I’m at Adobe‘s MAX conference in San Francisco, where chief executive Shantanu Narayen and chief technology officer Kevin Lynch just finished the opening keynote, which was an exhausting sprint through the many new features and uses for Adobe’s Flash, Flex and AIR platforms for building applications.
The biggest news was on the mobile front. Lynch drew the loudest and most sustained cheers when he held up an iPhone, a device whose users have long hoped for Flash support, since many web sites and online videos are powered by Flash. Unfortunately, Lynch didn’t actually have a lot of iPhone-related news; he just repeated that Adobe is working to bring Flash to the iPhone but needs Apple’s final approval.
Lynch also said Adobe is working to create a version of Flash for T-Mobile’s G1, the first phone to use Google’s Android mobile operating system. Since the Android is a more open system, Adobe probably won’t face the same obstacles it has bringing Flash to the iPhone.
This ties into the broader vision that Lynch outlined, where mobile devices are a priority for Adobe. Adobe’s announcement last night that it’s working to optimize Flash and AIR for the mobile devices using ARM-designed chips also reflects those goals.
Beyond mobile, Lynch also announced the release of a number of new products, including Cocomo, an application for collaboration on your desktop; Wave, a way for web sites to send notifications to your desktop; and version 1.5 of AIR, which developers can use to build web applications that also work on your desktop. Presenters demonstrated a number of cool AIR 1.5 applications, including one built by The New York Times.
Here are my notes from the keynote. If they read a bit disjointedly, that’s in part a reflection of the keynote. It felt like Adobe made up for the lack of any big news by jumping to a new topic every five minutes.
9:52am: After Narayen’s intro (which, frankly, I missed because I was late to the conference), Lynch takes the stage to dig into the features in Adobe’s newest offerings, presumably the latest version of Flash Player 10. I wrote about Flash Player 10 when it launched last month.
9:56am: We’ve gone from 66 percent to more than 80 percent of online video being delivered in Flash worldwide.
9:57am: Bud Albers of Disney takes the stage to outline how Disney is using Flash. “Disney has a rich technology heritage,” Albers says. As an example, he discusses Disney’s first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and how it incorporated cutting-edge animation techniques.
9:59am: Albers: “We’ve led the way in Flash 10. We’ve led the way in [high-definition video format] H.264.”
10:00am: Disney’s Club Penguin is a Flash-based web environment for kids. Disney uses Flash to aggregate all its online video at Disney.com, including feature-length films made for the web. The Wonderful World of Disney, which I watched as a kid, moved online this summer.
10:04am: Lynch says Major League Baseball has agreed to stream footage on Flash, which means all four major sports leagues are using Flash. This is a nice comeback to the fact that the Beijing Olympics were broadcast using Microsoft’s competing platform Silveright.
10:05am: Now Lynch is discussing AIR, Adobe’s platform for building hybrid web/desktop applications. Adobe is on track to reach 100 million installs of software to build AIR apps within one year of AIR’s launch. Adobe is releasing AIR 1.5 today.
10:08am: Michale Zimbalist, vice president of research and development at The New York Times, is on stage to talk about how The Times is using AIR. If I recall correctly, the Times was one of AIR’s launch partners.
10:09am: Zimbalist shows off the AIR reader for The Times’ International Herald Tribune, which is built on AIR 1.5. The application looks almost identical to The Times’ web site, but you don’t have to be connected to the Internet when you’re reading — it just caches the latest news feeds. Points to Zimbalist for highlighting an article about famed actor Wallace Shawn’s guest appearance on teen soap Gossip Girl.
10:10am: Zimbalist shows off how The Times is experimenting with ads. There’s an image in the full article, but if you click on it, you see an embedded Flash video that opens up in your desktop. Then he shows us the interactivity on the crossword puzzle, which is also a part of the desktop reader.
10:14am: Lynch shows off a similar Herald Tribune app on a “mobile Internet” device, which also uses AIR so you don’t need a connection to read the news.
10:16am: The California Museum is launching its site today. You can take content from the museum’s website and use it in an AIR app called Learning Labs, which allows teachers to build educational materials around the site. There’s a student-side view with the projects they’re working on, as well.
10:19am: As an example of a Learning Labs project about inspiring California women, Lynch shows off a pre-made photo essay about his old colleague Susan Kare, a well known designer whose icons are all over Facebook and the rest of the web.
