I just got back from Chicago, where I attended Adobe MAX 2007, the company's annual confab for developers. The bulk of the conference was taken up with hundreds of workshops, hands-on sessions, whiteboard talks and other kinds of presentations, all of which had the 4,300 attendees running from one end of the vast, brand-spanking-new, McCormick Place West convention facility to the other.
All of us came together in one room, however, for two keynote addresses and an evening sneak peek session, during which Adobe announced several new products and initiatives and allowed us a glimpse at future developments.
The list is long, so I'll just hit the high points:
- Adobe purchased Virtual Ubiquity, the developers of the online word processor Buzzword. Buzzword, built in Adobe Flex, is a prime example of the sort of Rich Internet Application that is the focus of Adobe's efforts in the developer space nowadays.
- Adobe unveiled a new central repository of information for the entire Adobe developer community, the Adobe Developer Connection.
- New builds of the public betas of AIR (the Adobe Integrated Runtime) and Flex 3 were released. By the way, the Rough Cuts version of Adobe Flex 3: Training from the Source goes live soon! Check Safari Books Online around October 15.
- "Hydra," Adobe's new programming language for image processing, was unveiled. Hydra (more formally known as the "Adobe Image Foundation Toolkit") uses all the power of modern computing machinery, including the GPU chips in video cards and multicore CPUs, to massage static and video imagery. It will also allow third-party developers to create custom filters, effects, and blend modes. It's already tucked away in After Effects 3, and will be incorporated into the next version of the Flash Player, codenamed "Astro." A public Technology Preview was made available for download.
- The new product that elicited the biggest reaction from the crowd (and that quickened this observer's pulse as well) was a tool for bridging the designer-developer divide: "Thermo." Designers can mockup the interface for a Rich Internet Application in Photoshop, Illustrator, or Fireworks, and (if they've structured their file correctly) then import the file into "Thermo," where the different graphic interface elements can be converted to functional components (buttons, sliders, or more complex controls), which can then be wired up to dynamic data. If all works out as hoped, "Thermo" will allow for round-trip collaboration between designers working in the Creative Suite and developers coding in Flex. "Thermo" is still in embryonic form, but we were told to expect to see something next year "for experimentation."
Among the "Sneak Peeks" that were shown on Tuesday evening were:
- Visual Communicator 3, a tool for making "video presentations that look like live TV newscasts," including a teleprompter function.
- Another glimpse of Photoshop Express, an online version of the ubiquitous image-editing app tailored to consumer use. No word yet on when the service will go live.
- Flex and AIR interface authoring within the "Next" version of Fireworks.
- Some stunning features in Flash "Next," including motion path animation and the ability to add bones to chains of animated objects. The latter enables Runtime Inverse Kinematics, similar to 3D animation applications.
- Flash movies playing within a PDF in the Adobe Reader.
- The public alpha of a version of Flex Builder for Linux.
- A translator to port C/C++ code to Flash. This was accompanied by a cool demo of the venerable first-person shooter, Quake, running in the Flash player.
- And for dessert, we were treated to an astonishing demonstration of "Seam-Carving for Content-Aware Resizing," by Shai Avidan (now an Adobe staffer). The name of the feature is a little puzzling to ordinary humans, but the principle is simple: when you resize an image using seam-carving, the parts of the image with a lot of important detail change relatively little, while less important background areas get squeezed (or expanded) more. It's easier to grok this if you see it in action; here's a movie demonstrating the effect, together with a link to Shai's original paper.
After all the Sneak Peeks were shown, the audience was allowed to vote on their favorite by text messaging from their cell phones. I'm happy to announce that Shai's presentation won by a landslide, earning him a shiny new iPod touch.