I’m writing this post on a flight back to New York from Chicago where I attended the Adobe Max conference. It was an interesting and engaging conference overall. Adobe has a lot going on and looking back on the three day event, I thought I’d share some thoughts:
Adobe, for the first time, is hocking a platform. It’s a confluence of technologies that include Flash, Flex, AIR and PDF and don’t be fooled, this isn’t just some more software. It’s a portable and very powerful and compelling software platform. It’s what Java was supposed to do five or ten years ago but never did. The Flash runtime as a real software platform has arrived.
Software A La Carte
Photoshop Express. Share. Buzzword. Connect. Adobe is making a serious play towards service-based zero-install software. Don’t expect Photoshop in all its glory over the wire any time soon, but the pieces have been put into place. Adobe is no longer only about the 40 minute, two DVD installation process.
These sorts of initiatives pit Adobe against the likes of Google and Microsoft for delivering software-as-a-service value. It’ll be interesting to see how far they take things.
It’s also worth nothing that Adobe is investing heavily in establishing this ecosystem without a lot of near-term returns. Unlike Microsoft, which charges for both the ecosystem (the OS) and the tools, Adobe gives the OS (the Flash player and AIR effectively) away for free.
A Building Frenzy
Generally speaking, I was pretty amazed at how much Adobe has going on all at once. Some of it is compelling. Some of it you’re left scratching your head a bit. Much of it is the fusing together of technologies that were previously separate before Adobe and Macromedia merged. In this regard, they feel a lot like Microsoft: betting on every number at the roulette table and just seeing what hits.
Executing On The RIA Vision
You have to give Adobe credit. They saw a vision of where media was evolving into richer, more interactive media. Where the static, klugey web would give way to richer more dynamic experiences. Where these experiences would finally become unshackled from the browser chrome. That vision is coming together as we speak and its impressive to watch a company the size of Adobe navigate towards this vision.
The Missing Ingredient
As a partner in a young services company that leverages many of Adobe’s technologies, I see one piece of the puzzle missing: talent. The hack-and-get-away-with-it web developers are not invited to this party. The complexity of the RIA world coupled with the pace at which Adobe is moving ahead is leaving (at least from where I’m sitting) a serious talent drought that is materially reducing the pace at which the ecosystem can evolve. The tools need to keep getting better…and easier. The Adobe OS’s biggest competitor is Ajax, not because its better but because it is closer to the web application building experience that most enjoy today.
Generally speaking, it was a good time. We met some interesting people and learned some new things. It’s fun to see this community forming around all these new technologies, especially the bringing together of design and software development backgrounds into a single “space” where we’re all both experts in some ways and novices in others.
Now let’s sit back and see what comes out of this world…