Adobe MAX: Notes From The Press Party

It’s great fun to be a designer, developer and also a journalist because I get invited to some of the press events such as executive Q&As (which I totally missed due to yesterday’s keynote messing up the schedule) and press parties, which I attended last night at The Yard House in L.A. Live. I arrived late due to my Ajax For Designers session running long, but was able to have some good discussion with three important Adobe insiders.

  • Heidi Voltmer, Group Product Marketing Manager for Creative Solutions Business. Heidi’s domain includes the Flash Platform, which made probably the most news yesterday with the announcements surrounding Flash Player 10.1, AIR 2.0 and the surprise about building native iPhone applications with the upcoming Flash Pro CS5. A lot of my conversation with Heidi revolved around the question of Flash Pro and where it resides in the growing landscape of Flash Platform. Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder (previously Flex) seem to make more news and have better-defined markets than Flash Pro, and perhaps that’s because the original Flash application started it all. But I suspected (and Heidi confirmed) that Flash Pro’s market is being fine-tuned to appeal to the creative Flash designer. It used to be that Flash was good for everything from drawing animations to developing ActionScript applications—and it still is—but Adobe has expanded the Flash Platform application family and Flash Pro CS4 and CS5 are seeing new creative advances you won’t find in Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. At the keynote, John Loiacono demoed a new text engine for Flash that will be familiar to InDesign users. I’ve always hated Flash’s type handling and Adobe is wisely improving Flash Pro’s appeal to designers like me.
  • Will Eisley, Director of Product Management for Adobe’s Creative Solutions Business Unit and also an instrumental member of InDesign’s initial product team. I was honored to meet Will because I’ve been an InDesign user since version 1.5, back when every printer and even my early mentors were telling me I absolutely had to use Quark to be relevant in the industry. I was even more honored when Will told me he already knew who I was and read my work on Designorati! That was a thrill. Anyway, Will and I talked more about Flash but how it relates to InDesign, the XFL file format and the creatives who use it. Will commented that I’m actually a rare breed who designs and also writes code, and I thought there were more designer/developer hybrids out there than he thought but we left that question unresolved. The concept that designers and developers are different groups fuels Adobe’s separation of designer and developer products, though they also strive to build tools to let designers make code-based applications without getting their hands in code. Flash Catalyst and InDesign CS4’s Flash exporting are prime examples. In the end I tweeted the designer/developer question to the Adobe MAX attendees, and one person responded that they consider themselves a “designer/developer.” I’m sure there are more of them, but maybe Adobe’s research suggests they don’t come around often.
  • Adrian Ludwig, Group Product Marketing Manager for Adobe’s Flash Platform. Our discussion was focused on the big news of the day, Flash Pro CS5 Beta’s exporting to the iPhone, and it’s exciting news but we also talked about the technical limitations that temper that excitement. There are still relatively few Flash-based iPhone apps on the market, and even though the ones out in the wild look good and perform well there are still questions about long-term performance and the viability of developing for iPhone with Flash when the iPhone doesn’t support Flash. Perhaps the greatest takeaway from all this is the fact that the Flash Platform can now be an iPhone app development tool and this gives every Flash user the possibility to be an iPhone app developer too—without needing to learn the Objective-C language.