I haven’t posted in nearly two weeks because I’m still recovering from Adobe MAX 2006. Yes, it was in Vegas and, yes, the Macromedians (at least) know how to party till very early in the morning. Plus, two of my companies are fundraising and I’m looking at a couple of very cool new startups in depth. There just wasn’t enough time for ego enlargement through self-publishing…
MAX had great energy. The combination of Macromedia’s product momentum and energy and Adobe’s design sensibilities made the keynotes worth seeing. Kevin Lynch‘s quiet credibility worked especially well. Of course, there weren’t any Steve Job’s-style mega-announcements but that’s the difference between a consumer play (where you keep everything secret till the last second) and a developer/enterprise play (where the Labs concepts works great).
I have too many notes from the conference so here’s just a flavor of what’s important:
- Flash Player. The new Flash runtime is ridiculously fast thanks to a large extent to the efforts to once JRunners Edwin Smith and Tom Reilly and JIT compiled code running on a new VM. Unofficial numbers are 1/3 the speed of natively-compiled Java. The good news is that the team has a few additional optimizations up their sleeve. The even better news is that in the future, these types of radical performance improvements should make their way into Flash Lite, where they’ll matter even more than on souped-up PCs.
- Apollo. After a false start with Central, the company has regrouped and solved the basic problem of cross-OS installable applications with access to local resources. Don’t know what this means? Check this video out. Two of my startups at the conference were quite interested in the technology–it saves a lot of time and offers online apps a simple way to have a desktop presence and deeper integration with local resources. eBay had built a cool demo (can’t find a link to it, for the life of me).
- Tools. The real power of the MM/Adobe merger is in streamlining workflow for web developers & designers. This is great for people who live in the tools. Notable is the push towards better mobile content publishing. Video tools have gotten better and Adobe is for the first time getting into audio (for video pros as opposed to audio pros) with SoundBooth. The Builder Eclipse add-on for Flex is starting to look pretty good.
- Servers. Flex 2.0 is maturing rapidly–discussions I overheard at the conference were sophisticated. People are building real apps. Lots of stories about pain in getting DHTML to work just right cross-browser. With the Flex SDK selling for $0 and that message spreading in the industry, I expect to see a lot more Flex-powered apps next year. The combination of Flex and Apollo is particularly powerful. The ColdFusion team is continuing to innovate on the ease-of-use front, both with new server features and with great wizards/frameworks that integrate key technologies cross products into solutions. It’s great to see that kind of passion on the team of an eleventh-year-old product. LiveCycle is now in the same BU as ColdFusion and Flex. Expect to see more Web-PDF integration and multi-channel deployment of PDF forms.
- Mobile. Adobe is really starting to get mobile. They are expanding their focus away from OEMs to operators through FlashCast (good) and are also now starting to leverage the developer community more (great). They have hired a head of developer relations for mobile, a great step. The ecosystem around Adobe Mobile is growing. The Wednesday keynote featured John Stratton (on video) and Peggy Johnson. The biggest news is that Flash Lite apps distributed through a select set of aggregators don’t have to go through a separate certification process. This is a big help for smaller mobile ISVs and content shops and a step in the right direction. Adobe can do much more, though. They have to push to clarify the economic model and simplify the business negotiations with aggregators and carriers on behalf of publishers.
- Strategy. It seems like the post-acquisition integration is going well. I heard only a few meaningful complaints from various teams and, on balance, many more positive comments. As a friend of mine put it “Adobe has been lucky that the world waited for them to get their act together.” While the post-Vista assault from Microsoft will be intense, the company has a great base on the design side, a fantastic reach to the desktop and the theoretically best technology for mobile experiences. I bet there is a lot of thinking going on about SaaS and getting deeper into the applications business (based on the success of products such as Breeze).
- Ecosystem. Adobe announced $100M available for distribution through Adobe Ventures to help build the ecosystem in critical areas. In talking to John Leckrone (head of Adobe Ventures) and John Brennan (SVP corpdev) about it, I got the sense that they have a solid yet flexible model in mind that combines the cash with real value add rooted in Adobe’s reach and industry influence. Update: Adobe took a $30M piece of MobiTV’s $100M Series C. This is about getting into the Flash video ecosystem.
- Clubs. The sampling included Tao, V, Mix, Pure and Tabu. Pure was voted the clear favorite.
Topics to think/write more about:
- Apollo + X = Revolution. X = ?
- What’s the tipping point for Flash Lite?
- What’s Adobe’s SaaS strategy?
- Does the company have a Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 play? Update: word is that Adobe will make a big announcement of sorts at the Web 2.0 Conference next week.