I recently attended a PANMA event in Philly focusing on HTML5 & Adobe. Terry Ryan from Adobe gave a stellar presentation on a few things the company is doing to stay relevant in the rapidly changing web. It's no secret that Flash as we know it is dying off. A few months ago, Apple officially said they will not support it on iOS devices, and whatever you may think about that, the general consensus is that Flash will not be a player for much longer. For quite a while, Adobe was reluctant to give in on the technology that represents such a large part of their company, but they finally switched from defensive mode to "hey, how can we adapt as a company?" mode.
Terry included four main topics in his 1.5 hour presentation:
- Adobe Edge
- CSS Shaders
I won't get much into TypeKit because that technology has been around for quite a while. I've used it a few times and it's really great at allowing you to bring in non-traditional web fonts on your site. The service is great, cheap, works well, and developers should really consider using it or one of its many alternatives.
PhoneGap provides an easy way for web developers to create native apps without getting too involved in the specifics for each platform. As many know, there are really two types of "apps" that can be created. Web apps are mobile-optimized websites that are limited in their functionality on a device but often mimic the appearance and function of a native app. Native apps integrate directly with a mobile platform and require a developer program in the native language of the platform (like Objective-C for iOS), providing complete access to the phones native features.
Adobe did the right thing. Since acquiring PhoneGap's parent company, they are keeping the popular software open source, and have instead decided to try and monetize the software by offering a paid service to compliment it. This service, named "PhoneGap Build," automatically does all that cross-compiling on different platforms for you in the cloud. Terry did a quick demo of this... basically you can maintain all of your code in GitHub, push changes, and PhoneGap Build will pick up those changes and automatically work behind the scenes to output new app files for each of the platforms. I believe the service is actually free if your GitHub project is open source.
This software is really picking up speed and now has full support from Adobe. The developer community seems to be fairly strong, and the documentation is easy to understand and utilize. It's certainly work a look.
Even with Edge, there is still a ton of stuff that can be done in Flash that cannot be done in a browser without plugins. Adobe aims to change that by pushing some of their IP into the browsers. CSS Shaders allow developers to achieve some really great visual effects in the browser and really push the limits of browsers. Terry showed us some live demos using Chromium (the "hot off the press" open source version of Chrome) and everyone in the lecture hall was pretty blown away. Check out this page for some of the demos he showed off. Don't get too excited, as these are still in development and haven't been adopted yet, but it's a neat look at the future potential of browsers.
The web is rapidly evolving, with new web technologies emerging constantly. Adobe has really decided to embrace where the web is going and they are doing it right. PhoneGap makes creating native apps easier than ever, Edge provides an outlet to Flash professionals to get into a new emerging technology, and shaders allow for great visual effects right in the browser without a third party plugin like Flash. Time will tell to see how Adobe's new investments and projects will pay off, but they seem to be headed in the right direction.