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article imageOp-Ed: Tech's future in a Flash

By Jack Kapica     Aug 11, 2011 in Technology
Apple’s Steve Jobs and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen got into a celebrated fight last year over Adobe’s Flash product. Adobe has answered with a new toolbox that not only ends that fight but reveals a roadmap for what the future holds
You don’t have to be a Web developer to be interested in what Adobe’s latest software package, Creative Suite 5.5, is all about. Simply knowing what’s in it offers a road map of what lies ahead in technology.
But first, a bit of history. It’s not long, but it’s important.
You might remember in April, 2010, Apple’s boss Steve Jobs and Adobe Systems Inc. CEO Shantanu Narayen engaged in an unseemly public slanging match about why Adobe’s Flash product was not implemented on Apple’s iPod, iPhone or iPad. Leave it to the gearheads to sort out the charges and counter-charges the tech giants threw around (they amount to “Is too!” and “Is not!”), but ultimately it doesn’t really matter. The arrival of the Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 suggests Adobe was chastened by that fight, and had to respond with something, and that something is CS 5.5.
Apple former boss Steve Jobs created a lot more than a new gadget when he launched the iPad. He chan...
Apple former boss Steve Jobs created a lot more than a new gadget when he launched the iPad. He changed everyone's definition of what it was to use technology.
At issue was Jobs’ insistence that Apple’s three leading products could do just as well without Adobe’s Flash, a technology that can animate Web content on any computer. But Jobs said the iPod, iPhone and iPad could do just as well using other tools: HTML 5 (the still-under-development series of standards describing the way websites are presented in your browser), CSS (cascading style sheets, which are used to create rules for displaying websites) and Javascript (a programming language for displaying enriched material on a website).
But the runaway success of both the iPhone and the iPad suggested that Apple was about to leave Adobe in the dust, Flash or no Flash.
Adobe’s Web, design and video tools — the tool of choice for advertising agencies, Hollywood blockbuster editors, digital photographers and amateurs wanting to fiddle with photographs — have dominated the creative market for a decade or more, especially after Adobe bought out its only real competitor, Macromedia, in late 2005.
The prize in that takeover was Flash, developed by Macromedia, a tool for creating animated applications, video and interactivity on the Web; to play a Flash animation, you need a free plug-in that you installed in your browser. Adobe has proudly boasted that Flash resides on 98 per cent of the world’s computers, and must have taken that as confirmation that Flash had accomplished its mission of world domination, and Adobe could now call all the shots.
It was not to be.
Jobs’ animus against Flash is unclear, but he clearly ambushed Adobe using threats posed to Flash by very recent emerging developments. The fact that Adobe has emphasized the inclusion of development tools handling HTML 5, CSS and Javascript in CS 5.5 suggests that Adobe recognized that what Jobs was saying was right, if not expressed politely or delivered fairly.
In fact, if you sort out what’s new in the various programs that make up CS 5.5 from those programs that haven’t undergone a major overhaul, you’ll discover this version of Creative Suite is clearly Adobe extending its products to apply to all current developments, Apple or otherwise, including stuff that has yet to hit the market.
Among the elements largely untouched are Photoshop, the last word in photo illustrations, and Illustrator, a vector drawing application, both arguably the most effective arrows in Adobe’s quiver.
Adobe and Apple engaged in a celebrated fight in 2010  centering on whether Adobe s Flash product ha...
Adobe and Apple engaged in a celebrated fight in 2010, centering on whether Adobe's Flash product had any place on the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Adobe, Apple
There are, however, new tools in CS 5.5 that constitute Photoshop’s Touch SDK (software development kit), which allow developers to use Adobe tools to create applications that can implement touch-screen applications that run on the iPhone, iPad and a myriad other devices, a sore point in the Apple-Adobe foofaraw. It will also work with the next generation of Internet-connected television sets hitting the market this year.
Adobe also created new tools allowing designers to add interactivity, video and audio to documents such as e-books, and to just about any presentation designed to be viewed on a screen. Developers are offered the prospect of previewing their projects for smartphones, tablets and desktops, and to be able to test out which cascading style sheet is best for which device, a simple matter of clicking and choosing the style sheet. Applications can also test Web content on a lot of new devices, such as tablets and smartphones, as well as print, Web and video.
These new Web tools, Adobe assures developers, are designed “to author content with HTML 5 and CSS 3 in Adobe Dreamweaver CS 5.5 [its website creation tool] and target multiple platforms in Flash Professional CS 5.5.”
Yes, in light of the Apple-Adobe tantrum, the changes in CS 5.5 are more than ever aimed at professionals, notably print designers, Web and interactive developers, print and video production staff, animators, video editors, motion graphics designers and effects specialists. But non-professionals, such as those armies of amateurs who can’t live without Adobe’s Photoshop, don’t have to spend a small fortune for the whole package, and can select a cheaper bundle.
