conclusions

I think 2012 will be an even more interesting year. Personally, I can’t wait. I’m so looking forward to see what people will build using AIR 3 and Native Extensions. I can’t wait for Stage 3D on mobile.

Second, yes you will be seeing us talking more and more about HTML and the things we are doing here at Adobe. Fellow evangelist Ryan Stewart already started working with PhoneGap. I’m doing the same. Actually, I hope to port one of my mobile apps to PhoneGap this month to better understand this platform.

At the same time, we are still working on the Flash side as hard as ever. Right now, I’m working with Ryan on the content for a European tour about Flex mobile development. We will hit about 9 different locations all over Europe. Once we have set up everything we will post all the details (by the way a big thank you to all the people from the community who are making this tour possible). So stay tuned and try to attend if you happen to be around of one of the locations.

Finally, I want to add that with each year I enjoy Adobe MAX more and more. It has to do with the feeling of family/community. There are thousands of people over there and from all over the world. And still you bump into someone who built something you knew or who read something your wrote or used/extended your code. This year I met people from South America, North America, and Europe. Actually there were lots of Europeans. To all of you, thank you for your time, and the friendly and insightful discussions. Looking forward to meeting you next year :)

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