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Notes from Adobe conference for educators

Adobe looks for ways of changing curriculum to bring together developers and designers

 I'm back in the barn after attending Adobe Education Designer and Developer Conference  that Adobe put together for people who are teaching Adobe software at various universities around the country. Actually, there are a couple of people from England and Scotland too. I was invited because of the Flex classes that I teach at New York University. These are unedited notes from this trip.


I’ve arrived at San Francisco at noon and boarded a van that was going to drop me by the hotel. There were young girls giggling in the van, and here’s an excerpt from their conversation. “I went to a top less beach, and there was this hot looking boy with his mom top less. I do not want to see my mom’s boobs. The other girls responded, “Haven’t you seen them already?” This puts everyone in the van in a good mood.

I do not like shopping other than books and electronics. But when I’m in San Francisco, I always visit the Levis store. After checking into the hotel located at the Union Square, I decided to quickly check Google maps to see how do I get to the Levis store  from my hotel – I remember that it was very close to Union Square. Google readily helped me with the map, and I realized that I should be able to see the store from my hotel’s window. Sure enough, it was there. I wonder how did we find places and each other in the pre-Google era?

I’m talking to a professor from Minnesota. He goes, “Are you from Russia?”
“ Not exactly, but I lived there for a while.”
“ Is it right that Putin worth $24B?”
I don’t know the answer to this question, sorry.

Another professor is teaching Flex and AIR to future journalists. I am surprised. “What the journalists need Flex for?” “ We try to find ways to have more people read news. Flex and AIR allow to create applications that are very engaging and simple to use and having a better UI really matters.” Makes sense. I never thought of it this way…


Two buses are waiting by the hotel for the attendees – they’ll take us to Adobe where the conference will take place. The bus drivers are in their late fifties. They casually discuss what happened with their hard disks during the latest movie downloads, and that Microsoft Outlook is notorious for…

Peter Isaacson, VP, Worldwide Education

Bandwidth improvement. Better pipes allow to create more engaging user experience. People are using video, which was not possible in the past. New tools create new work flows, new teams of people communicating with each other. The new tools bring designers and developers together.

Graphic Designer – Web Designer -  Web Developer
                                    Mobile Designer - Mobile Developer

Adobe is ready to hear for the challenges that educators have so Adobe, educators and industry can talk and deal with these challenges. Adobe is willing to share its vision of how this should work.

Johnny Loiacono, SVP & GM, Creative Solutions.

Gigabits meet gigahertz – substantial increase of processing power and storage capacities
Explosion in the number of connected devices
Business Models are evolving – subscriptions, pay as you go, open source
Proliferation of rich content
Applications Media consumption is changing.

The best device is iPhone, but it also has a problem – it does not run Flash. Please write Steve Jobs and complain about it. Internet video is experiencing Explosive growth – 134 million Internet user are watching Internet video. Flash Streaming videos is revolutionizing Internet. Experience matters.

When you look at BBC or CBS, the expectations goes higher. Spend some time at agencynet.com or gettheglass.com and look at the UI. People spend time if the site is engaging. And of course, the advertiser are interested in the Web site that keep user’s attention. Certain projects require both design and development capabilities. File compatibility – file formats have to be compatible so developers and designers who work on the same project can share the files. Adobe is heavily investing into Designer’s tools. They work on Creative Suite 4 and 5 and already started architecting 6.

Bandwidth is cheaper, and they will push more and more of their creative services as hosted services.

Photoshop Express - give to people who are constantly online some tools useful tools (this not an online version of the Photoshop). It’s a 100% hosted application where you can organize, store and edit your images. Free online services will make it available for students. The free version will get some storage limitations, but people will be able to use the high-end graphics tools. Skill demand of MXML and ActionScript is sky rocketing. Computer Science studies and Visual Media studies should collaborate.

Adobe is working on engaging faculties from Development and Designer interfaces.

David Wadhwani, GM, Platform Business Unit Flex and AIR

Experience will be cinematic David shows an apparel Web site. Clean design but not very interactive The new site is developed in Flex and deployed in AIR. Most of the screen’s real estate is taken by the content. Controls are at the bottom of the screen and can be hidden. The user can make notes to the items as he browse the site. David has uploaded the photo of his daughter and can match the clothing items available at the site to what she wears on the photo. Merging UI created by AIR (sales charts) with an expert system that finds an expert in a selected region with immediate dialing the expert. As they talk on the phone, the both parties share the screen. They do not leave the application’s screen.

Data will flow to the user. Standard eBay interface. eBay pushes data to you as things happen.

Parleys.com - if you are not online, you can still use video recordings of the JavaPolis conference. Applications become more network aware. Cost of deploying streaming media becomes more manageable. A bike tour. Each rider has a GPS unit on the back. You can watch online each rider online. The applications will break out from Web browsers. Play the music online finetune.com, and if you do not want to see the screen – you minimize it. They’ve created a desktop application finetune. Applications will jump out of the desktop. There are tons of hand-held devices. Insurgence of widgets…sort of a snack size applications. A simulated yacht screen – a screen installed on the yacht - the real time status of the yacht, the weather….

