Adobe looks to the future

Matthew JC. Powell
22 November, 2007
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Adobe held its MAX conference for developers, designers and other interested stakeholders in Chicago at the start of October. During the conference, the company talked about new products in the pipelines now and gave some incredible insights into developments that will probably find their way into future Adobe products.

First up was FlashLite, a streamlined version of the ubiquitous Flash Player designed specifically for mobile phones.

FlashLite will enable future devices — to use Flash content like fully-fledged web browsers.

Next was Adobe Media Player, Adobe’s entry into the already-crowded market for rich-content delivery platforms on the web. Adobe Media Player supports Flash Video and enables providers to control distribution and monetisation of their content in ways that other players can’t. The Media Player works in conjunction with Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), a platform which enables developers to use existing skills in HTML, AJAX, Java and Flash to build and deploy fully-fledged applications over the web.

AIR, of course, does not replace Adobe’s existing internet-application development platform, Flex, for which it released a second beta of version 3 at MAX. Flex integrates with AIR, so developers familiar with Flex can utilise their skills on that platform as well. Meanwhile Flex is also making moves into open source, with a FlexBuilder application now available for Linux, albeit with a reduced feature set.

Adobe also previewed Astro, which will eventually become Flash Player. Astro incorporates limited 3D support (similar to the 3D support in Photoshop, new filters, blend modes and effects, and — most significantly — much-improved text support. Astro supports right to left printing for languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

Still in the rich internet applications space, Adobe launched a shot across Google’s bow with Buzzword, an online word processor which it acquired recently from a startup called Virtual Ubiquity. Built on Adobe Flex, Buzzword has a fully-featured user interface and supports Microsoft Word documents. In use, it looks and feels exactly like a desktop application.

Also in the online application space, Adobe previewed SHARE, a Flex-based document-sharing platform that looks like an obvious future competitor to Google Docs. At this stage Adobe offers 1GB of storage with the preview of SHARE, but expect that to increase exponentially when the product is commercial.

Pacifica marks Adobe’s entry into the VOIP market. More than just a free phone call platform, Adobe plans Pacifica as an integral part of its Adobe Hosted Applications system, with support for video calling and real-time collaboration using AIR-based applications.

Sneak peeks. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Adobe allowed some very interesting glimpses into the future of its creative applications, including online versions of its Premiere video-editing application and flagship Photoshop. Premiere Express and Photoshop Express, as they are known, will enable users to upload media content, edit and manipulate it online, and share it with other users.

More interestingly, those other users will also have the ability to edit and manipulate the same content non-destructively online. Essentially, while the original, media remains untouched, the Express applications create lists of edits that generate a final output.

And the next jaw-dropping feature of Photoshop (probably slated for CS4) also got an outing. Seam Carving is a process whereby images can be resized based on intelligent assessment of their content rather than simple scaling and cropping. The assessment can be either automatic or user-assisted, and the results are truly stunning. If you thought Photoshop could already do everything it could ever be expected to do, you have to see Seam Carving.

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