Day 2 Announcements From Adobe MAX: PhoneGap, Flash Player 11, AIR 3 and Unreal Engine 3

Compared to the first day’s MAX keynote, the second day’s keynote was much more focused on hard-core development but also a lot less exciting and with fewer major announcements. The only acquisition that was announced was Nitobi, which brings the PhoneGap development platform into Adobe’s portfolio. PhoneGap is a popular way to publish HTML5 and JavaScript-built applications to most major mobile platforms, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile. I bet it will be rolled into either Dreamweaver—which has had similar frameworks like jQuery Mobile integrated with it—or the newly-announced Adobe Creative Cloud, where it could end up as another of its creative services (along with TypeKit and others). They did say that PhoneGap will remain an open-source project available to everyone.

According to the keynote, Adobe’s intention is to “bet on HTML5″ while “doubling down on Flash,” which I expected. Some people, particularly Apple fanboys, expect Adobe to kill Flash—but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon if at all, and right now HTML5 can’t duplicate all of Flash’s capabilities so I don’t think it should. Interestingly, Ben Forta—Adobe’s Director of Platform Evangelism—asked for a show of hands of who has built an HTML5 application before, and almost no one raised their hand.

Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3 were also announced, which focus on games, rich media and data-driven applications—all things that are not easy to implement with HTML5 right now. I’m particularly interested in 3D and gaming capabilities that are being built into Flash Player 11, and a demo of the Nissan Juke website—which features an online driving game—shows some good things with the new technology.

Other announcements

  • Adobe Edge, currently in beta, has reached the third preview iteration and has some new features including loops and hyperlinks. The beta has been downloaded over 150,000 times.
  • The new ThemeRoller product was demonstrated, showing how jQuery Mobile themes can be built with a user interface. This is also something that can be built into Dreamweaver, but at this point it looks like it’s generating a lot of CSS code. Until ThemeRoller can generate lean code, web developers will criticize Adobe for bloated code.
  • CSS Shaders was demoed for the crowd. CSS Shaders is a CSS3 module that Adobe has contributed to the W3C for inclusion in the general CSS3 spec, and it leverages current PixelBender technology to bend and warp HTML elements. The presenter had a very nice demo of a live page curl on an HTML element and also on a live video element. CSS3 is where Adobe can provide the most benefit to developers, because CSS is pervasive across the web and it’s not tied to a particular product.
  • Another CSS3 module presented by Adobe is CSS Regions, which uses CSS to generate text columns and live text wrap. This is already implemented in Google’s Chromium (a beta version of Chrome) and Internet Explorer 10.

The last presenter, Epic Games’ CEO Tim Sweeney, showed something that means a lot to me personally: Unreal Tournament 3 running in Flash. I played a lot of Unreal Tournament 2004 years ago and Unreal Engine 3 (UE3) is now able to run on Flash—how cool is that? According to the press release, Flash Player 11 has up to 1,000 times faster 2D and 3D rendering than Flash Player 10, which sounds…unreal. If Flash can gain a foothold as a runtime for top-of-the-line games, Adobe can pivot the technology into a data-centric and graphics-centric product and leave web graphics and rich Internet experiences to HTML5, which is what I think will happen one way or another.