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All Platform, All the Time – Adobe MAX, Day 1

Adobe MAX Keynote

Today’s Adobe MAX was all about the Platform division. This is the group that does RIAs: Flash, Flex, AIR, etc. Indeed, it seems that Macromedia has really done a reverse-acquisition when it comes to Adobe’s agenda. We all know that PDF and Creative Suite are cash-cows for Adobe, but the vision and agenda is all Flash, all the time.

As it should be, really. To be blunt: there’s not that much more to say when it comes to PDF and Creative Suite. Adobe has those two locked up. To sand down the hyperbole, there actually is a lot to say about the more general topic of documents, namely things like Acrobat.com and the BPM world of LiveCycle. And there’s plenty of excitement in Creative Suite land (XMP is an especially dorky thing that lays the lattice for niftiness, e.g., transcripts and Overlay.tv-like functionality native in video).

But, yeah: Adobe’s spending it’s resources on the Flash Platform when it comes to where it wants to drive attention. It’s setup to be the growth unit, the green-field, the new and future cash.

Today’s announcements are nothing mind-blowing like the initial announcement of “Apollo.” There’s Flash 10 shipping on Linux concurrent to other platforms (huzzah!), and though the newly announced AIR 1.5 is lagging on the Linux front, the feel is that this won’t happen much longer.

Of these newly dubbed “Flash Platform” announcements, there’s not much to say beyond the usual point-release things of adding in more features and whiz-bang. To throw up a large-disclaimer, I come at this from the developer perspective: there was much oohing and ahhhing at the nifty video, audio, and visual effects in Flash 10.

There were actually so many features and projects announced that it became a bit hard to file it all away after awhile at the keynote. I’d rather people back a blur in than have nothing to talk about, for sure. As an example, Adobe Wave looks like an import, conceptually, of the Growl notification system into Adobe Platform-land. Of Growl and AIR, see here.

And, like, holy crap: there’s the whole mobile world too. The mobile space is difficult for American tech-companies to talk bout in the States. Aside from Blackberry and the iPhone, us dumb chickens here in the US have no idea how much it’s used – our market is locked up tighter than the AppStore. We’re told – by Sun, Microsoft, Adobe…anyone that has skin in the mobile game – that the rest of the world is booming, if only we knew.

PaaSing the Cloud

Sneaking in under the camel-case-crazy name CoCoMo (and in beta), Adobe is further sinking into the cloud/services world by offering to run CoCoMo based applications in the cloud. Though I must admit I’m a bit unsure about how widely used the CoCoMo platform will be, it’s important for Adobe to be getting out there into the PaaS world and figuring things out beyond Acrobat.com and it’s other cloud-ish offerings. Adobe is still being timid when it comes to “cloud computing.” That said, as I said last year, this isn’t really too bad:

At the moment [and still now], the most interesting take-away (for existing vendors looking to go SaaS, at least) is to narrow down your SaaS efforts to the feature level instead of worrying about everything but the kitchen sink. As seen repeated in kuler, Device Central, and others, the basic pattern is creating and gardening a knowledge base community, and then pulling that knowledge into Adobe tools, such as in context sensitive panels. Taking this SaaS-as-feature approach, again, to me means eating some SaaS humble pie and asking how your software can work along side and with other software and services rather than being The Master Platform for everything.

When it comes to cloud computing, the sense I get is that Adobe would rather partner for the bigger picture of cloud computing rather than spin up their own stuff. SalesForce is obviously a friendly for them. In my mind, there’s a question of how – if – they could work with IBM: there’s a big, cloudy sky to slap a UI (read: RIAs) on-top of.

Saving the Enterprise

The Chiefton

One last thing for you, dear readers, was a sentiment largely laid out by the SalesForce guest, Steve Fisher, at this morning’s keynote:

For the last 20 years, enterprise software has been where innovation goes to die.

Try the chicken!

More seriously, as John and I discussed last week, the enterprise world has been sucking wind when it comes to innovating over the past 5 years. The interesting innovation has happened in the web world, nary I say it, the Web 2.0 world.

As I was discussing with someone this afternoon, there are essentially 3 money-trains in software:

  1. Ads and other indirect revenue
  2. Selling the actual software itself (remember that one?)
  3. The Enterprise

I’m forever harping on my RIA friends to start paying attention to helping out the last one, and they’re slow to come ’round to it. There’s largely a question of it being worth pursing or not, or if you’d just give it up to IBM, SAP, Oracle, others, and the groupies thereof. I think it’s worth it, and people like SalesForce are sort-of going after it, but it in their own pull down the statues of the past way. Their zero-sum approach is getting a bit creaky, and there’s plenty of slack for the middle-ground talker.

Adobe has the superior ground here at the moment, but Microsoft/Silverlight, Sun/JavaFX, and others in the RIA world are rowing their ships up to the shore real quick-like. The big shots listed above need to start partnering up with the RIA younger brothers here. Granted, the RIA crowd needs those gate-keepers in the short-term more than the likes of IBM need them. But, if the enterprise gate-keepers wait too long, the likes of Google, ZoHo, and, yes, SalesForce will just redefine “enterprise software” to mean “just another URL on the web” despite the FUD of GRC.

The Back-end

As ever with Adobe and RIAs, I end up at exactly the same place I always do: someone in this tussle that’s yet to take place needs to solidify their back-end story. There’s a wondering hoard of enterprise developers out there in the desert – SpringSource is going after them, RIA people should be more aggressively going after them, SalesForce-ites want them, Sun would like to bring them back, and on and on. On this front, no Elder Company has burned the ships, really, which always seems like a prudent strategy, but it sure draws it out or the rest of us ;>

Disclosure: Adobe is a client and paid my T&E to Adobe MAX. As are IBM, Microsoft, Sun, and SpringSource.

Categories: Conferences, Enterprise Software, Programming, RIA.

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3 Responses

  1. I'm with you on Cocomo camel-case madness… We've stopped using the CoCoMo form as of around a year ago, but it just seems to keep going…

Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] in a league of her own). Wave was undeserving of the spotlight and CoCoMo feels like something that didn’t sell but has been repackaged as a PaaS. This entry was written by Brooks, posted on November 18, 2008 at 9:32 pm, filed under AIR, [...]

  2. [...] cover the cloud/SaaS related news from Adobe MAX, the conference I was at earlier this week. Also see the Adobe SaaS round-up from last year that I [...]