What next for the Nook as Microsoft invests in Barnes & Noble’s digital business?

Today Microsoft and Barnes & Noble announced a partnership to sell eBooks, based on the existing Banes & Noble digital bookstore and eBook reader called the Nook.

The new subsidiary, referred to in this release as Newco, will bring together the digital and College businesses of Barnes & Noble. Microsoft will make a $300 million investment in Newco at a post-money valuation of $1.7 billion in exchange for an approximately 17.6% equity stake. Barnes & Noble will own approximately 82.4% of the new subsidiary, which will have an ongoing relationship with the company’s retail stores. Barnes & Noble has not yet decided on the name of Newco.

In addition, Barnes & Noble, which was in litigation with Microsoft over the Redmond company’s claim to royalties on Android, has agreed to a “royalty-bearing license” for the Nook eReader and tablets. Both the Nook Color and the Nook Tablet are based on Android.


Another detail is that there will be a Nook application for Windows 8:

One of the first benefits for customers will be a NOOK application for Windows 8

though the release does not state whether or not this will be a Metro app. I would guess that it is, since otherwise it would not work on Windows RT (the ARM version of Windows), but nothing can be taken for granted.

Note that Barnes & Noble already has Nook apps for iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows and Mac, but not for Windows Phone.

It is an intriguing deal. Has Microsoft just taken a 17.6% stake in an Android company, or is there some plan in the works to base a future Nook on Windows?

As an attendee at developer conferences, I regularly see the Nook developer evangelists, and had a look at last year’s Adobe Max. Barnes & Noble claim that Nook apps sell relatively well, compared to apps on the official Google Play market, because Nook customers expect to pay for their content. The Nook is not an officially Google-blessed Android device, so has no access to the Play market.

If a future Nook is Windows-based, Barnes & Noble will have a tricky time explaining to developers why they will have to port their apps.

Overall this is a hard deal to interpret. Barnes & Noble was a thorn in Microsoft’s side with its resistance to Android royalties, a thorn which has now been removed, but what else does it signify? You would have thought there would have been a Nook app for Windows 8 anyway, unless it is a complete flop.

Hands on with Samsung’s Galaxy Note

I had a quick hands-on with Samsung’s Galaxy Note. It is a lovely gadget though I have some reservations about its appeal.

The two notable features of the Galaxy Note, which runs Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” but will upgrade to Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”, are its 5.3” 1280 x 800 AMOLED screen and its stylus, which you can slide out from an integrated holder. The device is beautifully slim and light, but the large screen means that you do feel a little conspicuous holding it to your ear as a phone. Whether you mind about this is an individual thing, but I can imagine that some will be put off using it as their main mobile phone.


Behind the gorgeous screen sits a 1.4GHz dual-core ARM CPU, as part of the Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC, and an ARM Mali-400 GPU. Video flies on this thing, and its high resolution goes a long way to make up for the small screen – small relative to a TV or full-size tablet that is. It is the perfect device for watching video on the go if you would rather not carry an 10” tablet around with you.

If you do need a larger screen, and have a network-connected Samsung B handy, you can use a feature called AllShare Play to stream the video to the TV. Typical scenarios might be showing your holiday video to mum and dad when you go round to visit, or showing your business presentation to customers on a TV in their conference room. I am sure this will become commonplace on many devices, especially as it uses standard DLNA protocols, and it is handier than having to fiddle with wired HDMI connections.

Then there is the stylus. Android is designed for touch control, so a stylus is not that useful for navigating the UI, but does come into its own for note-taking, sketching and drawing. Samsung calls the stylus the S Pen, and it is supported by several apps. There is a multimedia memo app called S-Memo, Touchnote for creating multimedia e-postcards, Zen Brush for sketching with a pressure-sensitive brush effect, and TouchRetouch for photo editing, among others.

I found it easy to take a photo, crop it, write on it, and attach it to an email. Sharing on Facebook or the like is easy too.

