Impressions on Adobe MAX Day 2 Keynote

It’s been a week since I returned from Adobe MAX, but I still have some notes to publish. Here are my notes from the keynote on Tuesday, October 6:

  • We’re watching MLB executives David Yu and Jen Taylor talk to themselves about MLB.com’s use of Flash video to stream their games. I wish they were talking to the crowd instead of themselves—Jen Taylor doesn’t have much to say other than “very cool, very cool.” And David just walked off the stage after maybe four minutes of dialogue. Jen is much more interesting, talking about Flash video innovations. I’m excited by David’s mention of delivering a DVR experience to MLB.com, and Jen’s mention of new HTTP streaming with Flash Player 10.1 is great news. It sounds like there’s also going to be some kind of security protection for Flash video online.
  • Jen Taylor has just officially announced that the Strobe project is now OpenSource Media Framework (OSMF). Ironically, I just finished a hands-on session working with OSMF and I found it to be fairly easy to use if you’re a professional coder.
  • Adam Mollenkopf, FexEx’s Strategic Technologist, is now showing FedEx Custom Critical, a very nice browser-based enterprise application FedEx uses to monitor truck positions and the number of carriers in any given area. The vehicles even return temperature and speed data via an RTMP streaming server, the same technology used for streaming video (though Flash Player 10.1 will also stream from HTTP servers). LiveCycle Data Services and Flex were used to build the user interface and move the enormous amounts of data around.
  • Heidi Williams, Adobe’s Senior Engineering Manager, is walking through a Flash Catalyst/ColdFusion 9 demo. I’ve never used ColdFusion before but the fact that it’s closely entwined with ActionScript and Flash makes me wonder if it’s a smart choice for Flash designers who want to branch out into application development like I am. Heidi and Ben say this entire demo can be done without writing hardly any code, but there’s a lot of code up on the screen and it didn’t just magically appear. Even when there’s prebuilt components and frameworks, the developer has to know how to handle code when the inevitable bugs arise.
  • Daniel Fiden, EA’s Senior Producer for POGO.com, is talking about POGO.com and the variety of online games available there. The statistics say it’s the US game site with the most engagement (minutes per visit) and traffic overall. It’s interesting to know some of their games’ early development involves building cheap mock-ups in Flash and playing it during development, creating many iterations along the way before a decent game takes shape. All this is done with Flash.
  • Serge Jespers, Adobe’s Senior Platform Evangelist, wrote the Flash-based MAX widget—looks nice, but I never put it on my website—is demoing a simple Flash game that sends win/lose notices via Adobe’s Wave, a new notification service that I just heard about here on MAX. I’m running it right now but I haven’t found a good use for it yet. Anyway, Serge just built a simple demo application and is using the Flash Platform Services Distribution Manager (bundled with Flash Builder) to track installations of his widget around the world. Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen talked yesterday about not only giving people the tools to communicate but to also track and optimize, and this is an example. Serge is also showing how to export the Flash application to AIR, upload to the AIR Marketplace and let Adobe handle the transactions and report your sales and revenue. It looks great and the demo mentioned only three lines of code are needed, but I still think it can’t be as easy as that.
  • CTO Kevin Lynch is back from yesterday to demonstrate augmented reality in Flash. The major demo is a new song by John Mayer, which has a multimedia component using augmented reality. Now on stage is John Mayer himself, talking about using augmented reality to tell a story and create an artistic experience. He mentioned “the Blitz guys and the Adobe guys” so I am sure John isn’t actually sitting in front of Flash producing this piece, but he knows that it’s the cool online videos that get passed around (or the funniest or the stupidest). The very short clip that was shown here looked interesting technically and for John it’s about combining an art form that’s “been around for a thousand years with an art form that’s not been around for a thousand hours.” That’s an interesting (and smart) approach, though I’ll be curious to learn if people do all the necessary work to experience Augmented Reality.

The press conference after the keynote

Kevin Lynch spoke to the press after the keynote and spoke in a little more detail about some things. Keynotes tend to be flashy without drilling down into the details, so I was glad to attend.

  • Adobe is being cautious about entering the 3D market. Kevin mentioned that Adobe products already handle 3D well: Photoshop has 3D capabilities and Flash Player and PDF also support 3D models. It seemed that a full-fledged 3D application was not yet on their radar.
  • Augmented Reality is still new and hasn’t found its killer application. It’s cool to watch but computers still need a black rectangle or colored rubber bands in view to motion track and add graphics. Kevin thinks AR will eventually work without these requirements and offer a blend of virtual reality and true reality.
  • “Flash needs to be on mobile to be relevant,” said Kevin, and the Flash Platform is now being engineered for mobile first and the desktop second. The Flash mobile and Flash desktop teams have in fact been merged at Adobe, whereas until now they have worked separately. I think Kevin is correct that Flash needs to stake its claim as the dominant mobile media format, but the mobile device industry is so fragmented that I think it will be a hard goal—the fact that the iPhone does not support Flash is a prime example.
  • Kevin briefly mentioned the multitouch and multiscreen market, which is emerging for both mobile devices and desktop monitors. Many desktop computer users have had multiple monitors for years but touch monitors are still not very common in the market. However, Kevin thinks it will emerge and the market share will go to the companies who work best within “the ecosystem” of their competitors. He cited the example of the PC market in the 1980s and 1990s: while Apple followed their own vision, Microsoft partnered with other companies in the ecosystem and Windows thus gained dominant market share.

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