Adobe s Master Collection Creative Suite 5.5 translates the code it generates into code acceptable t...
Adobe's Master Collection Creative Suite 5.5 translates the code it generates into code acceptable to the iPhone and iPad, and extends Adobe's Flash tool extensively.
Adobe Systems
The new package is not all about adapting to Apple’s way of doing things. Adobe has also added improvements in performance, such as accelerating image processing, rotoscoping, compositing and video editing, and paid some attention to accelerate a professional user’s workflow.
Translation: Adobe is not going to drop Flash just to end the acrimony between Apple and Adobe, but will continue to develop it as well as the tools that Jobs was talking about. (Microsoft had a similar strategy and called it Embrace and Extend.)
Flash and Adobe AIR, which is used to develop standalone Flash-like applications that can run outside of a browser and uses the same scripting language, have been updated to run faster. This has been designed, Adobe says, to “take advantage of the ubiquity of Adobe Flash Player within browsers, and extend beyond the browser with Adobe AIR.” It will still display Flash content on non-Apple smartphones, especially those running the Android 2.2 (and later) operating system.
Adobe now has tools that can translate that scripting language into iPhone and iPad application code. The tools have added support for the accelerometer, which rotates the screen display according to how you bold your device, and multi-touch navigation gestures. In short, Flash and AIR developers can now create applications using CS 5.5 and then translate them into something acceptable to Steve Jobs. That way, Adobe-created apps can now be posted on iTunes, Apple’s highly policed store for applications where Flash has been unwelcome.
Adobe has added a few tools unrelated to the Apple-Adobe controversy that probably would have been kept unreleased until the next scheduled release of Creative Suite.
The hurry-up timing is particularly wise with Adobe’s approach to e-books, which only this year have overtaken sales of paper-based books and even have their own bestseller list in The New York Times. The InDesign module has been made to create complex, colourful e-books with photography, soundtracks, video and even news footage for non-fiction books. Developers can now create images that resize automatically for any e-book reader, the ability to export an e-book to the EPUB format, an open-source system that will allow e-books to be displayed on a number of different readers.
And of course CS 5.5 supports evolving standards such as HTML 5 and EPUB 3, meaning e-book publishers can embed video and audio to play on almost any mobile device, including the Apple iPad.
Looking even further ahead, Adobe has started paying serious attention to tools for enhancing documents with multimedia features for digital magazines, newspapers, annual reports, manuals. There’s a new Folio Producer tool to create documents made for specific hardware, such as the Apple’s iPad, RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook and a number of Android tablets, such as the Motorola’s Xoom.
There are other improvements along the same lines — including a new Warp Stabilizer tool for stabilizing shaky camera footage in videos, and integration with the now Mac-compatible Adobe Audition.
The fight between Apple and Adobe was really a struggle over whose vision of the future would prevail. Adobe had a vision of a series of produce-once, view-anywhere applications, but they would have to be created using Adobe’s software. Apple, on the other hand, wanted to have developers use Apple’s own tools to create applications running on the iPhone and iPad, and not to rely on tools created by outsiders.
Overall, CS 5.5 doesn’t feel like a finished toolbox, but more of a workaround based on such things as HTML 5 and retrofitting AIR applications to be acceptable for iTunes sales.
It may not be an ideal response to the fight, but by embracing Apple standards while also extending its own tools, Adobe is ensuring that that its developers have an even wider popular audience in the new mobile market.
Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection components
• Adobe Photoshop CS 5.1 Extended
• Adobe Illustrator CS 5.1
• Adobe InDesign CS 5.5
• Adobe Acrobat 10.0 Professional
• Adobe Flash Catalyst CS 5.5
• Adobe Flash Professional CS 5.5
• Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 Premium
• Adobe Dreamweaver CS 5.5
• Adobe Fireworks CS 5.1
• Adobe Contribute CS 5.1
• Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5
• Adobe After Effects CS 5.5
• Adobe Audition CS 5.5
• Adobe OnLocation CS 5.1
• Adobe Encore CS 5.1
• Adobe Bridge CS 5.1
• Adobe Device Central CS 5.5
• Adobe Media Encoder CS 5.5
• Adobe Extension Manager
Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 is available from the Adobe online store (all prices in U.S. dollars):
• CS5.5 Master Collection: $2,599
• CS5.5 Design Premium: $1,899
• CS5.5 Web Premium: $1,799
• CS5.5 Production Premium: $1,699
• CS5.5 Design Standard: $1,299
Adobe now allows developers to rent, and not buy, Creative Suite, either in a one-year plan or a month-to-month subscription. Prices for suites start at $85 per month on a one-year contract, or $99 on a month-to-month basis. Photoshop users can subscribe to the program for $35 a month on a one-year contract, or $49 on a month-to-month contract.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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