A great device; but I am not sure of the market, and not sure that there is much enthusiasm for styluses outside niche uses. HTC achieved disappointing sales with its Flyer tablet last year, even though this is also an excellent device to play with.

The other problem is that the Note is too small to be an excellent tablet and too large to be an excellent phone.

It is great for games though, and if you are looking for a pocketable but powerful multimedia tablet it could be just the thing.

Full specs are here.

Convert .NET Intermediate Language to JavaScript

Whomever called JavaScript the assembly language of the web was a true prophet.

Compiling .Net code to JavaScript is not new. I have heard that Microsoft’s Office Web Apps, browser-hosted editing of Office documents, are built with Script#.

The difference with JSIL is that it compiles .NET Intermediate Language (IL), and therefore works with any .NET language – though note that:

JSIL is still in development. You will hit bugs

The screenshot says it all


Ubuntu 12.04: a fresh take on Linux

Canonical has released Ubuntu 12.04, a “long term support” version which will be supported for five years on both desktop and server.

I installed the new release on Microsoft’s Hyper-V. Installation was straightforward: download iso of install CD, mount in new Hyper-V VM, install, and wait while updates are downloaded.

This is the first time I have tried Unity, the desktop shell originally designed for netbooks which is now the default in Ubuntu. It is a clean, minimalist shell with a launcher on the left edge. The launcher is like the Windows 7 taskbar, in that it lets you quit as well as launch applications. The screenshot below is more or less the default, though I have added Google Chrome and locked the Terminal to the launcher.


I found the new Ubuntu a little perplexing at first. What about applications not on the launcher?

The secret is the top left button, called Dash home. Click this, and a dashboard appears.


At the foot of the screen are icons for Home, Applications, Files and folders, Music and video. Each one displays different shortcuts, but also operates as a search scope. In Ubuntu 12.04 search is a primary means of navigation. For example, to install the Audacity sound editor, I selected Applications and typed “Aud”. Audacity was then listed as an app available for download. There is also the Ubuntu Software Centre which is Ubuntu App Store.


Where the search UI gets rather odd is with the new Head Up Display (HUD). Run Audacity and it appears without any menu. If you click on the top bar (Mac style) the menu bar appears. Alternatively, you can press Alt, and a search box appears that says “Type your command”. I typed “pref” and the Preferences menu items appeared in a list.


However, this only works for applications that support it. If you run a LibreOffice app (the office suite that comes with Ubuntu 12.04) and press Alt, you get the HUD search but it will apply to the Ubuntu desktop and not the Libre Office app.

Some apps, such as Terminal, show menus both on the app window and in the top bar. All a bit messy and confusing.

Underneath it is still a variant of Debian Linux of course.

The strong points of Linux, and Ubuntu in particular, are evident in this release as you would expect, including multiple desktop workspaces, and easy discovery and install of new applications. Another key feature is Ubuntu One, cloud storage and sync with 5GB free. An additional 20GB is $29.99 a year. There is also a music streaming service for $39.99 a year, with 20GB of storage included and apps for iOS and Android. This only covers streaming of your own music files and photos, though you can purchase additional tracks from the Ubuntu One Music Store.

I have long since given up expecting that Ubuntu, or any desktop Linux, will truly unsettle Windows or Mac, even though considering the price (free), Ubuntu 12.04 is great, and with applications like LibreOffice, Thunderbird, Firefox and Chrome, and GIMP, it easily meets everyday computing needs. Rather, it is Android, which is Linux-based, that has disrupted mobile computing, and in tablet form is beginning to encroach on laptop territory. Still, I doubt Android would have happened without desktop Linux before it.

Microsoft’s Visual Studio LightSwitch: does it have a future?

