Category Archives: adobe

Adobe announces next Creative Suite, now called Creative Cloud

Adobe has announced the next version of its all-conquering Creative Suite, now renamed (or subsumed into) Creative Cloud.

Availability is set for June 2013. There will not be any perpetual licenses for the updated applications:

Can I purchase a perpetual license for the new Creative Cloud (CC) desktop applications that were announced in May 2013?

No. The new CC versions of the desktop applications are available only through Creative Cloud offerings for individuals, teams, and enterprise. We do not have any current plans to release future CC tools outside Creative Cloud.

Let’s start with the important stuff. I like the new “totems” which are intricate and abstract; but I think it works. Here is Creative Cloud:

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and here is InDesign, wow:

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Here is Premiere, can you see the lettering?

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So what about the technical stuff? Here is quick tour of what’s new.

Adobe always seems to demo Creative Suite on the Mac these days, but says there is feature-parity between Mac and Windows. GPU acceleration of algorithms (such as in the Mercury engine) no longer uses NVidia Cuda but rather Open CL for best cross-platform compatibility.

Typekit Fonts can now be installed on your desktop, and once installed work like any other font – you can use them in Microsoft Office, for example.

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We quizzed Adobe about what happens to the fonts if you stop subscribing to Creative Cloud. The answer seems to be that you must no longer use them, but whether this is technically enforced is unclear.

Settings synchronisation is a theme across a number of apps including Dreamweaver and After Effects. This touches on a curious aspect of Creative Cloud: despite the name, the applications are desktop applications. Sync settings means you can log in on any machine with the suite installed and get your settings back, including for example web sites in Dreamweaver. The consequence is to bring the make your desktop experience more cloud-like in respect of working from anywhere.

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Photoshop gets an amazing camera shake reduction feature. Camera shake is a big problem for me, as I rarely have a tripod. The new feature detects how the camera moved during the shot and compensates accordingly. The demo worked great on Adobe’s sample shot, but then it would, so it is not until we get to try this with some of our own images that we will know whether Adobe’s claim of “making unusable images usable” is justified. Still, Adobe has a good track record and I am optimistic.

Other interesting features are a filter for Camera Raw, and a “straighten” effect for perspective distorting in images such as those of tall buildings which look as if they are leaning (though I am sure I have seen ways of handling this in earlier versions too). There is also an rounded rectangle editor, a new artefact removal feature, and the ability to upsample an image so that your low-resolution bitmap magically becomes more suitable for print.

There will no longer be an Extended Photoshop. If you have it, you have it all.

The Kuler colour theme chooser has been rebuilt in HTML.

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Illustrator gets a CSS properties panel.

Flash has a Publish feature which converts Flash to HTML (We can see where Adobe is going with this). This uses the CreateJS framework; it does not convert ActionScript.

Premiere Pro now includes the engine from Audition for advanced audio editing within the application.

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Edge Animate is able to animate a sprite across a Motion Path curve for some cool effects.

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Fireworks is still in the suite, but is not being updated. Bad news for Fireworks lovers.

Dreamweaver has a new CSS designer, and a Fluid Grid Layout for designing adaptive web sites:

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After Effects now embeds the Cineware 4D engine, which is big news if you use both AE and Cineware (as many do).

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InDesign is now 64-bit with an updated user interface.

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InDesign also has a “favourite fonts” feature making it easier to manage a multiplicity of fonts on your system.

What have I missed? A lot, no doubt; but I am impressed with how well Adobe has managed its transition from mainly perpetual licences to mainly subscription, how it is rapidly adding features to Creative Cloud, and how it has also managed the transition from Flash to HTML.

Intel fights back against iOS with free tools for HTML5 cross-platform mobile development

Today at its Software Conference in Paris Intel presented its HTML5 development tools.

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There are several components, starting with the XDK, a cross-platform development kit based on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript designed to be packaged as mobile apps using Cordova, the open source variant of PhoneGap.

There is an intriguing comment here:

The XDK is fully compatible with the PhoneGap HTML5 cross platform development project, providing many features that are missing from the open source project.

PhoneGap is Adobe’s commercial variant of Cordova. It looks as if Intel is doing its own implementation of features which are in PhoneGap but not Cordova, which might not please Adobe. Apparently code that Intel adds will be fed back into Cordova in due course.

