Adobe Unveils Updated Tools for Developers

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It’s hard to argue with the developments Adobe presented at Tuesday’s keynote address, the second in as many days at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles. The theme around the 90-plus-minute address was creating the very best user experiences, and they delivered.

The development community has flogged Adobe in the past, it seems, for being forced to choose between HTML5 and Flash. While the decision to develop applications for either platform is still decided for individual apps, Adobe’s Danny Winokur and Ben Forta put forth the image that Adobe is working both with the W3C to propel CSS standards and within their own company to dominate with Flash.

“It’s an exciting time to be a web designer and developer,” said Paul Gubbay. “However, it’s also a confusing time.” With so many great technologies and frameworks, it’s hard to know how to get started. The keys are great browsers, great frameworks, and great tools, he said.

With regard to the web, director of platform evangelism Ben Forta announced Adobe’s acquisition of Nitobi, the parent company of the open-source framework, PhoneGap. PhoneGap will always remain free, according to Andre Charland, Nitobi co-founder and CEO.

PhoneGap, for those unfamiliar it, is a free, open-source framework that allows developers to write standard web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) in order to build and compile for mobile operating systems. Charland said people who are using it have web experience and can translate that directly to creating mobile web or native apps. For instance, PhoneGap lets developers take advantage of a device’s accelerometer, location-detecting ability, and other things the browser doesn’t have access to.

Charland said developers face a real challenge when trying to compile apps onto native devices. “It gets messy when virtualized,” he said, through different SDKs and build chains, and then onto different operating systems, just to see how one app operates. He said PhoneGap Build will take care of those issues, in part by producing QR codes that developers can scan to view the app on their device. Later, Forta announced PhoneGap would be included in Adobe’s Creative Cloud service when it launches. Yes, Charland did say PhoneGap would remain free, but the Build website has tiered pricing based on builds per month, private apps, and users.

PhoneGap wasn’t the only framework Adobe mentioned.  Gubbay said “all the buzz is about jQuery Mobile. He introduced ThemeRoller, with which developers can easily drag colors directly onto UI components, such as buttons and backgrounds. You can also change colors using CSS properties, allowing designers more control. Echoing Monday’s keynote, Gubbay said Kuler will also be available for designers or developers to use color swatches for ThemeRoller. Web designers will be able to download the theme in a CSS file, too.

Gubbay also introduced CSS shaders and CSS regions. CSS shaders help with 2D and 3D animation, while CSS regions lets users define shapes among and around which they would like text to wrap. He said Adobe has sent the specification proposals to the W3C.

The keynote was about more, however, than just the possibilities of CSS. Winokur said Adobe was making a “quantum leap” in Flash. First, Emmy Huang, group product manager for Adobe Gaming Solutions, introduced the Starling framework. Starling is geared toward 2D animation using ActionScript 3. Huang brought out Rovio’s GM of North America, Andrew Stalbow, who said he wanted to deliver the ever-popular Angry Birds using this framework. “We just want to deliver a brilliant experience to our fans,” Stalbow said. Huang also demoed the Nissan Juke racing test, a testament as to how powerful Flash Player 11 is. “I’m doing a fancy car commercial right here in the browser,” Huang said.

But that’s nothing compared to the Unreal 3 engine being playable in Flash, in a browser. We understand this is just a video, but Huang and Unreal’s Josh Adams showed during the keynote that it does indeed work inside the browser.

“We fully expect you will push the boundaries of this technology,” Huang told the audience. “And we can’t wait to see how you’ll change the face of the web.”

Developers, what kinds of apps are you building with PhoneGap? How do you feel about Adobe’s strides to improve CSS and Flash? Speak up and tell us what you took away from Day 2’s keynote.

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Adobe MAX Keynote Announcements – Day 2

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Adam Bockler is the communications manager for Float, responsible for all of Float's marketing initiatives. In addition, Adam is a certified DDP Yoga Level 1 instructor, a certified personal trainer, a martial arts instructor, and a graduate of the Black and Brave Wrestling Academy.

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On October 5, 2011
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