A recent and thorough piece on Visual Studio LightSwitch prompted a Twitter discussion on what kind of future the product has. Background:

  • LightSwitch is an application generator which builds data-driven applications.
  • A LightSwitch application uses ASP.NET on the server and Silverlight on the client.
  • LightSwitch applications can be deployed to Windows Azure
  • LightSwitch apps can either be browser-hosted or use Silverlight out of browser for the desktop
  • LightSwitch is model-driven so in principle it could generate other kinds of client, such as HTML5 or Windows 8 Metro.
  • LightSwitch first appeared last year, and has been updated for Visual Studio 11, now in beta.

I have looked at LightSwitch in some detail, including a hands-on where I built an application. I have mixed feelings about the product. It was wrongly marketed, as the kind of thing a non-professional could easily pick up to generate an application for their business. In my opinion it is too complex for most such people. The real market is professional developers looking for greater productivity. As a way of building a multi-tier application which does its best to enforce good design principles, LightSwitch is truly impressive; though I also found annoyances like skimpy documentation, and that some things which should have been easy turned out to be difficult. The visual database designer is excellent.

The question now: what kind of future does LightSwitch have? Conceptually, it is a great product and could evolve into something useful, but I question whether Microsoft will stick with it long enough. Here is what counts against it:

  • The decision to generate Silverlight applications now looks wrong. Microsoft is not going to do much more with Silverlight, and is more focused on HTML5 and JavaScript, or Windows Runtime for Metro-style apps in Windows 8 and some future Windows Phone. There is some family resemblance between Windows Runtime and Silverlight, but not necessarily enough to make porting easy.
  • There is no mobile support, not even for Windows Phone 7 which runs Silverlight.
  • I imagine sales have been dismal. The launch product was badly marketed and perplexing to many.

What about the case in favour? Silverlight enthusiast Michael Washington observes that the new Visual Studio 11 version of LightSwitch generates OData feeds on the server, rather than WCF RIA Services. OData is a REST-based service that is suitable for consumption by many different kinds of client. To prove his point, Washington has created demo mobile apps using HTML5 and JQuery – no Silverlight in sight.


Pic from here.

Washington also managed to extract this comment from Microsoft’s Steve Hoag on the future of LightSwitch, in an MSDN forum discussion:

LightSwitch is far from dead. Without revealing anything specific I can confirm that the following statements are true:

– There is a commitment for a long term life of this product, with other versions planned

– There is a commitment to explore creation of apps other than Silverlight, although nothing will be announced at this time

Hoag is the documentation lead for LightSwitch.

That said, Microsoft has been known to make such commitments before but later abandon them. Microsoft told me it was committed to cross-platform Silverlight, for example. And it was, for a bit, at least on Windows and Mac; but it is not now. Microsoft was committed to IronRuby and IronPython, once.

For those with even longer memories, I recall a discussion on CompuServe about Visual Basic for DOS. This was the last version of Microsoft Basic for DOS, a fine language in its way, and with a rather good character-based interface builder. Unfortunately it was buggy, and users were desperate for a bug-fix release. Into this discussion appeared a guy from Microsoft, who announced that he was responsible for the forthcoming update to Visual Basic for DOS and asked for the top requests.

Good news – except that there never was an update.

The truth is that with LightSwitch still in beta for Visual Studio 11, it is unlikely that any decision has been made about its future. My guess, and it is only that, is that the Visual Studio 11 version will be little used and that there will be no major update. If I am wrong and it is a big hit, then there will be an update. If I am right about its lack of uptake, but its backing within Microsoft is strong enough, then maybe in Visual Studio 12 or even sooner we will get a version that does it right, with output options for cross-platform HTML5 clients and for Windows Phone and Windows Metro. But do not hold your breath.

Which online storage service? SkyDrive is best value but lacks cool factor

This week both Microsoft and Google got their act together and released Dropbox-like applications for their online storage services, SkyDrive and Google Drive respectively.

Why has Dropbox been winning in this space? Fantastic convenience. Just save a file into the Dropbox folder on your PC or Mac, and it syncs everywhere, including iOS and Android mobiles. No official Windows Phone 7 client yet; but nothing is perfect.