Intel has its own JavaScript app framework, formerly called jqMobi and now called Intel’s App Framework. This is an open source framework hosted on Github.

There are also developer tools which run as an extension to Google Chrome, and a cloud-based build service which targets the following platforms:

  • Apple App Store
  • Google Play
  • Nook Store
  • Amazon Appstore for Android
  • Windows 8 Store
  • Windows Phone 8

And web applications:

  • Facebook
  • Intel AppUp
  • Chrome Store
  • Self-hosted

The build service lets you compile and deploy for these platforms without requiring a local install of the various mobile SDKs. It is free and according to Intel’s Thomas Zipplies there are no plans to charge in future. The build service is Intel’s own, and not related to Adobe’s PhoneGap Build, other than the fact that both share common source in Cordova. This also is unlikely to please Adobe.

You can start a new app in the browser, using a wizard.

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Intel also has an iOS to HTML5 porting tool in beta, called the App Porter Tool. The aim is to convert Objective C to JavaScript automatically, and while the tool will not convert all the code successfully it should be able to port most of it, reducing the overall porting effort.

Given that the XDK supports Windows 8 modern apps and Windows Phone 8, this is also a route to porting from iOS to those platforms.

Why is Intel doing this, especially on a non-commercial basis? According to Zipplies, it is a reaction to “walled garden” development platforms, which while not specified must include Apple iOS and to some extent Google Android.

Note that both iOS and almost all Android devices run on ARM, so another way of looking at this is that Intel would rather have developers work on cross-platform apps than have them develop exclusively for ARM devices.

Zipplies also says that Intel can optimise the libraries in the XDK to improve performance on its processors.

You can access the HTML5 development tools here.

Google forks WebKit into Blink: what are the implications?

Yesterday Google announced that it is forking WebKit to create Blink, a new rendering engine to be used in its Chrome browser:

Chromium uses a different multi-process architecture than other WebKit-based browsers, and supporting multiple architectures over the years has led to increasing complexity for both the WebKit and Chromium projects. This has slowed down the collective pace of innovation – so today, we are introducing Blink, a new open source rendering engine based on WebKit.

Odd that not long ago we were debating the likelihood and merits of WebKit becoming the de facto standard for HTML. Now Google itself is arguing against such a thing:

… we believe that having multiple rendering engines—similar to having multiple browsers—will spur innovation and over time improve the health of the entire open web ecosystem.

Together with the announcement from Mozilla and Samsung of a new Android browser which, one assumes, may become the default browser on Samsung Android phones, there is now significant diversity/competition/fragmentation in the browser market (if you can call it a market when everything is free).

The stated reason for the split concerns multi-process architecture, with claims that Google was unwilling to assist with integrating Chromium’s multi-process code into WebKit:

Before we wrote a single line of what would become WebKit2 we directly asked Google folks if they would be willing to contribute their multiprocess support back to WebKit, so that we could build on it. They said no.

At that point, our choices were to do a hostile fork of Chromium into the WebKit tree, write our own process model, or live with being single-process forever. (At the time, there wasn’t really an API-stable layer of the Chromium stack that packaged the process support.)

Writing our own seemed like the least bad approach.

Or maybe it was the other way around and Apple wanted to increase its control over WebKit and optimize it for the OSX and iOS rather than for multiple platforms (which would be the Apple way).

It matters little. Either way, it is unsurprising that Apple and Google find it difficult to cooperate when Android is the biggest threat to the iPhone and iPad.

The new reality is that WebKit, instead of being a de facto standard for the Web, will now be primarily an Apple rendering engine. Chrome/Chromium will be all Google, making it less attractive for others to adopt.

That said, several third parties have already adopted Chromium, thanks to the attractions of the Chromium Embedded Framework which makes it easy to use the engine in other projects. This includes Opera, which is now a Blink partner, and Adobe, which uses Chromium for its Brackets code editor and associated products in the Adobe Edge family.

The benefit of Blink is that diverse implementations promote the importance of standards. The risk of Blink is that if Google further increases the market share of Chrome, on desktop and mobile, to the point where it dominates, then it is in a strong position to dictate de-facto standards according to its own preferences, as suggested by this cynical take on the news.

The browser wars are back.

Android up, Apple down, Microsoft so near, so far: 2012 in review

What happened in 2012?

