Adobe Advances Flash Platform with New AIR, Cloud, Flex Solutions

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-11-17

Adobe Advances Flash Platform with New AIR, Cloud, Flex Solutions

SAN FRANCISCO -- At its annual user conference, Adobe unveiled several advancements to its Flash platform, including new Flash offerings, new Flex tooling and the availability of a new version of Adobe AIR.

"Our goal with Flash is to enable users to create rich, immersive applications," said David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president of the Platform Business Unit at Adobe. "We'll create design tools and developer tools, and the right servers. And one of the key areas of focus for 2009 has to do with workflow across our tools," Wadhwani said in an interview with eWEEK.

At Adobe MAX 2008 here, Adobe announced a preview of the next version of its Flex Builder, too, codenamed "Gumbo," and also announced the preview of Adobe Flash Catalyst, formerly known as "Thermo."

Adobe Flash Catalyst "is an interactive design tool for designers to build applications without any code," Wadhwani said.

The Thermo design tool is aimed at creating application interfaces and interactive content with out coding. Moreover, Flash Catalyst enables artwork created in Adobe Creative Suite 4 to be imported and converted into components such as buttons, scrollbars, input fields and more. And completed Flash Catalyst projects can be published directly to Flash Player or AIR. Moreover, when combined with Gumbo, Flash Catalyst enables design and development to be done in parallel. Adobe made the preview version of Flash Catalyst available to MAX attendees, and a beta version of the technology will available in early 2009 on Adobe Labs.

"We named it Flash Catalyst because it catalyzes the effort for design and development to allow designers and developers to work more closely," Wadhwani said. "So Flex Builder has interaction and workflow for Flash Catalyst."

The Flex Builder "Gumbo" preview release expands the use of Flex to a broader base of developers by delivering new data-centric development capabilities to create rich Internet applications. Gumbo also provides debugger, profiler and code editor capabilities.

Meanwhile, Adobe announced the availability of Adobe AIR 1.5. Adobe AIR is a core component of the Adobe Flash Platform that enables developers to deliver rich Internet applications outside the browser. The new version brings new features and performance enhancements. For instance, Adobe AIR includes the open source WebKit engine and accelerates application performance with "SquirrelFish," the new WebKit JavaScript interpreter. Adobe AIR 1.5 also includes a new, encrypted database that meets enterprise security compliance requirements while storing data securely on customers' computers. Additionally, AIR 1.5 includes functionality introduced in Adobe Flash Player 10, such as support for custom filters and effects, native 3-D transformation and animation, and extensible rich text layout, said Wadhwani. Adobe AIR 1.5 is available immediately as a free download for Windows and Mac, and AIR 1.5 for Linux is expected to be available before the end of the year, he said.

Adobe announced the release of Flash Player 10 in October, and now announces a pre-release of the 64-bit Linux version of Flash Player 10. This release is available on Adobe Labs. "We're starting with Linux with our 64-bit support, because that's where we've heard the outcry the loudest," Wadhwani said. "So we're starting here and then adding 64-bit support for Windows and the Mac."

In addition, Adobe demonstrated a preview of Flash Player 10 for smart phones which features the latest advancements related to the Open Screen Project. Adobe Flash Platform innovations are at the core of the Open Screen Project, which is an industry-wide initiative to deliver rich multiscreen experiences built on a consistent runtime environment for open Web browsing and standalone applications across personal computers, mobile devices and consumer electronics.

Cocomo: Platform as a Service


Adobe also announced a public beta of its cloud computing solution, a platform-as-a-service solution codenamed "Cocomo."

Wadhwani said Cocomo enables Adobe Flex developers to easily add real-time social capabilities into their RIAs. Comprised of both Flex-based client components and a hosted services infrastructure, Cocomo allows developers to build real-time, multiuser applications with Flex in less time than ever before, the company said. And because hosts the service, issues such as deployment, maintenance and scalability are taken care of for the developer, Wadhwani said.

Cocomo enables developers to add social features to their existing Flex applications or build totally new ones, such as real-time productivity/collaboration applications, multiplayer games, and audio/video chat, Wadhwani said.

Meanwhile, Wadhwani said that in September at least 25 million end users had at least one Adobe AIR application, "and we're on target to hit 100 million within the first year of the technology being available." Wadhwani said Adobe AIR should reach 100 million users by February 2009, which will mark one year of availability for the technology.

In addition, several Adobe partners made supporting announcements relating to Adobe technology. Acesis announced a new software-as-a-service solution that leverages the Adobe Flash Platform to measure doctor performance and reduce medical errors. Ensemble introduced a new offering called Ensemble Tofino for Visual Studio, a plug-in that enables .NET developers to create Flex front ends for their applications using Microsoft Visual Studio. SAP announced that it is enabling SAP developers to take advantage of Flex components to develop rich user interfaces for SAP applications. And Zend announced the first deliverable of the Adobe and Zend partnership with Adobe's contribution of Action Message Format (AMF) support in the new 1.7 release of Zend Framework. This new AMF component enables developers to optimize data communication between Zend Framework server-side PHP components and client-side Adobe Flex components.

In an attempt to not be outdone as Adobe celebrates its success at its annual user/developer conference, Microsoft weighed in with a few points around its Flash competitor, Silverlight. Scott Guthrie, a corporate vice president in the Microsoft Developer Division, blogged about Silverlight's successes and rehashes several recent announcements to hype the platform. The one new thing he mentions is but a tease.

Said Guthrie about the future of Silverlight:

"Next year we will ship our next major Silverlight release -- Silverlight 3. Silverlight 3 will include major media enhancements (including H.264 video support), major graphics improvements (including 3-D support and GPU hardware acceleration), as well as major application development improvements (including richer data-binding support and additional controls). Note these are just a small sampling of the improvements -- we have plenty of additional cool features we are going to keep up our sleeves a little longer. Next year Visual Studio and Visual Web Developer Express will also support a fully editable and interactive designer for Silverlight and add tool support for data-binding." 

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