Now both SkyDrive and the new Google Drive are equally convenient, though with variations in platform support. Apple iCloud is also worth a mention, since it syncs across iOS and Mac devices. So too is Box, though I doubt either Box or Dropbox enjoyed the recent launches from the big guys.

How do they compare? Here is a quick look at the pros and cons. First, pricing per month:

  Free 25GB 50GB
Apple iCloud 5GB $3.33 $8.33
Box 5GB $9.99 $19.99
Dropbox 2GB   $9.99
Google Drive 5GB $2.49 $4.99 (100GB)
Microsoft SkyDrive 7GB $0.83

and then platform support:

  Web Android Black
iOS Linux Mac Windows Windows
Apple iCloud X X X Limited X
Box X X
Dropbox X
Google Drive X X X
Microsoft SkyDrive X X X

Before you say it though, this is not really about price and it is hard to compare like with like – though it is obvious that SkyDrive wins on cost. Note also that existing SkyDrive users have a free upgrade to 25GB if they move quickly.

A few quick notes on the differences between these services:

Apple iCloud is not exposed as cloud storage as such. Rather, this is an API built into iOS and the latest OS X. Well behaved applications are expected to use storage in a way that supports the iCloud service. Apple’s service takes care of synchronisation across devices. Apple’s own apps such as iWork support iCloud. The advantage is that users barely need to think about it; synchronisation just happens – too much so for some tastes, since you may end up spraying your documents all over and trusting them to iCloud without realising it. As you might expect from Apple, cross-platform support is poor.

Box is the most expensive service, though it has a corporate focus that will appeal to businesses. For example, you can set expiration dates for shared content. Enterprise plans include Active Directory and LDAP support. There are numerous additional apps which use the Box service. With Box, as with Dropbox, there is an argument that since you are using a company dedicated to cross-platform online storage, you are less vulnerable to major changes in your service caused by a change of policy by one of the giants. Then again, will these specialists survive now that the big guns are all in?

Dropbox deserves credit for showing the others how to do it, Apple iCloud aside. Excellent integration on Mac and Windows, and excellent apps on the supported mobile platforms. It has attracted huge numbers of free users though, raising questions about its business model, and its security record is not the best. One of the problems for all these services is that even 2GB of data is actually a lot, unless you get into space-devouring things like multimedia files or system backups. This means that many will never pay to upgrade.

Google Drive presents as a folder in Windows and on the Mac, but it is as much an extension of Google Apps, the online office suite, as it is a storage service. This can introduce friction. Documents in Google Apps appear there, with extensions like .gdoc and .gsheet, and if you double-click them they open in your web browser. Offline editing is not supported. Still, you do not have to use Google Apps with Google Drive. Another issue is that Google may trawl your data to personalise your advertising and so on, which is uncomfortable – though when it comes to paid-for or educational services, Google says:

Note that there is no ad-related scanning or processing in Google Apps for Education or Business with ads disabled

Google Drive can be upgraded to 16TB, which is a factor if you want huge capacity online; but by this stage you should be looking at specialist services like Amazon S3 and others.

Microsoft SkyDrive is also to some extent an adjunct to its online applications. Save an Office 2010 document in SkyDrive, and you can edit it online using Office Web Apps. Office Web Apps have frustrations, but the advantage is that the document format is the same on the web as it is on the desktop, so you can also edit it freely offline. A snag with SkyDrive is lack of an Android client, other than the browser.


There are many more differences between these services than I have described. Simply though, if you use a particular platform or application such as Apple, Google Apps or Microsoft Office, it makes sense to choose the service that aligns with it. If you want generic storage and do not care who provides it, SkyDrive is best value and I am surprised this has not been more widely observed in reports on the new launches.

One of Microsoft’s problems is that is perceived as an old-model company wedded to the desktop, and lacks the cool factor associated with Apple, Google and more recent arrivals like Dropbox.

