Adobe MAX 2011: Reflections

I’ve been reflecting upon the past week at Adobe MAX all morning, along with catching up on a lot of work and have decided that I’m now at the point where it makes the most sense to put my thoughts down. I don’t want to write too soon, else there isn’t time to digest… but waiting too long will take my thoughts too far from the experiences I’m attempting to write about. So here are my thoughts around Adobe MAX 2011.

A few days after MAX, still churning through all the information in my head… and perhaps I’ve been unduly concerned about some of the points brought up below. I mean, everything was really very cool, extremely well presented, and Adobe is doing great things with both HTML and Flash. I watched both keynotes again and for whatever reason- things seem much more balanced the second time around.

 

Adobe MAX Stage

Day 1 Keynote
The focus here was on some pretty cool touch-based tablet applications and integration with the Adobe Creative Cloud services. Interesting stuff and will certainly be useful for a great number of users. The ability to wireframe on a tablet device and then bring that over into Dreamweaver is pretty compelling. All attendees will get a year’s subscription to the services which basically includes all of Master Collection as well. Pretty cool!

On the other hand, there hardly a mention of Flash whatsoever – even though as clarified in later statements from Adobe: almost all of the tools showcased were built on Flash technology. In my opinion, this is a missed opportunity to really showcase the power of the platform to a huge audience both internal the conference, and to the outside world. I know this fact was mentioned in the day 2 keynote- but that lacked the potential for an immediate impression during day one. It just wasn’t as powerful a message and since Flash did play such a huge part in the formation of these touch tools- it almost downplays the importance of the Flash Platform.

I understand the focus was on the cloud services and that bringing Flash up while discussing this new set of apps and such may have been seen as a deviation from the message, but it made many developers in attendance a bit sad.

Oh! Almost totally forgot about the acquisition of PhoneGap! That’s actually really very cool and Adobe is keeping it open source and free under Apache license. I don’t mean to downplay the HTML announcements at MAX – but I am still in a zombie-state here… I find all of the contributions to CSS, HTML, jQuery, and so on that Adobe is making to be very positive to the wider web ecosystem. I hope they continue to talk up these contributions because they do matter!

 

Angry Birds - Flash!

Day 2 Keynote
The second keynote focused on developers – but very little was actually shown of Flash/Flex/AIR apart from some (rather impressive!) gaming demos. Although, what was shown in regard to Rovio and Epic picking up the platform for their games and gaming engines is astounding news. Using the revived Alchemy project to port the Unreal engine to Flash Player? Incredible. In the following days, we’ve even seen other high profile players joining the “us too” crowd – which is quite welcome!

I have been a bit worried about the focus on gaming for Flash Player, but am beginning to understand that having players like Angry Birds on board will drive user adoption through the roof. It isn’t just about games- but gaming platforms can drive the spread and adoption of technology more than any other medium. If users demand Flash Player 11 in order to have these experiences, the adoption scope is widened to such a point that it makes Flash a more desirable platform for a host of other applications. Flash becomes much more of a viable platform simply because of this.

I don’t think that anyone really understands yet how important that is – if gaming significantly pushes platform adoption and spread (which it definitely will!), this makes it safer for education, enterprise, and general developers to focus more on Flash without the fear and hand-wringing that has been present during the past couple of years. I really think this is the big story but as I mention – will people understand it? I didn’t see this, initially- but am now getting quite excited at the potential this has to really significantly push the Flash Platform forward.

BTW: CSS Shaders blew my mind. Impressed.

 

Sessions

General Sessions
In opposition to the keynotes, the sessions at MAX did a great job of detailing runtimes, futures, tooling efforts and so forth on a number of levels. The sessions told the story that long time Flash devs were waiting to hear at the keynote. So much great stuff coming for the runtimes and tooling and I feel it was a bit buried simply by the fact that the keynotes didn’t really touch on any of it.

There is a huge story in the new release schedule for runtimes and tooling and the amount of effort that Adobe is really putting behind the wider platform. So many of us are excited for the future of Flash and so pleased in the way with which Adobe has placed such resources behind making the platform the best that it can be. Why keep such a story among friends? Why not directly address the world? Most people aren’t going to watch the session recordings – so the message is then lost to those without direct involvement.

 

Flash Jeopardy!

My Sessions and other Activities
I began MAX on Saturday with an education reception with fellow Adobe Education Leaders, Adobe Education team members, and educators who were at MAX for the Education Summit the next day. Always great to reconnect. The following day involved a morning of Community Summit events with other Adobe Community Professionals and User Group Managers organized by Rachel, John, Liz, Aaron, and others on the awesome community team… followed by an afternoon of Education Summit sessions organized by Claire, John, and Daniela of the spectacular Education Team. I’m so fortunate to in both sides of the Adobe Community – so rewarding :)

I presented two sessions at MAX this year: From Desktop to Mobile: Application Functionality for Small Screens for Adobe (as well as a condensed version of this talk for the Education Summit) and UX Concerns across Mobile Platforms for FITC. Both talks went went and had really great attendance – thanks to those who came to hear what I have to say!

I was also invited to be a contestant along with Jonathan Campos, Antonio Holguin, and Laura on Flash Jeopardy hosted by Ben Forta. What a great time that was! I had a lot of fun and the interaction between the four contestants and even audience involvement at points was a great demonstration of something special which I believe is core to the Flash community. It was all recorded and I do hope they decide to make it available somewhere.

Over the Summer, Peter Elst and I recorded a publication with video2brain for Adobe Press/Peachpit and they had our publication stocked throughout the conference at the MAX Store. They also invited Peter and I to have a book signing on Wednesday morning which was a really nice experience talking about the work and signing copies for attendees. Really fun to interact with others in that way.

 

MAX Bash

Sneaks and the Bash
The Sneaks were amazing this year. Normally there are two or three demos which fall flat – they all impressed me this year. All great stuff across the board. “ENHANCE!” (I want that blur removal tool NOW!).

The Bash was a big improvement over last year. Great variety of food and drink – artsy demonic bird women with blue lights shining out of them. These are the details that matter :)  Also had the opportunity to chat with Kevin Lynch for a few minutes about the Flash Platform and other things. Stellar.

 

Community Party

Wrap Up
Apart from my criticisms in the direction of the keynotes, this was a really great MAX. The efforts put forth by the MAX team are easily apparent. The community events both on the AEL and ACP sides were awesome. The Adobe community in general is always a pleasure to connect with both during MAX and beyond. Generally a really great conference and I look forward to Adobe MAX 2012!

Finally, a word of loving advice for the coming year:
Adobe; don’t be timid about defending Flash as a platform and promoting it across your keynotes and across all communication with the outside world… you are the keeper of a powerful and far-reaching platform that goes beyond technology and extends to the hearts and minds of designers, developers, and the BILLIONS of users of this technology around the world. You have something unique, great, and powerful in both the Flash Platform and the community behind it. Be fearless in demonstrating to the world that you believe in the platform and that you believe in us :)

One comment:

  1. I agree with Joseph’s advice to not be shy about promoting Flash. As demonstrated in various sessions at MAX, Adobe is continuing with strong investment into its Flash Platform. Flash/Flex are amazing tools that make possible exciting software–software which would not otherwise be feasible to build. Adobe needs to leverage its investment by aggressively promoting Flash.

    That said, I think that Adobe is wise to pursue the development of tools for building HTML5 websites. It won’t be either/or. It will be both HTML5 and Flash.

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