Windows 8

Whether you regard it as the beginning of the end for Windows, or a moment of rebirth, for me it was the year of Windows 8. Microsoft’s new Windows is fascinating on several levels: as a bold strategic move to make a desktop operating system into a tablet operating system, or as an experiment in how much change you can make in an established product without alienating too many of your customers, or as the first mainstream attempt to create an “immersive” user interface where users engage solely with the content and have to make an effort to summon menus and tools.

The context is also gripping. Microsoft’s desktop monopoly is under attack from all sides. Apple iPad and Google Android tablets, cloud apps that make the desktop operating system irrelevant, Mac OSX computers and laptops that have captured the hearts of designers and power users. Windows still dominates in business computing, but the signs of encroachment are there as well, with reports of iPad deployments and a shift in focus away from desktop apps.

Windows 8 is intended as the fix, making Windows into a first-class tablet operating system and establishing a new app ecosystem based on the Windows Runtime and the Windows Store.

How is it going so far? Not too well. App developers have not flocked to the platform. Users who were happy with Windows 7 have been bewildered. Most seriously, the Windows ecosystem of OEM vendors and general retailers has failed to adjust to the concept of Windows as a tablet operating system, treating it more as a somewhat awkward upgrade to Windows 7.

The work of Windows President Steven Sinofksy in overseeing the engineering and design of Windows 8 and delivering it on schedule has been amazing. He kept his team focused and shipped a release of Windows that is faster and with nice improvements on the desktop side, as well as offering a tablet personality designed for touch-first, in which apps are securely sandboxed and easily installed from an online store.

At the same time, it is easy to see ways in which Microsoft bungled Windows 8.

  • Why was Microsoft so unrelenting with its “immersive” UI that it would not tolerate an option to show things like time and battery status on screen all the time, or three dots for “more” so that users will more easily discover the app bar, as suggested by Paul Thurrott?
  • Why did Microsoft spend mind-stretching amounts on advertising for Windows 8 and for Surface RT tablets, but not allocate enough budget to create a decent Windows 8 Mail app, for example? The current effort is a constant annoyance, especially on the Surface where there is no alternative.
  • Why did Microsoft expend so much effort pumping up the number of apps in its Store, but so little effort nurturing quality? Very few outstanding apps were available at launch, and even now they are hard to find.

I say this as as someone who likes Windows 8 overall. The strategy makes sense to me, but the execution in some critical areas has been disappointing. So near but so far.

 

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The sudden departure of Sinofsky immediately after the Windows 8 launch was unfortunate; a significant loss of a person with both vision and the ability to implement it.

That said, despite all the difficulties Microsoft has now launched this radically different version of Windows; it is over the first hump and provided that the company keeps its nerve, it can focus on refining the platform and creating compelling new apps that will persuade users to explore it. Further, users who have the patience to learn a few new ways to navigate Windows will discover that it is a decent upgrade, with strong features like Hyper-V, improved file operations, Windows to Go and more.

It is tablets that matter though. Tablet usage will continue to grow, and if Microsoft cannot establish Windows as a tablet platform, its further decline is inevitable.

Does CEO Steve Ballmer have a grip on this huge, dysfunctional, brilliant, frustrating company? Maybe 2013 will answer that question definitively.

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Surface RT

2012 also saw the launch of Microsoft’s first own-brand tablet. It is high quality, exceptionally strong, with long battery life thanks to its ARM processor and supported by keyboard covers that let you flip it between touch and keyboard/trackpad without making the device too bulky or complex.

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Three things, no make that four things, have prevented Surface RT from taking off as Microsoft hoped:

1. Performance is barely adequate. It is usable, but Office is sluggish with large documents and apps are noticeably less responsive than on x86 Windows 8. That said, the NVIDIA Tegra 3 chipset is capable of fast graphics, and some games run surprisingly well, so it is not all bad.

2. The lack of strong apps affects Windows RT devices like Surface more than x86 Windows 8, since you cannot install desktop apps. Yes, it is a new platform, but Microsoft could have done better.

3. There is too much desktop in Windows RT and therefore in Surface RT, making the device more complex than it should be.

4. Microsoft has not yet established Windows 8 as a tablet platform in public perception, nor yet provided the apps that make it work fully as a tablet platform. One consequence is that when someone goes out to buy a tablet, they do not think of Surface RT as a candidate; it is iPad or Android. Another consequence is that reviewers tend to evaluate Surface RT as Windows rather than as a tablet. Considered as Windows, it is weak compared to x86 builds.