Microsoft re-imagining client computer management for Windows 8

I am surprised this post by Microsoft Program Manger Jeffrey Sutherland has not attracted more attention. It describes enterprise app deployment to Windows on ARM devices, now officially called Windows RT devices. These devices run Windows 8 compiled for ARM, which means high efficiency but a greater degree of lockdown than with x86. In particular, desktop applications cannot be installed, though Microsoft Office is pre-installed, but without Outlook.

The interesting aspect is that what Sutherland describes is not just a way of managing Windows RT computers, but a new approach which fits with the trend towards BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – where employees use their own devices for work as well as at home.

Quick reminder: in the old model, Windows clients are managed by being joined to a domain, controlled by Active Directory. Once domain-joined, the machine is subject to group policy administered by the domain, a fine-grained system for configuring settings and deploying applications.

Windows RT devices cannot be joined to a domain. However, there is a new option in Control Panel to “connect to your company network”.


Note that the user must still be joined to the Active Directory domain. Since this is now joining the machine to the network and subjecting it to a degree of centralised control, Windows RT network joining is conceptually not far distant from domain joining, but it is a completely new approach.

The next step is to install a management agent which communicates with the Enterprise network.

Once network-joined and with the agent installed, the machine:

  • Is subject to a set of security policies covering password and logon rules (eg whether to allow picture logons)
  • Is audited for antivirus and antispyware status, drive encryption and auto-update; network connection can be refused if not compliant
  • Will lock encrypted drives if wrong password is entered repeatedly
  • can automatically set up a VPN profile for network access
  • enables access to a self-service portal (SSP), operated by the enterprise, for app deployment
  • can be deactivated which renders all SSP-deployed apps inoperable

The SSP can deploy custom or third-party Metro apps, but can also include links to the Windows store and web links to web application.

Microsoft envisages the above tools being used both for company-owned and employee-owned Windows RT devices. One advantage over domain-joining is that it is less intrusive to the user. When you domain-join a Windows PC, it creates a new user profile on the machine, which can be a nuisance if the user wants to use the machine for non-work purposes; they have to either switch profiles or use the work profile for home as well.

Metro-style apps are inherently better suited for intermingling business and home, since they are isolated from one another and from the operating system.

This new approach is not only for Windows RT machines but works on x86 as well:

We do support this functionality on x86. However, x86 also has a load more management functionality through Domain membership, Group Policy and existing tools like System Center.

says Microsoft’s Iain McDonald in the comments.

Although it is true that the old domain-joined model offers a higher degree of control, Windows RT should have security advantages thanks to the lockdown preventing desktop applications from being installed, which will restrict malware.

Windows computer domains are not going away, but BYOD and the trend towards cloud computing will gradually reduce the number of domain-joined machines. For example, a small business using Small Business Server will usually domain-join all its machines, but a small business using Office 365 will usually not do so.

I should add that although the approach outlined above is great for simplicity and flexibility, the fatal flaw for many organisations will be its dependence on Metro-style apps. If you have any Windows desktop apps to deploy, then it will not work.

Adobe Dreamweaver CS6, PhoneGap Build, and HTML5 app tooling

I am looking forward to trying out Adobe’s new Creative Suite 6 but have not yet got my hands on it. However one thing I am watching with interest is the work Adobe is doing to integrate PhoneGap developing into the suite, in particular in Dreamweaver.

PhoneGap lets you build native mobile apps for several mobile platforms using HTML and JavaScript, by embedding the browser engine on the device.

There was PhoneGap support in Dreamweaver CS 5.5, but it was curiously broken. It always makes a debug build for Android, for example, and it does not offer enough control of the build settings to be useful. Dreamweaver CS 5.5 is useful for designing a PhoneGap app, but you need to use the command line or Eclipse-based tools to finish it off.

The big new is that Adobe has integrated Dreamweaver CS 6 with PhoneGap Build, a cloud service where you upload your source files and download the resulting build. There are details of the new integration here. You can build for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, webOS and Symbian. A nice touch is that you can use a QR code to download the app to a connected mobile device.