Adobe Technology Platform:

Designer-Developer tools: CS3, Flex Builder
Servers/Services – LiveCycle, ColdFusion, Flash Media Server, Flash Cast, Scene7
Frameworks: AJAX Flex Clients: AIR, Flash Player
Applications: Adobe Media Player, Adobe Buzzword, Adobe Acrobat Connect, PhotoSHop Express

Steven Heintz – the product manager of Thermo

Steven demoes the product.  Bridges Designer and Developer’s work flow. Designers think differently – they think conceptually in Photoshop. Developers just throw components on the screen. Bring the file from Photoshop into Thermo, and the photoshop file was converted into an XML. Then a designer start working with the artwork. Right-click, convert the artwork piece, say to a button, or a text box. It retains the picture perfect location, but generates the application that can be runnable in Flash Player. Adjust padding, add an action …. On rollover go to a new state, create transitions. You have a base state and detail state – similarly to Flex Builder, but without programming. Effects can be assigned graphically.

My first comments on Thermo

Thermo is definitely an interesting product during the prototyping phase. But I have an experience with the real world complex projects, and in one case the prototype was created given to me as MXML and in the other as Photoshop image. In the latter case Flex MXML had to be created from scratch, but in the former case I had to rip apart MXML that was given to me by the Web designer, case it had to be re-factored anyway. The other tough part I see is what to do if I refactor the code and the designer will need to make some changes afterward.

Is it backward compatible? I’ve asked this question and both Steven and David confirmed that they are aware of this and the roundtrip without breaking the compatibility will be addressed in the future versions of Thermo.

Important news for the Academia

Now Flex Builder is free is not only for students and faculty, but it also can be used for development of the administrative applications within the educational institutions.

Alan Lewis, eBay

Now I’m watching a demo of the new version of eBay that’s done in Adobe AIR. It’s noon here but already 3PM in New York. Is this why I’m thinking about food or I’m just not interested in eBay in general?

eBay’s attitude was that they’d never build a desktop application. It’s a Web application. The biggest problem of eBay was scaling business to serve more users.

An interesting comment by the presenter. In Web applications, there is a big concern to make the site visible to search engines. In some cases it become more important than user’s experience. In case of desktop applications, search engines are not important and designers can stay focused on the user’s experience.

A question from the audience. I see the value of AIR, but why it could not be deployed in Flash Player?
The answer. AIR can give you a better user experience, i.e. speed of navigation.


During the lunch, I had a good conversation with Matt Chotin, the Flex product manager. I was interested in Flex support of HTML.  Flash Player 10 will have a lot better support for XHTML, for example components like HTML table will be naturally displayed by Flash Player.

Industry representatives: AgencyNet, Odopod

Twelve agencies got together ( SODA) and created a collaborative organization to pro-actively establish standards and share the knowledge with other agencies in advertisement and media.

You are in the bar? Bacardi Mobile, Flashlite application will offer you a cocktail. It’s interesting that the phone can be used in daylight or in the dark, so the colors have to be carefully selected.

MOJO Widget is a desktop application, but you can put it in any Web site, including Facebook. The clients select the videos to play, it’s a rich application with lots of features.

Four speakers from two agencies were trying to deliver the message that they need people who have exposure to both side of the fence – designers and developer. This session ignited the largest numbers of questions from the professors who were trying to figure out what do they do wrong and what changes in the curriculum are required. This was not clear.

I’ve asked this question,”My son has graduated from School of Visual Arts majoring in classic animation. I am experienced software developer. Professionally, we are people from different planets even though he is my son. May be you should not turn away lots and lots of job applicants that do not have universal skills and rather hire two different talents – a creative person and a Web developer who will work together on the same project?”

The speakers kind of agreed, but I’m sure that professors from the audience will not start changing curriculums because of this presentation.

Anne Connell, Lee Byron, Carnegie Mellon University

They use Flex in their Interaction Design course. Demoed a simple messaging application created by the students that streams video with Flash Messaging Server.

The next as the demo of the prototype created in Flex in days instead of weeks.

Lee explain how they’ve created an application for people who flirt. They made an interesting research: how people flirt:

1. Direct physical approach
2. Cautious and shy approach
3. Online only

After doing some brainstorming, the students decided to deliver their messages using videos that would inspire people to explore things together. Flirtastic was born!

Nice and refreshing presentation – young programmers rule!

The day concluded with a very productive panel discussion.  

I had a chance to express my opinion (got plenty of those):

My Opinion

Adobe need to go after big guys. While someone in the audience named Nike a big company, I work for Wall Street firms that consider Nike a small enterprise. It's great that Adobe invited us to promote their products in the educational institutions; they can also send representatives to all schools around the country asking them to start teaching their great software products…
Adobe shows very impressive results in injecting Flex into IT departments of large enterprises, but I'd add even more sales pressure there rather than addressing the creative crowd. Here's what I mean.

IT departments in large enterprises are traditionally either Java or .Net shops. When Adobe started offering Flex as a development tool. The first reaction was "Adobe who?". Then it started evolving into various phases of grief: denial (I can do all this in Java), Anger (I do not need no Flex). I believe that now Java developers found themselves in the bargaining phase.

