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The annual pilgrimage to the “rock concert for geeks” was a little anxious this year as the Daemon run conference took on its new name – would it still hold its magic? Terri Dentry reports on the news behind the Adobe merge with Macromedia.
Header images: Jaguar XK - website construction using flash and pdf
Original publication: Design Graphics: DG Magazine 2006
Republished with permission
When Adobe took over Macromedia, one of the more unusual changes to the workings of the company was the introduction of the ‘War Room’. Here, engineers from both companies could thrash out their differences. Some foresaw the marriage of these software greats to be a bumpy ride: both companies had different cultures, both held different places not only in the marketplace, but in the minds of designers and developers. The War Room was expected to be busy.

But expectations are not always right, as Mike Chambers, told the recent WebDU conference. Far from war-like, the merger gave rise to possibilities that could revolutionise the way people use the web.

Known as MXDU prior to the merger, this year’s conference had a greater focus on developments in web technologies. In his keynote address, Chambers expanded on Macromedia’s amalgamation with Adobe. “I heard about it and was shocked at the time. But then I thought about it over the weekend, and the more I thought about it the more it really started to make sense to me.”

Initially, there was a healthy rivalry between the companies. To forge links between the organisations teams, such as ‘Apollo’, were launched to bring together their respective technologies. Before long, a host of unforeseen compatibilities were discovered, and as Daniel Dura, Product Manager for Adobe working on the Developer Relations team puts it, “soon enough we were putting words into each others’ mouths”. The War Room quickly became fertile ground for the cross-pollination of some interesting ideas.

At WebDU, Chambers illustrated how the union has given the company the power to take their technologies to much greater depth. “I’m really excited about the opportunity of the merger of these two companies. On the design side it really makes sense because the tools really complement each other,” he said. “But on the developers’ side, there’s a lot more potential to grow and it will really take our vision to the next level.”

One particularly exciting development is likely to be a tighter combination of Flash and PDF. Currently the two most pervasive technologies on the net, getting Flash and PDF working more symbiotically results in better performance, which in turn benefits all who use them: from clients, to designers, to end users.

The website for the new Jaguar XK is an example of how dramatically these two platforms can be used together. The site allows users to design their own car and print out a customised brochure, providing an enriching, interactive experience, and giving the brand a strong and unique presence.

“It’s a great branding experience to really allow you to get a feel for the image you’re trying to convey by using the interactive capabilities to customise, in real time, the type of car. Then I can actually print out this car I just made. Or I can download it, and it will dynamically put all this together into PDF format, which I can then send around to my friends or print out and take to the dealership with my car completely mapped out. It’s also a great branding exercise” explained Chambers.

And it’s no secret. Flash 8.5 was released last year and has experienced the fastest adoption rate that Adobe have ever seen. Close to 50 per cent already, Adobe expects it to hit 80 per cent within a year. From Adobe’s point of view, hitting 80 per cent is an important milestone. As Chambers says, “that’s the kind of ubiquity where player penetration doesn’t become an issue when, for example, developers or customers are deciding what version of Flash to use.”

Dura is similarly enthusiastic about the meeting of corporate minds. “When Adobe first took over there was a name change on the paycheck, then a lot of talk about vision and what the new company would be. We realised immediately how Flash augmented the Adobe technologies,” he told WebDU.

Now Macromedia and Adobe are working productively under the same roof, with designers, developers and web users all enjoying the benefits of the union. Dura says, “new technologies are emerging from teams like Apollo, which are changing the way people interact with the web, and changing them for the better.”

Currently developing the Flex framework, Dura knows all about groundbreaking advancements in the Flash family of products and technologies. For his part, Chambers is also excited about the continuing development of the Flex platform. “Originally, when we talked about Flex, it meant this enterprise level server product, something rather expensive for a lot of developers, meaning it was out of reach, Chambers said. “When we talk about Flex now, we’re really talking about a range of products and technologies that includes Flash Player 8.5.”

“The thing I am most excited about is that mxml, all the libraries, everything that makes Flex so easy to develop applications with,” he said.

Dura’s role in all of this is ensuring designers understand that Flex is a tool for them. For too long, he said, Flex has been regarded as the domain of techies. In fact, it’s a designer’s tool and that’s something he’s working hard to show people.

It gives users the means to create richer, more expressive web content, which of course maximises the potential for communicating with web users, delivering the sort of bang-for-your-browsing-buck that the increasingly web-savvy world expects. And in the end, that experience better represents a business or a brand image to the world. Further, Dura said designers will discover a product that’s familiar, sits comfortably beside their existing tools, and delivers a range of powerful, enterprise class capabilities.

According to Dura, Flex has the power to unite the designer and developer into one creative entity, a situation that may also be seen as analogy for the coming together of Macromedia and Adobe.

And with that marriage merrily skipping along the path of productivity, who can tell what new compatibilities will be discovered, and what that will mean for everyone who interacts with the web.

Terri Dentry is an independent film journalist, animation producer, and the Director of thinkRED film & media in Melbourne, Australia.

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