The star of Adobe's annual MAX conference, held this year in Chicago between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3, was the web application. Web apps and their creation permeated nearly everything that Adobe announced at the massive event, which attracted over 4,000 web developers. With a growing family of products based around Flash, Flex, Cold Fusion, and the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), Adobe is demonstrating a commitment to making easier the lives of web application developers.
Buzzword, Share, and AMP
Adobe kicked things off at MAX by announcing a handful of web apps and services of its own. The largest the company's announcements was their purchase of Virtual Ubiquity, the makers of the Flex-based online word processor application Buzzword. Buzzword is a very strong entry into the online office space and in our review I said that it was "the first online word processor that I have used that made me forget I was using an online word processor."
As a companion to Buzzword, Adobe also announced a document sharing service, aptly named Share. The service will be offered for free and allow users to store and share documents online. Adobe plans more entries into the software as a service market in the future. It will be interesting to see if Adobe continues to round out its web office offerings and compete more thoroughly with Google and Microsoft.
Adobe also released the beta version of its Media Player (AMP). Our network blog, last100, was unimpressed by their first look at AMP, however. Though buoyed by strong partnerships with CBS, Yahoo!, PBS, and other content producers, AMP's content could not overcome its lackluster performance, in the eyes of reviewer Steve O'Hear.
Flash, Flex, and AIR
our coverage), Flash Lite 3, Flex Builder 3 (beta 2), and the second beta of AIR.If web apps were the star at Adobe MAX, they were brought to us by Adobe's rich Internet application technology trifecta of Flash, Flex, and AIR. This year Adobe announced the betas of the newest Flash technology ("Moviestar" version 9 -- see
The HD quality video capabilities and h.264 standard of Flash 9 will be included in the next beta of AIR, according to Adobe. Adobe also indicated that it has high hopes for Flash Lite 3, saying that it expects Flash to be deployed on a billion mobile phones by 2010. Flash Lite 3 will be available on the Adobe Labs site next month.
Flex Builder 3 Beta 2 was also announced at MAX and includes a number of new features that designers have been asking for. The new version of Adobe's Flex authoring tool will include caching, advanced data visualizations, and the newest version of the "Flex profiler." What probably got the most applause, however, were the new refactoring tools. In the demo given at Monday's MAX keynote, a single function was renamed across an entire application's code with just a couple of clicks.
Adobe also demontrated the ability to drag and drop rich content between AIR apps and the desktop, from the web to AIR apps, and even between two AIR applications. Adobe Vice President Kevin Lynch called this going "beyond mashups to creating cooperative apps."
Adobe's 2008 roadmap includes full releases of its newly acquired Buzzword online word processor and its just released Adobe Media Player application. The company also plans to take AIR to 1.0 and release the final third versions of its Flex Builder and Flash Media Server software. Adobe will also be debuting the next generation of its Flash software, code named "Astro."
One of the coolest features of Flash Astro is the planned integration of Adobe's new image processing programming language, Hydra. Though currently only existing for the public as a specification included in the Adobe Image Foundation Toolkit Technology Preview, Hydra is already at use in After Effects CS3 and will be utilized in other Adobe products in the future. Flash Astro will use Hydra to allow developers to create their own custom image filters and effects. The AIF Toolkit preview lets users compile Hydra tech demos, which are rather impressive and quite fast.
Beyond 2008, Adobe has plans for Pacifica, a service that will help developers to integrate high quality voice, presence, and eventually video into Flex and AIR apps that should hit beta in the next few months; CoCoMo, the next version of their Acrobat Connect web meeting software that has been broken down into modules and will be offered to developers as an easy way to add video, chat, presence, whiteboarding, etc. functionality into web apps; and Centaur, the codename for the next version of Cold Fusion.
Last, but certainly not least, Adobe demoed a very impressive bit of software called Thermo. We have an in depth look at Thermo, so I won't go into it here, but the demo at Tuesday's keynote received more than one round of applause and had some conference goers on their feet.
Note: Josh Catone was at the Adobe MAX 2007 conference in Chicago, September 30 - October 3, courtesy of Adobe.