The Day 2 Keynote at the Adobe MAX 2011 conference is usually reserved for more developer centric material and this year was no exception. There was however a twist in the order of emphasis of technologies this year. The keynotes of latter years have started out strongly with the Flash Platform and how Adobe is committed to providing a development solution that works cross-OS, cross browsers, cross devices. This year, Adobe started off strongly showing their commitment to web technologies. Specifically HTML5, CSS3, jQuery and PhoneGap.
This change in emphasis startled a few in the community and provided fuel for the Flash haters of the world. As was demonstrated in this keynote, Flash is not dead and no, Adobe didn’t “concede” to Apple. Many forget that Adobe has been a member of the W3C since 1994. In addition, do any of you remember Adobe GoLive? I loved that app! Great CSS support for its time and the point-and-shoot feature was revolutionary! Adobe has been providing HTML solutions for years, almost multiple decades.
Some of the new HTML developments coming from Adobe include:
Acquisition of PhoneGap
When I initially heard about Adobe acquiring PhoneGap I immediately thought about the repercussions to the PhoneGap community. Is Adobe going to kill the open source framework? The answer from the keynote was emphatically “No”. In fact, the framework is being submitted to the Apache Foundation to remain free and open source forever. Adobe is clearly eyeing PhoneGap Build, a cloud based solution that compiles your web code to make mobile apps you can deploy to may different mobile and tablet devices. Adobe also announced they would continue to integrate PhoneGap into Dreamweaver. From what I’ve seen in Dreamweaver CS5.5 they’ve already done a pretty good job with that. I’m really looking forward to seeing where they go with this.
Adobe Edge Preview 3
CSS Regions, an Adobe technology proposed to the W3C was demoed. This gives html text the ability to dynamically wrap around images and shapes on a page. There were examples of text flowing to different columns as a web page was resized. I also liked the demo of a website showing columns of text showing at the top of a web page with flowing around mountains set at the bottom of the page. When a car was moved onto the page dynamically using CSS, the text flowed up and around the car. I really hope this gets added to the CSS spec! It could be a boon to those wanting more magazine-like layouts in web pages to be displayed across multiple devices. IE9 and Chrome already support CSS Regions!
CSS Shaders is another cool technology being proposed by Adobe, Apple and Opera to the W3C. CSS Shaders add stunning filter effects to HTML5 content. Impressive examples were shown that combine CSS Animations, CSS Transitions and CSS Shaders to create 3D-looking flipbooks, live Google Maps folding up like a paper map, and warping live HTML objects on a page. Examples and more information about CSS Shaders can be found on Adobe’s DevNet site.
Adobe’s focus on HTML technologies clearly show they are invested in providing solutions for web developers. As the popular web browsers start to support more HTML5 features I think we’ll see more and more solutions provided by Adobe to make cross browser web experiences.
Flash on Stage
The way I see it, Adobe saved its pinch hitter for last. The Flash platform is going to continue to evolve and improve as a single source code solution for cross browser/multi-device development. The enhancements they showed in Flash were mind-blowing!
The most impressive new feature they demoed was Stage3D. Flash is bringing 3D gaming to the web. They demoed Unreal Tournament being played in Flash. The quality and performance were very good. It looked as good as playing the game from a normal computer install.
Adobe also showcased the Nissan Juke website, a new website that incorporates 3D into the experience of shopping for a car. On the site, you can interactively move to view the outside and inside of the car at just about any angle. You can change many options of the car (like color) on the fly. You can even take the car for a test drive. They’ve made the test drive into a little game as you try to capture as many energy globes a possible. The site totally rocks as an immersive experience.
Adobe also announced Starling, a new framework that extends Stage3D to make it easy to write GPU accelerated 2D apps without having to drop into the low-level Stage3D APIs.
Stage3D and Starling are only a few of the new enhancements found in the release of Flash 11. Other notable enhancements include being 64bit native across MacOS, Windows and Linux, H.264/AVC software encoding for desktop cameras, Protected HTTP Dynamic Streaming and Flash Access enhancements, Native JSON support, improved socket support, and more.
AIR 3 also is available. It contains the same enhancements of Flash 11, and adds Native extensions that allow you to access native code to tap into device-only functionality. They’ve also added a feature to compile the AIR runtime inside your application removing the dependency for the user to have AIR installed on their device. Hardware accelerated video is now available for mobile devices, and many audio enhancement. For a full list of features see this Adobe DevNet article.
Flex 4.6 and Flash Builder 4.6
The updated version of Flex and Flash Builder 4.6 were announced adding increased performance for apps, new components for mobile development, additions of the Network Monitor, and FlexUnit testing.
Summing it up
In all, I’m impressed with the direction of Adobe. I don’t think it’s strange at all for Adobe to be offering both HTML and Flash solutions to their customers. In fact, the two technologies can be quite complementary. I’m looking forward to getting more experience with the new HTML and Flash features in Adobe’s toolset. If you’d like to watch the whole keynote or just a sections of it, Adobe TV has video clips of the event.