Despite all the above, I often slip Surface RT into my bag when travelling. The combination of small size, keyboard cover, long battery life, and Word and Excel is a winner for me. Surface RT 2, with faster performance and a more mature app platform could be great, if the product makes it to a second edition.

Apple: a bad year

2012 was a bad year for Apple. On one level everything is fine, with iPads and iPhones selling like fury, and the successful launch of iPad Mini. What changed though is that the concern of the late Steve Jobs, that Android is close enough to iOS to capture a lot of its market, became a reality. Android is the bestselling smartphone platform and Android tablets, led by Google Nexus and Samsung Galaxy, will likely overtake iPad for the same reasons: better value, more vendors, faster innovation. There was plenty of litigation in 2012 as Apple sought to protect its inventions, but despite some legal successes, Android has continued to grow and it looks unlikely that court action will do much to impede it. Another problem for Apple is that price pressure makes it difficult to sustain the high hardware margins which have made the company so profitable.

The other Microsoft

The Windows 8 drama caught our attention, but Microsoft has been busy elsewhere, generally with better success. The most significant development was the transformation of the cloud platform, Windows Azure from an also-ran to a compelling contender (though still small relative to Amazon), thanks to the addition of IaaS (infrastructure as a service), or plain old Windows VMs, along with a new management portal that makes the service easier to use.

Microsoft also released Server 2012, a substantial upgrade to Windows Server particularly in Hyper-V, but also in storage, remote access, server management, and general modularisation.

Windows Phone had a mixed year, with a sage in sales when Microsoft announced that Windows Phone 7 devices will not be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8, but ending more positively with relatively strong (in the context of a market dominated by iOS and Android) sales for new Windows Phone 8 devices.

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It was a good year for Office 365, on-demand Exchange and SharePoint, which is now an obvious choice for small businesses migrating from Small Business Server and a plausible choice for medium and larger businesses too.

2012 also saw the launch of Office 2013. I am not so sure about this one. It is meant to be the version of Office that is touch-friendly and cloud-centric. It is not too bad, but with its washed-out appearance and various annoyances it hardly seems a compelling upgrade. Office needs a “Windows 7” release, one where Microsoft focuses on what Office users find slow and/or irritating and sets out to fix the issues.

Adobe’s cloud and HTML transformation

Microsoft took too much of my attention in 2012, something I hope will change in 2013, but one company which caught my attention was Adobe. Without great fanfare, it has successfully switched the business model for the Creative Suite (PhotoShop, Premiere, Dreamweaver and so on) which forms the largest part of its business to a subscription-based model with cloud delivery and additional cloud services. It has also moved its technical platform away from Flash and towards HTML with less pain that I had expected, and is coming up with interesting new tools in its Edge range. Most impressive.

RIM and Blackberry: all to prove in 2013

2012 was painful for RIM, which saw interest in its Blackberry platform decline to the point where many now consider it of little relevance in mobile, but mitigated by intense effort to engage its developer community in preparation for the launch of Blackberry 10 devices at the end of January 2013. It may be too late; but the new OS does have attractions, especially in business where there is innovation in the way it separates business and personal use of a single device. Is Windows Phone or Blackberry 10 the third mobile platform after iOS and Android, or will these two stragglers simply weaken each other while Apple and Google dominate?

Amazon web services: fast pace of innovation

Amazon dominates the IaaS market and with good reason: relatively low prices, high quality of service, and fast pace of innovation. It was this last that most impressed me when I attended an update last November. Amazon prefers to talk to developers and businesses rather than the press, and its services are perhaps under-reported relative to its competitors. An impressive operation, with an inspiring CEO.

Google the winner in 2012

It may not have vanquished Facebook, but of all the tech giants Google has had the best year, with sustained success in search and advertising, huge Android sales and the establishment of the operating system on tablets as well as smartphones, thanks to Samsung and Google’s own efforts with the Nexus range. Google also won some kudos versus Apple following the iOS 5 maps debacle, with Apple’s own mapping efforts found wanting.

Not everything has worked for Google, yet. The web-centric Chromebooks are out there, but whether there is much appetite for netbooks that run everything in the browser is an open question; there are security advantages to this computing model, but users would rather have Android with its rich app ecosystem and greater freedom.

