I’m back from an interesting five days of Adobe MAX in Los Angeles and have a few thoughts I’d like to share. A quick reminder: this is the first MAX since the disastrous events of November 9th, 2011 occurred. It was definitely a different experience this year… but many elements of the conference were quite familiar as well. Overall, it was a great event and I’m happy to have been a part of it. I’ll try and break things down in the way with which I’ve categorized them in my mind the past few days.
Adobe MAX is now branded as “The Creativity Conference”. As such – Adobe has gone way out of the way to make that known. The entire second day keynote, normally set aside do do product deep dives, was reduced to hours of people getting up on stage and talking about themselves… I’m not going to sugar-coat my reaction here… it was boring, uninspiring, and in the case of one segment- felt as though I was being lectured at by one of those horrid TED speakers.
It wasn’t all bad though. The image composition artist, Erik Johansson, demonstrating his Photoshop compositions was immensely interesting and exploring the work of film-maker, Rob Legato, was also intriguing (though I am unfamiliar with his works). In the end though… I want to see more of what ADOBE is doing to enable creativity, to push the web forward, to make all of this possible. Individualized outpourings of self-exaltation is better suited to some other venue… not the Adobe MAX stage.
The constant Behance hammering is something else that was completely unnecessary for me. Even as someone in a predominantly developer role… I know what Behance is – I understand it and even think it’s interesting. If I understand the purpose and function of a service like Behance – I would wager that most of the designers in the audience were on-board as well. We didn’t need a 30 minute lecture about how great it is on top of everything else.
With that said though… seeing material being displayed from Behance on the huge presentation surface was quite a sight! I really did enjoy seeing the work that was on display. THIS was much more inspiring than what I saw in the Day 2 general session. I loved it and absolutely welcome more of this.
Here are some pretty dead ladies:
Despite the focus on creatives (and for the record: developers ARE immensely creative people) – there was a lot of familiarity at MAX this year. Most all of the sessions I attended had to do with either Flash tooling, Flash platform technologies, or other developer-centric content! There was definitely a lot of it and the sessions and labs I attended were PACKED. The community was present, as always, though some people who would normally be at MAX were not and were definitely missed!
The big community boards are still there to draw your logo on – here is FVM!
The Day 1 keynote was an expected array of news and changes from Adobe. The biggest news is that the “Creative Suite” brand is being retired since everything is now handled via Creative Cloud – imparting a new “CC” branding to the products: Photoshop CC, Flash Professional CC, Edge Animate CC, et cetera. I’ve been using everything through Creative Cloud for a year now and absolutely love it. In an unexpected turn, Adobe is looking into the feasibility of producing creative hardware such as a cloud-enabled stylus and slide rule. An interesting and totally unexpected development!
Sneaks was weird this year. In place of the MAX Awards – was the host coming out and doing a 30 minute promotion for his personal brand. Much like a lot of the Day 2 keynote… this rubbed me wrong.
The Sneaks themselves were pretty awesome though! A lot of neat stuff with Photoshop, Audition, Edge tools, “Adobe Magic APIs”, and more… too bad the aforementioned host and co-host (why was she even there?!?) completely ruined a bunch of the demos by being entirely rude and eating into the engineer’s time. Again – this big ego problem is rampant across these sessions and is a real pity. Ben Forta did his best to reel those two in and provide time for the demos but they were totally out of control. Real pity.
The MAX Bash is still wild and amazing. We also had a really splendid Community Summit this year. I absolutely adored having AELs alongside ACPs and UGMs! Good call, community team! Honestly, the community is what makes events like MAX worthwhile. You can view the sessions after the fact since Adobe makes them all available a few days afterwards (I still love this aspect of MAX) – but the community events and personal interactions are entirely irreplaceable!
Some Little “Extras”
A lot of press has been given to Adobe’s foray into hardware with the “Mighty” and “Napoleon” projects. I was one of the lucky few to get some hands-on experience with the devices during an event Monday evening. These are, again, the times which make going out to MAX so worthwhile.
Fellow AEL Jynse Cremers was kind enough to demonstrate for this photo:
Having always had some trouble in forming straight lines on my tablet in drawing applications like Photoshop Touch or Ideas… I really enjoyed seeing both of these projects revealed during the Day 1 keynote. I’m happy to say that using them in person is just as simple, direct, and tactile as was presented during that general session. They are an amazingly familiar set of devices and I do hope that they move on from project status into a full, retail project. Just too cool. And so very useful!
The Adobe Flash Platform
WHAT ABOUT FLASH?!? Right? Well, while everything Flash was quite subdued during the keynotes and Sneaks… there were actually a whole slew of sessions and labs based around this most controversial of Adobe technologies.
Some things to keep in mind: at the current time, Adobe is focusing upon it’s Creative Cloud technologies, developments in creative applications, and contributions in tooling and standards in the realm of general web stack technologies. Even as a traditional “Flash guy” – I get it. It makes sense to do so given the capabilities we now have with the standard web stack and the absolute hammering Adobe continues to receive around their Flash-based efforts.
