Adobe MAX 2011 – Keynote 1 Recap

The first keynote at the Adobe MAX Conference this year was spectacular! Right from the get-go, the introductory art piece/performance started with a lone violinist on stage then, a pair of dancers appeared who transitioned to a gigantic 400 foot wide, 300 million pixels per second high-def projection screen behind them. Once on the giant screen and in the digital realm, the dancers interacted with vivid animations and impressive special effects. The whole production and scale of the performance was jaw-dropping.

Later in the keynote, Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe mentioned that the introductory piece was symbolic of the confluence of the analog and digital in our lives. There’s no doubt that digital content has changed our lives significantly and I subscribe to the idea that digital content can be used to inspire, to instruct, and can improve our lives. If you have about 4 minutes, I’d strongly encourage you to watch the performance. The message of this performance also fits nicely with Adobe’s new mission statement which is “Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences.” They are building tools to make it easier to build great experiences.

After the performance,  Kevin Lynch took the stage and talked about a significant transformative change for Adobe. He gave us a short history lesson in how we have interacted with content before computers. As we’ve moved from the punch card to the terminal to the mouse and graphical user interfaces, we’ve abstracted ourselves from the content we are creating. Adobe believes that touch devices (both mobile and tablets) are going to allow us to remove much of that abstraction and work more directly with the content we are creating. We’ve already seen amazing growth with consumers using mobile and tablet devices for content consumption and this is just the beginning. Adobe is now in the beginning stages of bringing creative development to tablet devices. I think there’s still going to be a large amount of production work done on laptops and desktop workstations, but this is going to introduce a significant change in the way we create digital experiences.

Touch devices aren’t equipped with large hard drives and large amounts of RAM so how do you actually create content on them? Part of the answer lies within the cloud. In the keynote, Kevin announced the Adobe Creative Cloud, an online service that allows you to access and edit your creative files (Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.) from multiple devices. The cloud syncs your work so your latest comp with be available anywhere.

Having full access to certain files on computers, tablets and smart phones is pretty cool in itself, but the Adobe Creative Cloud isn’t just another dropbox-like service. Adobe’s cloud is integrated with collaborative solutions that allow you to easily share your work publicly or privately with others, with or without commenting. I see this as a great way to publish a portfolio of your work and to also solicit feedback from others on the work you’ve done.

The Adobe Creative Cloud will also be integrated with other online solutions by Adobe. The Digital Publishing Suite, a nice solution to build interactive digital publications inside InDesign will be tightly integrated as well as Business Catalyst, a solution to build and host websites. TypeKit (which Adobe announced in the keynote they had just acquired) will also be available through the Creative Cloud.

The Adobe Creative Cloud can also help manage applications from the Creative Suite and a new collection of Adobe Touch Apps. These new apps for tablets really caught my attention. There were 6 of them showcased at the keynote:

Adobe Ideas, a vector based sketch pad that’s been available for the iPad for at least a year. Kevin showcased some amazing work done with it.

Adobe Kuler has been ported to the tablet. It’s a great color theming tool. Kuler is also tightly integrated with some of the other Adobe Touch Apps.

Adobe Collage is an app to combine images and text into conceptual moodboards.

Adobe Debut is a presentation app that allows you to easily show your Create Suite work with clients and colleages.

Adobe Proto looks to be a very interesting app for wireframing and prototyping websites on tablets. The gestures for creating different components on your site is crazy cool. Your final project can be saved to the cloud and opened in Dreamweaver for development.

Photoshop Touch is amazing! It allows you to edit your Photoshop files on a tablet! It has support for layers, smart selection, filters, text, and the basic editing tools you would find in Photoshop. I actually had a chance to use Photoshop Touch during the conference. It’s fun!

It was announced that a beta of the Adobe Creative Cloud and the new Adobe Touch Apps for Android will be made available sometime in November and the live release early in 2012. The new apps will be available for $9.99 each according to the Adobe Touch App Family web page.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about these new Touch Apps is something that I don’t think was mentioned in the keynote. All these apps are built using the Flash platform. If you weren’t aware, Flash Professional and Flash Builder can not only output to a Flash file to be displayed on the web, you can also create real applications for Android, iOS and the Blackberry Playbook. Flash is alive and well. It appears to be a key component for Adobe moving into the touch era.

This year’s first keynote was very different from what we’ve seen in the past. Seeing how smart phones have taken off, and the plethora of new tablets coming to the market I’m excited to see how tablets can be used to create, to inspire and to make our lives better. I’m looking forward to trying out the Adobe Creative Cloud and the new Adobe Touch Apps. You can watch the entire keynote, or sections divided into topics by going to the Adobe TV website.