How will Google monetize Android, in the face of further fragmentation and a competitor like Amazon helping itself to what is free but building its own commercial platform on top? Another open question, though my guess is that Google will find a way.

Google rationalised its services in 2012 and pushed hard on its social platform, Google+, but failed to make much dent on Facebook’s popularity.

At the end of 2012 we were reminded of the downside of reliance on cloud providers when Google pulled Exchange ActiveSync support from its free email service. Existing users are not affected, but new users will find it harder to set up Gmail accounts on devices such as Windows Phones. Free users can hardly complain, but if they have become reliant on a gmail address there is an element of lock-in which Google is now using to discourage users from using a competitor’s mobile device.

2013?

A few predictions. More Microsoft fireworks as the PC and laptop market continues to decline; Apple vs Android wars; a strong play from Google for the Office/Exchange/SharePoint market. What else? If the past is anything to go by, expect some surprises.

Microsoft scraps Expression Web and Design, blends Blend with Visual Studio

Microsoft is giving up its long effort to compete with Adobe in the design tools space. The Expression range of products is being discontinued, in favour of enhanced design capabilities in its developer-focused Visual Studio. Blend for Visual Studio continues, as a design tool for Windows Store apps and Windows Phone apps. A future edition of Blend for Visual Studio, currently in preview, will add WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), Silverlight, and SketchFlow support. The release version of this upgraded edition is promised for Visual Studio 2012 Update 2.

The new product plans are announced here:

Microsoft is consolidating our lead design and development offerings — Expression and Visual Studio — to offer all of our customers a unified solution that brings together the best of Web and modern development patterns.

Expression Web, the web design tool which evolved out of FrontPage, and Expression Design, a vector drawing tool, will be discontinued completely. Microsoft’s web design tool will now be Visual Studio.

One consequence of this decision is that Expression Web 4 and Expression Design 4 are now free downloads, though unsupported.

Expression Encoder, for converting media for streaming, is also being discontinued, though Expression Encoder Pro will remain on sale throughout 2013. Microsoft says it is still investing in format conversion as part of Windows Azure Media Services.

Is this a good decision? In one sense it is a shame, since Expression Web is a decent product. At least one longstanding user of the product is disappointed:

For Microsoft, the web is dying and the future lies in Windows 8 apps. When asked what we web developers should be doing the answer was the same: Make Windows 8 apps. Which is about as useful as telling a contractor to start erecting tents instead of houses because houses are no longer relevant. Anyone outside the reach of whatever reality distorting force field they have running at the Redmond campus can see how idiotic this is, but that hasn’t stopped the people in charge for pulling the plug on one of the few applications from the company that had something new to offer.

That said, Expression Web has been available for a number of years and made little impression on the market, so how much value is there in continuing with a tool that few use, irrespective of its merits?

The decision makes sense in that Microsoft is shutting down an unsuccessful product line in order to focus on a successful one, Visual Studio.

Further, the end of Expression illustrates the difficulty Microsoft has had in attracting designers to its platform, despite high hopes in the early days of WPF and Mix conferences in Las Vegas.

Adobe launches Game Developer Tools including Scout profiler

Adobe is reminding developers that Flash is still around as a game development platform, with the release of a Game Developer Tools package including a Gaming SDK, the Flash C++ Compiler which translates C++ to ActionScript, Flash Professional CS6 and Flash Builder 4.7.

The new thing here is the Scout profiler, previewed as Monocle, which is now available for Creative Cloud subscribers. Scout is a desktop app which profiles Flash apps that have telemetry enabled. The app has to be running in Flash Player 11.4 or higher and have Advanced Telemetry enabled for most of the features to work. You can analyse the time taken for ActionScript code to execute, CPU usage, rendering time for the Flash DisplayList, and record Stage3D commands (hardware accelerated 2D and 3D graphics).

Normally Scout analyses Flash content running on the same machine, but there is a companion agent that you can use on iOS and Android for remote profiling of mobile apps.

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I downloaded and installed the Game Development but with only partial success, since I mainly use Windows 8 and the Flash Player there is behind that used on Windows 7 and Mac. The reason is that Flash Player is now updated via Windows Update, and this additional step seems to mean delays. I was able to try out Scout using Google Chrome, which has a Flash Player 11.5 installed, but have not yet figured out how to update the default Flash Player for the system which is used by Flash Professional and Flash Builder. At the time of writing this is Flash Player 11.3, which is insufficient for the Game Development Tools.

