What to Expect at Adobe Max

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-09-25 Print this article Print

Q: Now that Google is using the WebKit engine and Adobe also is supporting it, do you think you'll be working together more?

A: There's a lot of momentum around using WebKit as a core technology for HTML. And we adopted that for AIR and we're contributing to the open-source project. Nokia is active there, Google is, Apple is. So I really think there's increasing momentum around that as a good implementation of HTML that is broadly applicable and works on mobile as well as on PCs.

Q: Some people said the recent decision by Ecma to abandon its ECMAScript 4.0 effort in lieu of an ECMAScript Harmony specification built off of ECMAScript 3.1 is a loss for Adobe. Was that the case?

A: I think with ECMAScript our aim there is to help advance the state of the art in scripting on the Web. And we're doing that in Flash Player and deploying that around the Web. We really want to do that in a standard way, and we want to do it in a way that supports innovation and supports rapid innovation. And I think if you look at the way a lot of innovation on the Web has happened there have typically been some leading implementations...If you look at the image tag in Netscape. There was a time in HTML when there was no image tag, and Marc Andreessen at Netscape just decided to implement the image tag. And he put it in and deployed it and there was a lot of consternation about that, but over time that became the standard for implementing images over the Web. That's normally how innovation has been working along with standards and so we're following the same path of innovating, but looking to standardize the innovation so that we actually do have consistent deployment on the Web. So we'll continue doing that. I think the amount of innovation that we were trying to do with ECMAScript 4 perhaps was too big of a leap for some and they wanted to see a more collaborative approach on that. So the standards process is a collaborative one where there are lots of points of view. And we're happy to continue working in the process to advance ECMAScript. But we're hoping that innovation can happen faster and that we can raise the level of scripting on the Web. So we're going to continue innovating in Flash Player. We're not removing features that we've already deployed because people are relying on them and we think they're good. And we'll keep developing it further. And at the same time we'll keep working with the standards process.

Q: What can we expect to see at the Adobe Max conference in November?

A: At Max we're going to do an update on our technologies and our road map. You'll see discussion on what I see as the main vectors of innovation in the industry right now. There are three from what I see. One is the radical change in how people are interacting with the Internet using devices in addition to PCs. That is an incredible transformation. The number of devices already surpasses the number of PCs connected to the Internet. So that infrastructure already is deployed. So it's a matter now of usage patterns shifting more to mobile devices rather than PCs. And in some cases, in emerging countries, people will completely skip the PC stage and go directly to mobile devices. We believe there's going to be over a billion people who actually access the Internet using a mobile device without ever using a PC. So this is a radical change in how people are interacting. So that means a radical change in how we build content and applications, a change in how we access those things, and a real call to action around making a consistent experience across all these devices. Because if you try to access content and install an application across all these devices it's very difficult today. It's not a consistent experience, it's not reliable, it's very fragmented and there are lots of different operating systems, lots of different ways to deploy applications. So the device world is not where the PC world is right now in terms of reliability and consistency. So it needs to get there, especially with everyone moving there. So there's a huge focus on Adobe's part to help enable that consistency to happen. And we can't do it ourselves. We're working with others, such as carriers, device manufacturers and others. That's the Open Screen Project. We're working to make that a much better experience for users, in terms of browsing the Web with great fidelity and being able to install an application on your device and having it work. And we believe those applications should be built with Web technology such as HTML and Flash.

And that's what we've done with AIR on PCs. AIR is a way to deploy an application across OSes. And that's going great. We've had 35 million installs of AIR and we're hoping for 100 million by the end of the year. Looks like we're going to make it. And we're working to bring that same technology to mobile devices. And I think that might be a trend toward a "mobile first" experience, which is really a reversal of how people create applications. Right now they create largely using large screens and PCs and think about creating stuff that will be displayed on large screens and PCs. And I think that need to change. In the conception of creating that content we need to think about how that will work in the constraints of a mobile device and then maybe how it will work on the big screen. That's a reversal of how people are thinking and I think it will take a few years for it to happen. But at Max that's one of the things we will encourage people to think about -- to shift more to this mobile way of thinking and then consider PCs. And that will be a change to our tooling over time. Already we're starting to do that with things like Device Central in Creative Suite 4 where you can visualize your work across devices. But there's going to be a lot more to do there.

The second thing is what I call client and cloud computing, which is a change from applications running on a client, to really a blend of using processing power on the client and processing power across services on the cloud. And our approach there is... Some organizations are very cloud centric. Google for instance has the cloud in their soul. Others are very client centric still. I would put Microsoft in that camp. If you look at their revenue it's largely client-oriented revenue; it's Windows and Office. And that is something that, while they might talk about embracing the cloud and doing hosted services, I would say their soul is really still on the client.

So when we look at this from Adobe's perspective we're taking a balanced approach on cloud versus client. We're enabling applications to be built that balance both the processing across the cloud and the client and treat those equally. And if you look at our ability to put functionality on the client, we're one of the few companies that can update the client technology on the Web and add new capabilities such as for running applications, new video codices, new scripting engines... And we can deploy that and update a majority of the Web -- up to 80 percent -- in less than nine months now. And we can innovate on the cloud side.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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