If Adobe will continue promoting Flex among application developers in large enterprises, the big guys will start contacting universities demanding people with Flex and ActionScript skills. The Academia will have no choice but make adjustments in the curriculum. This will be beneficial for everyone, including creative people.


Anuja Dharkar, Senior Manager, Curriculum Solutions

Here’s the Web page with some resources for higher education.

Need collaboration between computer science studies and visual media studies. Two different groups (developers and designers/artists) need to work together. Adobe starts working on creation of curriculums for Computer Engineering and Design and Visual Media courses.

In the works:
Self Studies: Flex Builder overview, Visual controls, Layouts, events, integration with other technologies.
Project examples: UI and Interaction design, Managing events and data

And this is an Education Developer Center. People in the audience complained that tutorials targeted toward students are not easily searcheable online.
Lots of resources are available at Adobe Developer Connection.
There’s a partnership with O’Reilly – Academic Solutions.
Instructors can get their free review copies of the books (two per semester).
Here’s one more resource: Adobe Design and Film School Connection portal.

My two cents: use well-written Adobe certified courseware as a foundation for creating curriculum for educators. Adobe should also send certified instructors to high schools and train the faculty.
Overall, Anuja seems to be the right person for the job who can make a difference.

Break-out sessions

Video, Simon Hayhurst and Steven 

Metadata rich. How my site will be found? Browse audio/video, find the phrase, track, etc. Metadata 
                     extraction is important. Everyone is chasing the metadata portion in the content.
Efficient Workflow
Creativity for the Networked world  – hosted and networked applications

Designer/Developer work flow – Flex and Thermo
Flash Authoring. Flash 10 (“Diesel”) will have 3D in it. Moving more and more into hardware acceleration. New text engine. XML-based file format.
Bordeaux – graphic designers can create interactivity and motion without coding. Lightweight video embedded in banners. Animation without the key frames – timeline is just for sequencing. The demo of building a banner with a couple of videos with Bordeaux  – looks very simple. The public beta is coming soon.

Goldman is a  tool for writers of all types, it’s a screenplay tool. Metadata, formatting ease…

Web, Lea Hickman, Doug Winnie

It’s not Designer/Developer work flow, it’s rather a multi-discipline skill set. A person has core skills plus aspirations. The rest of the sessions is on building teams for the projects. Same old, same old…Designers complain that developers are not available, it’s hard…Demo of the future DreamWeaver…I’m in the wrong room.

Platform, Mike Downey, Group Manager, Platform Evangelism

Flash started as an animation tool, but a prototype of a hotel reservation system TheBroadMoor pushed the envelop and lead to creation of Flex framework, which is now a core development platform for Adobe. 
Breaking Acrobat Connect into components – you’ll be able to use them as hosted services.
Why AIR is free?Adobe monetizes on their own technoligies by building applications.

Flash Player: 8.5M downloads a day! It’s installed on 98% of the computers in the world.
The new release of Flash Player is 9.3 (“Moviestar”). High definition video H.264 and audio, multicore support, full screen hardware scaling, use GPU to improve scaling, 50% faster bitmap downscaling, Enchrypted video streaming.

Flex 3 new features: cached Flex framework, memory and performance profiler, AIR support, improved CSS support, Flash Cs3 integration.

AIR – it’s a cross OS runtime. Developers leverage their skills to deploy the app on the desktop. No new skills are required, just learn new API.

AIR is not an application, but a desktop runtime (similar to .Net framework or JRE). You just install AIR and it supports your application (Flash Player, HTML Engine based on WebKit, XML, CSS, PDF). It bridges scripting engines together – JavaScript can call all Flash Player APIs.  AJAX developers became exited. File system API, synchronous and async file writing, network detection API so the app shifts from disconnected to connected modes, notification API, application update, drag and drop, local database.

Next year – AIR Mobile, a subset of AIR. PDF Reader is not included, but AIR detects it and sterts it inside the AIR.

Good session and Mike is a very good presenter.

A small large company called Adobe

From my point of view, Adobe/Macromedia merger was made in heaven (they remain in the list of best 50 employers according to Forbes).  Even though Adobe was larger than Macromedia, the latter gave the former a key to the golden door of the enterprise application development. Yet when I’ve attended this conference I had a feeling that Adobe still wears an old suit that it outgrown a couple of years ago. Speakers mainly talk about the needs of designers and small media agencies. Guys, you are bigger than this! Get out of the closet. Hold you head up high as a leading company that provides superb tools for both – application developers and creative people.


I’m  really for competition. But after I saw the power of what Adobe is having on their plate, there is not too many firms that can compete with them – Microsoft, Apple, Google. Anyone else? I don’t think so. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of small startups that create really cool applications, but I’m talking about the platforms here.

Such a serious job can be accomplished by big guys only.  Keep creating your killer applications in the garages and basements, and if you are really good, big guys may notice your work. This will make you richer financially, and will make the overall users experience a little bit richer too. Innovate!

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain

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