Flash is a strong platform for game development, though it has lost momentum now that Adobe is betting mainly on HTML 5. I also hear a lot about Unity for cross-platform game development. Unity lets you publish to Adobe Flash Player, giving you more choices than with pure Flash development.

Windows 8 Flash Player hassles: Windows update integration means IE users get an old version

Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 features a new approach to Adobe Flash Player updates. These are now delivered via Microsoft’s Windows Update, so you get security updates without having to suffer Adobe’s separate updater.

That seems a good thing, and for security it probably is, but it seems that the price of this convenience is that you run an old version. See the table here:

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Note that Windows 7 users have version 11.5.502.110, while Windows 8 has only 11.3.376.12. There are major new features only available in the updated version.

Trying to run the installer for the latest debug version fails with a misleading error message:

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Umm, no it is not the latest version.

Of course you can get round this by running Google Chrome:

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[the OS is actually 64-bit but Chrome runs as a 32-bit process].

This still strikes me as disappointing. You may want to run IE, if you like having the browser maintained and managed by the OS vendor, and in Windows RT (the ARM version of Windows) there is no other option. That is becoming an impossible choice for developers. Chrome offers WebKit (the browser engine used on most mobile devices and in Safari on the Mac) as well as nice tools and hooks for debugging, and Chrome-specific support from vendors like Adobe makes it hard to avoid.

Adobe AIR for Metro promised for first half of 2013

Adobe Game Developer Evangelist Lee Brimelow has stated on Twitter that AIR for Metro is coming next year.

we’re working on Air for Metro. It should be available first half of next year.

AIR is a way of compiling Flash applications to run outside the browser.

[Microsoft no longer uses the term Metro. We are meant to say Windows Store Apps; but that is even more confusing.]

Telerik Icenium: new desktop and cloud IDE for mobile development

When I heard that Telerik is bringing out a new IDE for mobile app development, I could contain my excitement, especially after learning that it is another PhoneGap/Cordova based approach, wrapping JavaScript and HTML as a native app. While speaking to Telerik’s Doug Seven though, I found myself increasingly impressed.

If that name sounds familiar, it might be because Seven was a director of Product Management in the Visual Studio team at Microsoft, and you can see that influence in the new IDE, which is called Icenium. Spot the Metro-style buttons at top left of the IDE!

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Icenium has several components. There is a Windows IDE called Graphite, illustrated above. Those on other platforms, or in distributed teams, can use Mist, which is a browser-based IDE which replicates many of the features of Graphite. There is also a set of cloud-based services to handle building apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. This means you do not need to install all the necessary SDKs on your own machine. Icenium also lets developers build signed iOS packages without needing to have a Mac.

The Icenium Device Simulator lets you test applications quickly on your own machine.

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The tools look good, though I have not tried them yet, but the unique feature of Icenium is the ability to deploy and test quickly on multiple devices. Code is kept synchronized between Graphite and Mist, and also pushed out though LiveSync to multiple devices. Here is a snap of the view from Doug Seven’s desk, grabbed from his online presentation. He showed me how a code change ripples almost instantly to all these devices for testing.

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An intriguing part of this is an iOS app called Ion which is a sort of runtime shell for Icenium apps. This means you can load apps for testing onto iOS devices that are not unlocked for developer use. You can also demonstrate apps on a client’s device using Ion. Apple’s attitude to runtimes in the App Store must be softening.

Icenium supports version control using either a Git repository hosted on the service, or your own choice of URL-based Git repositories.

Pricing will be per-developer at $16.00 per month if you sign up for a year, or $19.00 per month without a contract. Once you sign up, you can use all the tools on all your machines. You can also use Telerik’s Kendo UI Mobile framework. It is free until May 1 2013.

Isn’t Icenium’s cloud build feature similar to what Adobe’s PhoneGap Build already does?

“It’s a great comparison,” says Seven. “Adobe has the technology to make this [seamless development experience] possible, they just chose not to do it … [PhoneGap Build] is not integrated into the workflow. It’s a very manual process, I have to zip up my files, submit them to the PhoneGap Build process, then I get back these application packages that I have to manually deploy to my devices to see if it works.”

