Today is day one of the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles. In this morning’s keynote CTO Kevin Lynch focused firmly on devices – both mobile devices and living room devices including Google TV. There was a nod to HTML 5 in the opening demo, a prototype of a new product called Edge which is a motion designer that extends JQuery, but the Flash player remains the heart of Adobe’s platform. The proliferation of incompatible devices is an opportunity for cross-platform runtimes, and Adobe intends to take advantage with Flash and AIR – the Adobe Integrated Runtime, for local applications that fun on Flash.
Right now the only mobile platform which is supported is Google Android, but others are promised. In particular, we heard a lot in the keynote about the Blackberry Playbook, the forthcoming tablet from RIM, including an appearance from RIM boss Mike Lazaridis.
An interesting aspect of the Playbook is that the user interface of the device itself is built in part with AIR. As a RIM exec observed in a later Q&A, it makes sense for the OS to use the same framework as that used by third party apps, so that any issues are sorted early.
AIR popped up again in a a different context, as Lynch described Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite. This suite targets magazine publishers creating publications for the Apple iPad, such as publisher Condé Nast, also represented at the keynote, which is adopting the platform for many of its publications from Wired to the New Yorker.
The Digital Publishing Suite exports publications from Adobe InDesign to a dedicated format with a .issue extension, played on the iPad by Adobe Content Viewer. Adobe will now implement the content viewer on AIR, so that digital publications will render on the new wave of Android tablets, Blackberry tablets, and others in future.
Also worth noting is that Adobe plans to insert itself into the distribution process beyond just providing the authoring tools and the runtime. The Digital Publishing Suite includes Adobe hosting for the content. More broadly, the Melrose project, now called Adobe InMarket, is a service where you host your application on Adobe’s servers and Adobe handles deployment to the various App Stores out there as well as credit card processing.
Of course Apple is working, it seems, to undermine Flash. The runtime is not allowed on iOS, Apple’s mobile platform. Apple is not including Flash by default in the latest Macs, and the forthcoming Mac App Store will not allow AIR (or for that matter Java) applications. You will still be able to install Flash and AIR on a Mac, but Apple will no doubt be encouraging users to go the App Store route.
It is a fascinating tension, particularly since Apple’s devices fit so well with other aspects of Adobe’s strategy.
Despite Steve Jobs, Lynch announced today that the number of Flash platform developers has grown by 50% over the last year, which is huge. I also wonder whether the Java turmoil, especially on the Mac, could work in Adobe’s favour as it builds support for its Flash runtime.