There are a few puzzles though.

1. The Help says:

You cannot use PhoneGap Build and Dreamweaver without a PhoneGap Build service account. Accounts are free and easy to set up.

They are free to set up, but not to use:


Do Creative Cloud subscribers get some use of the service included? I am finding out and will report.

2. Build is a great service and lets you support platforms without having to install the SDK; but compiling locally has advantages too. It seems that local builds are no longer supported. Here is the relevant part of the Dreamweaver CS 5.5 Site menu:


and here it is in Dreamweaver CS 6 (from a video):


This is confirmed by David Powers, who has an excellent overview of what is new in Dreamweaver CS6 and writes:

The way that Dreamweaver CS6 supports building native apps for iOS, Android, and other mobile operating systems using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and the PhoneGap framework has changed completely. It no longer installs the Android software development kit (SDK) and emulator. Nor can the Mac version hook directly into Xcode and the iOS simulator. Instead, there’s a new panel that uploads your files to PhoneGap Build, an online service that automatically packages applications for iOS, Android, webOS, Symbian, and BlackBerry. Using PhoneGap Build is much easier than working with a simulator, because the Dreamweaver panel displays a QR code that lets you load the app directly onto your testing device. However, you need to build the configuration file manually in XML, and there’s no longer any code hinting in Dreamweaver for PhoneGap plugins. So, although the integration of PhoneGap Build is a definite improvement, it feels as though the engineering team didn’t have time to polish some important details.

3. PhoneGap Build in Dreamweaver CS 6 supports 5 mobile platforms:


but the PhoneGap team has also announced support for Windows Phone 7

I would expect that Windows Phone 7 support will be added to Dreamweaver CS6.

4. Adobe had a change of heart with respect to supporting Build in Dreamweaver CS 5.5. This was released as an extension at the end March, then pulled a few days later:

Adobe regrets to inform the Dreamweaver Community that the PhoneGap Build extension for Dreamweaver CS5.5 (released last week) is no longer available for download. For a number of reasons, we have had to pull the extension from public availability.

The functionality of the extension, which integrates PhoneGap Build with Dreamweaver, will be available in the upcoming version of Dreamweaver CS6.

A shame, since PhoneGap support in Dreamweaver CS 5.5 does not work properly and fixing this for existing users would have been nice.

5. Finally, while PhoneGap support in Dreamweaver is welcome, Dreamweaver is primarily a web design tool and not ideal for app development. It seems Adobe shares this view:


We think there’s a need for a different type of code editor – we’re working on something and will have more to share soon.

Adobe has the resources to come up with something great for HTML5 and JavaScript developers – here is hoping that it does.

What’s in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and should you go cloud or purchase outright?

Adobe has launched though not quite released its Creative Cloud. The name is slightly misleading since Adobe’s main business is in desktop applications and the “Creative Cloud” is as much or more a subscription model for desktop applications as it is a set of cloud services. In its discussions with financial analysts at the end of last year, Adobe said that moving customers to a subscription model is one of its goals since, quite simply, it makes more money that way.

Subscriptions are good for vendors in various ways. They offer a regular income, tend to keep going through inertia, and offer an opportunity to upsell additional services.

The applications in Creative Cloud include everything in Creative Suite Master Collection as far as I can tell, including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash Professional, Flash Builder, Fireworks, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, Edge (animator for HTML5) and Muse (a no-code visual designer for HTML pages).

You also get a set of iOS/Androd apps: Photoshop Touch, Proto, Ideas, Debut, Collage and Kuler. And Lightroom, which curiously is not in Creative Suite.

Adobe Digital Publishing Suite Single Edition is “coming soon” to the Creative Cloud.

Nevertheless there are cloud services as well as desktop applications in the Creative Cloud. Here is what you get:

Store and Share: automatic cloud storage and file syncing. 2GB for a free membership or 20GB paid for. A desktop app called Creative Cloud Connection, for Windows and OS X, synchs files to a computer, while you can also access files from Touch apps on iOS or Android.