There is no support yet for mobile web apps, as opposed to apps packaged with Cordova, but this is a possibility for the future.

Like Adobe, Telerik has found WebKit and Google Chrome irresistible, despite Seven’s Microsoft background. WebKit is embedded in the Graphite IDE. You can use Mist with any modern browser, though “the one limitation is that the browser-based device simulator does require Chrome,” though he add that in general, “I use Mist on my iPad all the time.”

How Adobe turned on a pin to embrace the web (and Google)

Adobe’s Create the Web world tour – which came to London yesterday – is in the public unveiling of of Adobe’s new wave of tools, the first since it turned away from Flash and towards open web standard, hardly a year ago.

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Michael Chaize is a developer evangelist at Adobe. I asked him when it became clear to him personally that Adobe was no longer a Flash platform company.

“The main shift happened November last year [2011]” he told me. “It happened when we, for the Flash part, decided to just focus on video games and premium video, and invest in HTML tooling and specifications with a team of engineers. It was synced with the decision to stop developing Flash in mobile just to focus on apps with Adobe AIR.

“Now we are almost a year later, and Create the Web is an opportunity to showcase the work that has been done. All the product that have been launched, the Edge tools and service, just started in November of last year.”

The timing was confirmed by Adam Lehman, product manager for Edge Code, a tool built on Bracket, which is an open source project created by Adobe to provide a lightweight, code-centric editor for HTML 5 technologies. I asked him when work on Brackets started. Research started in mid-2011, he said, but “we got the team together in December 2011 and started coding.”

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Adam Lehman

The Edge tools are intended as focused, lightweight product each targeting a specific small part of web design, in contrast to typical Creative Suite products such as Dreamweaver which encompass a large area of functionality; a valid approach but one which inevitably leads to huge tools that take an age to load and a lifetime to learn. Edge is also being used as a not-to-subtle way to promote Adobe’s subscription-based Creative Cloud, since the tools are only available by that route. As a further sweetener, you can get some of the tools as part of the free subscription tier.

It is remarkable that Adobe has navigated the difficult transition from Flash to HTML, and the difficult transition from shrink-wrap to subscription, with so little pain.

That said, perhaps the transition from Flash to HTML is not as profound as it first appears. The Flash runtime was always free, while Adobe made its money from design tools, and as the web become more capable, designing for the Web looks increasingly similar to designing for Flash.

Even the community is the same. “When it deals with expressive web, motion design, we feel that the Flash community can reuse their skills,” said Chaize.  “Being a Flash developer is not just about the language, it’s a knowledge, it’s a culture. Agencies tell me, ‘When I need to hire a motion designer for HTML, I hire a Flash guy.’

That said, HTML 5 is still inferior to Flash in some respects. I watched a slightly jerky animation showing off HTML 5 capabilities and could not help thinking that it would run more smoothly in Flash (of course it was all preview software). It will get there though. This is why Adobe is working to bring specifications like CSS shaders and CSS regions to the official standards.

There is another thing I noticed at Create the Web, which is the extent to which Adobe’s new tools are built on Google’s platform. Many of the Edge tools are made with the Chrome Embedded Framework; the browser used for demonstrations is Chrome Canary, a preview build implementing the newest standards, and if you look at the code you see abundant use of the WebKit prefix which designates features currently specific to the WebKit browser engine used by Apple, Google and others. There is also extensive use of WebGL, popular with designer but contentious because some browser vendors consider it a security risk and it is not an official web standard.

Lehman insists that there is no intention to go down a Google-specific route. “It was more of a technology stack we went with,” he says, explaining that the intent for Brackets is that it will one day run in the browser, in which case it will have to support Mozilla, Opera and Microsoft browsers as well.

The reason for adopting so much Google stuff is partly the excellent fit with what Adobe needed, and partly the low friction. “We didn’t have to go to a meeting, it was just published” said Lehman, referring to the Chromium Embedded Framework which let you run HTML5 applications on the desktop.

Brackets looks great, has real community adoption already, and Adobe has interesting plan for its future. Along with browser hosting, Lehman talks about proper debugging support with breakpoint, JavaScript macros, an embedded node.js engine, and more.

When Apple rejected Flash in iOS it put Adobe in a difficult spot – another reason for the company’s warmth towards Google and Android – but since then the transition has been remarkable.