I remember during MAX 2011 that Tom Green and I were in the Westin bar having a pre-conference beverage or two – he said something that struck me and I feel it’s important to share this thought here. Seeing how Flash (as a platform) is quite mature in all its capabilities… “where else is there for it to go?” …where, indeed?
Honestly, just about anything you envision today can be accomplished by targeting Flash Player or AIR – when a platform reaches that sort of maturity level, excitement around it has to plateau. There is effectively no where else for it to go. That is, I believe, one of the reasons for Adobe to remove resources and public focus from the platform to apply these resources to other areas in which they can be put to the most good and are most desperately needed: the general web platform.
Does this mean that Flash Player and AIR are dying technologies? Not at all. It means that they exist in a mature state and that Adobe will continue to support them through enhancements and updates which continue to stabilize and augment an already-mature set of technologies while putting their best foot forward in working to drastically push forward in the general web stack.
A perfect example of this is the new Flash Professional CC. The tool has been rewritten from the ground up to be the premiere rich content creation for a variety of target platforms; Flash Player and AIR, but also video workflows, and HTML5 Canvas via CreateJS. Flash Professional CC is on the way to realizing the vision of becoming the premiere rich interactive content authoring tool!
Interestingly enough (despite Flash being *ahem* “dead”) – there were all sorts of Flash platform sessions and labs around gaming, animation, Flash Professional CC, and so on at Adobe MAX this year. The ones I attended were totally sold out. You would never know any of this occurred looking in from the outside! Lots of the sessions that did focus on Flash took a light-hearted approach toward the state of things. Just look at this, for one example: Adobe Flash Recap.
Also announced during Adobe MAX 2013 were Flash Player 11.8 and AIR 3.8 beta, the Away3D 4.1.1 beta, Away Builder 0.9.0 alpha, and the Adobe Gaming SDK 1.1 – which now includes DragonBones and OUYA controller support! That’s a lot of Flash goodness right there!
Additionally, it was revealed that all three major components of the Gaming SDK; Starling, Feathers, and Away3D – are all exploring canvas/WebGL support via TypeScript. That is pretty awesome because it means we have even greater choice when developing content using these technologies. TypeScript looks to be really nice language when dealing with web stack technologies until ES6 is finalized and implemented by browsers.
Remember: this was the core of the Apple vs. Adobe argument from a few years back… the freedom and choice to use whichever technologies we wanted. Great progress, all!
A Word on Flash Player “Next”
Sadly, all of the efforts over the past year or two to “ensure that the platform stays viable over the next decade” are stillborn. Adobe has abandoned Flash Player “Next” and ActionScript “Next” in favor of contributions to general web technologies.
When I first signed up and registered for a number of sessions – there were sessions on everything to do with this great work; runtimes roadmaps, AS4, Flash Builder 5, et cetera. This was all pulled, of course… leaving Flash developers again with nothing but dust… further decimating a once strong core community.
I want to be very clear about this: I am all for Adobe working to improve web standards through tooling, VM, and W3C contributions. ABSOLUTELY! But it is a DAMN shame that they feel the need to sacrifice their own platform in order to do this. I share in the general sense of frustration and anger around this – there is just no way around it.
A recap of very valid community concerns around Adobe and Flash can be found here: Where is Adobe going with flash – “After-Max” conclusions. I recommend reading it.
I contributed to Adobe MAX 2013 with two sessions of my own. One was a normal 60-minute session on Edge Animate, and the second was a short community presentation revolving around a PhoneGap application I maintain. Thanks to everyone who showed up to hear me talk about these things – a full house in all regards (thank you!).
Using Edge Animate to Create a Reusable Component Set
Read the full post here…
Edge Code, PhoneGap Build, and lots of Absinthe!
We’ll be having at look at the Absinthe Dilution Faerie mobile app and how it was created with Adobe Creative Cloud tooling and services. You might even learn a thing of two about Absinthe…
Read the full post here…
All in all – despite my bitching, above – it was a great MAX and I am sure that 2014 (in Chicago) will be even better. If Adobe can balance things out a bit to be more inclusive of developers as creatives this next round [and weed out the design-ego]… we’ll have a real winner!
You may have noticed I didn’t devote much of this write-up to the fact that Creative Suite is no more… yes, the Adobe Creative Cloud is the only way for someone to access all of the applications and services going forward. I am 100% behind Adobe on this call.
This is a new model – an entirely new way of thinking about the distribution of software and services. The amount of versatility, flexibility, and creativity it enables goes far beyond what may be initially visible – and the implications of such a shift will only become more apparent as time goes on. I have no problem criticizing Adobe when I believe they are in the wrong. I think this is the right move for continued, accelerated innovation in digital and creative media.
People can either get angry and become frustrated, or embrace these changes for all of the good things they bring today and promise for the future. As for myself – I’ll see you in the future :)