Publish: host up to five websites on Adobe’s hosting service. If you use Adobe Muse, you can design and publish without coding. Features of the web hosting? PHP? Coldfusion? Server-side Java? Database? Ecommerce? These details seem to be absent from Adobe’s current information but I am keen to find out more and will post an update.

Update: apparently this is the Business Catalyst hosting service – see here for details. This is rather limited as you cannot use any sort of server-side programming platform, but only the Business Catalyst services, though this does include a “customer database”. That said, there is an API for “connecting third party services” which might be a workaround in some cases.

Pros and cons

There are real advantages to a subscription versus buying the packaged Creative Suite. You get additional services, additional products, and also, Adobe is hinting, more updates than will be available to shrinkwrap purchasers.

If you have a short-term requirement for Creative Suite, the subscription approach is obviously advantageous.

The disadvantage, as with any subscription, is that you have to keep paying in order to keep using the products, whereas the shrinkwrap (actually a download) is a one-off payment. How much? All prices below exclude VAT.

For UK customers, Creative Cloud is £36.11 per month (£433.32 per annum), though there is a special offer for existing shrinkwrap owners of CS3 or later of £22.89 per month (£274.68) for the first year only.

The full version of Creative Suite 6 Master Collection is £2,223.00 – around five years of Creative Cloud and therefore a poor deal. Most software is almost worthless when five years old.

On the other hand an upgrade from Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection is £397.00. Even that is barely a better deal, unless you plan to use it for two years and do not need the additional products and services.


The prices for UK customers are much higher than for the US, a fact which is causing some consternation. For example, the full CS6 Master Collection is $2599.00, a little over £1600 at today’s exchange rate.

The bottom line: Adobe wants you to subscribe so you can expect the pricing to push you in that direction.

Adobe turns to OpenCL rather than NVIDIA CUDA for Mercury Graphics Engine in Creative Suite 6

Adobe has just announced Creative Suite 6. CS 5.5 used the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro, which takes advantage of NVIDIA’s CUDA library in order to accelerate processing when an NVIDIA GPU is present. Just to be clear, this is not just graphics acceleration, but programming the GPU to take advantage of its many processor cores for general-purpose computing.

Premiere Pro CS6 also uses the Mercury Playback Engine, and while CUDA is still recommended there is new support for OpenCL:

The Mercury Playback Engine brings performance gains to all the GPUs supported in Adobe Creative Suite 6 software, but the best performance comes with specific NVIDIA® CUDA™ enabled GPUs, including support for mobile GPUs and NVIDIA Maximus™ dual-GPU configurations. New support for the OpenCL-based AMD Radeon HD 6750M and 6770M cards available with certain Apple MacBook Pro computers running OS X Lion (v10.7x), with a minimum of 1GB VRAM, brings GPU-accelerated mobile workflows to Mac users.

PhotoShop CS6 also uses the GPU to accelerate processing, using the new Mercury Graphics Engine. The Mercury Graphics Engine uses the OpenCL framework, which is not specific to any one GPU vendor, rather than CUDA:

The Mercury Graphics Engine (MGE) represents features that use video card, or GPU, acceleration. In Photoshop CS6, this new engine delivers near-instant results when editing with key tools such as Liquify, Warp, Lighting Effects and the Oil Paint filter. The new MGE delivers unprecedented responsiveness for a fluid feel as you work. MGE is new to Photoshop CS6, and uses both the OpenGL and OpenCL frameworks. It does not use the proprietary CUDA framework from nVidia.

It seems to me that this amounts to a shift by Adobe from CUDA to OpenCL, which is a good thing for users of non-NVIDIA GPUs.

This also suggests to me that NVIDIA will need to ensure excellent OpenCL support in its GPU cards, as well as continuing to evolve CUDA, since Creative Suite is a key product for designers using the workstations which form a substantial part of the market for high-end GPUs.