MAX is over. I got a fever on the last day (literally… 40°c) so I spent some time in bed after this crazy event. It gave me some time to digest what happened during this year’s edition of MAX and gather my thoughts. First, what a success! I was happy to see that all the community leaders were there, and that more and more people from Europe are traveling to LA to attend Adobe MAX. A lot of developers who couldn’t attend the conference attended the keynotes online. I received a lot of messages from developers about the content of the keynotes, and that’s why I wanted to share my thoughts on MAX.
The Keynote on DAY 1 was magnificent. The introduction with the two dancers was mind-blowing. A classic dancer was answering the moves of a contemporary dancer. It was expressing the shift that is taking place in the creative industry and how the Creative Suite would help our community to make this transition. Creative Suite is moving to the cloud which enables new advanced workflows for pros or amateurs like myself. I was also happy to see that the new generation of Touch Apps are built on top of Adobe AIR on tablet devices. I guess that they are using the AIR 3 native extensions to process the large image filters and AS3 for the UI (which is super cool by the way, especially the Photoshop Touch toolbar). So… it was a great Day 1 Keynote leaded by our CTO.
The second keynote focused on Flex (5%), HTML (75%) and Flash (20%). As Flex 4.6 was already announced before MAX, there wasn’t much to add during the keynote. Ben Forta highlighted the new features of AIR 3 (captive runtime and native extensions), and launched a cool video of a customer (Johnson Controls) who used Flex to code an RIA that runs in the browser and on mobile devices. I met Jeff Boothe, the architect of the project. He’s a great guy and great asset for our community. Here is the video showcasing this cool Flex project:
But, the DAY 2 Keynote was definitely not all about Flex. It was an opportunity for us to showcase that Adobe is the engine of innovation of the web, the laboratory for first-class user experiences, regardless of the end-user technology in use. We’ll innovate for Flash and Web standards at the same time. With the acquisition of Nitobi, Adobe is clearly indicating its intent to become the leading software editor of HTML5. Innovations such as CSS regions and CSS shaders are also highlighting our desire to share our knowledge with the W3C. The demos were quite impressive and Adobe tools (such as Edge and Muse) should be the first to leverage these innovations. We also admit that these innovations won’t be standardized and available in all browsers by the end of the week: that’s why Flash will still have a major and strategic place in the web for people who want to innovate today and deliver first-class experiences to the masses. Among these new areas of innovation, there’s gaming, an industry that is exploding on the web thanks to social networks. Because of its maturity, its community and its technical architecture, Flash will become the console of the web. The Flash 3D (Unreal engine) and 2D (Angy Birds) games demonstrations were just amazing. It’s a new playground for Flash developers and it offers new business opportunities. I think that this keynote had a great impact in the press. A lot of journalists (finally) understood that Flash is not dead and that Adobe is not the enemy of HTML. Adobe is now the official user-experience innovator of the web (well… it has always been the case but some people forgot it).
Flash is the new console of the web, but it will also remain the “Ferrari” of the web. Brands that need to differentiate themselves from the competition by delivering first-class experiences will still use Flash. That’s the case of Nissan, and it’s also illustrated by the interactive agency Les Chinois. Gaming will become a big focus, but I don’t think that it will crowd out other uses.
So where was Flex ?
One video about Flex during the keynote… you may be think that that’s not much attention for a core technology. So where was Flex ? Actually, Flex was everywhere during MAX, and was more present than ever. On Sunday, I attended a Q&A session with the user-group leaders. The big majority of them were Flex developers, and most of their questions were about Flex and Enterprise applications. Then the sessions and labs: more than 75 sessions and labs were about Flex coding!!!
A lot of sessions were focused on Flex mobile development. It was great to see that the major part of our community have already developed and published mobile apps using Flex, although it has been released recently. When you look at where Flex mobile was one year ago… it was nothing… just an illusion. Today, we can develop and publish “native-like” applications. Adobe is still working on performance improvements and you’ll feel these improvements with Flex 4.6, but still, developers demonstrated me very cool high-performance Flex apps. PhoneGap is the Adobe AIR of HTML developers: a cool wrapper for your HTML app with some APIs and the ability to build your own plugins (native extensions). But in the end, it’s still HTML and JS. So it will primarily target content-centric applications in my opinion, and it’s not a framework, so you’ll have to rely on something like jQuery to ease your development. For “native-like” experiences and data-centric apps, Flex is still the first-choice platform and Flash Builder the best coding/debugging experience by far.
If you want to check a session about the future of Flex, get some information about our upcoming new compiler and some cool future features such as ActionScript workers (multi-thread), check this video about the future of the Flash Platform:
Flex was also central during the Sneaks which is the moment when our top engineers unveil innovative stuff. I can easily say that it was the best Sneaks so far in MAX history. Two Sneaks deal with Flex. The first one is about reverse debugging. I can’t wait to have this feature in Flash Builder.
The second one is Monocle, a new tool to profile the behavior of the Flash Player. It will be a great addition to our existing tools.
The community is the key
Adobe MAX always reminds me of something: the community has the final word. Adobe enables innovative technologies, but our community innovates even more: finding new use-cases, pushing the boundaries of our platform, and sharing its creativity openly. Every time we launch a new API, we’re happily surprised by how the community uses it. Stage3D is already used for 2D gaming (check Starling)! So I trust the community. Developers shared with me some amazing experimental projects they’re doing with Flex, AIR and Stage3D during Adobe MAX, I hope I’ll be able to show them as soon as possible on this blog. The technology is out, now let’s play.
If you live near Paris, Berlin or London, come and see us at the Back From MAX events at the end of October !!! Check this website: http://www.backfrommax.com