10:20am: Ooh, star power! Maria Shriver, the first lady of California, takes the stage with Ann Lewnes of Adobe. Shriver is working on the California Museum’s legacy trails project.
10:22am: Shriver: “I felt like I was at a Star Trek convention” because she was confused about all the technical details being trotted out. She says the Legacy Trails project should make people more aware of California’s history including accomplished women. Lewnes says the AIR application is coming later this year.
10:27am: Lynch shows off the Tour de Flex, an application for browsing other web applications that have integrated Flex. It basically lets you use Flex to create a browser within your web app, that integrates sites like Twitter and Salesforce.com. The audience loves this — there are shouts and cheers as Lynch demos the Tour de Flex.
10:28am: Salesforce.com CTO Dave Moellehoff talks about how the old client/server model in enterprise technology is “where innovation goes to die” and says new technology like Adobe’s is changing that.
10:32am: Moellenhoff outlines a “cloud enterprise platform,” namely Salesforce’s Force.com. It has to be delivered over the Internet, as well as all the features and reliability that enterprise-scale businesses expect. (Salesforce’s description of its offerings as cloud computing has led to some criticism that the company is just latching onto a trendy term that doesn’t quite fit.)
10:34am: Salesforce is getting richer with use of Adobe Flex and AIR. Not much detail, though — more of that will be offered at Salesforce’s session on Wednesday.
10:37am: Nigel Pegg of Adobe talks about Adobe Cocomo, a platform for building “social applications” in Flex. He demos the Acesis application for doing medical peer review. The application adds collaboration to the applications that doctors use, including video. There’s no screensharing required.
10:44:am: Cocomo offers a software development kit (SDK). Adobe handles the infrastructure, so you don’t have to worry about scaling. Features include shared cursors, chat and filesharing. Cocomo’s platform service is open as a free public beta test right now.
10:45am: Lynch says Adobe is working on a new service called Adobe wave to bring notifications from web apps onto your desktop. For example, you could be notified on your desktop whenever anyone responds to your evite invitations.
10:49am: Now we’re moving on to mobile phones. Lynch says “I believe we need to start thinking about mobile first.” Mobile design can’t just be an afterthought to building web apps. Adobe’s previous goal had been 1 billion Flash-enabled phones by 2010, now it looks like it will happen by 2009.
10:50am: Lynch says the Open Screen Project solves two problems. The first is web browsing. The second is standalone applications. Adobe and the Open Screen Project want to bring a consistent experience to both using Flash and AIR.
10:53am: Lynch shows off “fresh-baked” mobile apps using Adobe’s platform. Someone brings out some fresh-baked bread or cake or something as a gag. To illustrate this, he demos the Wall Street Journal site — not tailored for a mobile phone — just on a Symbian phone. Then he shows off the Last.fm website on a Windows Mobile phone. Both are built using Flash.
10:47am: Lynch holds up the iPhone, and the crowd goes crazy. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much news on this front, just confirms Adobe’s oft-repeated phrase that Adobe is working on Flash for the iPhone, but still needs to pass the “taste test” of Apple’s “head chef.”
10:58:am: Now Lynch shows Flash video on T-Mobile’s G1 phone, which uses Google’s Android Operating System, although again, that’s still in progress.
11:00am: Android’s Andy Rubin takes the stage, says he’s really excited about Flash on Android, then leaves. This is pretty much the definition of the pointless star cameo.
11:01am: There are also improvements to Flash Lite, the mobile version of Flash. (Though it’s a lot less significant now, since the most exciting phones like the iPhone will probably use Flash itself.) It’s now easier to distribute your Flash Lite-powered apps. Before, users needed to download Flash Lite first, then find applications to download within Flash Lite. Now, you can send them a promotional message via SMS, which sends them to a mobile website, where users can directly download both Flash Lite and the app at the same time. This lowers barriers to entry.
11:08am: Lynch shows off the phone of the future, which has Flash and AIR installed, and more importantly is aware of the screens around you. For example, you should be able to walk around your house, point your phone at a television, then easily move your photos from your phone to your television.
11:10am: Another example. You can run games on your phone, then play against someone else on their phone, with the game displayed on your television, so your phone becomes another controller.
11:11am: And it’s over. I’ll be updating this post to highlight the most relevant news, but until then you can also read Adobe’s summary of its keynotes.