Has Adobe capitulated to Apple?
In CS3 Adobe had introduced Device Central, to let users test how their Flash Lite content looked on supporting devices via onscreen emulators, but the key was ensuring that all future mobile devices supported the full Flash and AIR runtimes.
The Open Screen Project
In May 2008, Adobe announced the launch of the Open Screen Project (OSP), which involved removing all licence fees for mobile devices and openly publishing all the necessary formats and protocols to allow OSP partners to freely create and fully support their own Flash and AIR players.
Immediately a host of partners signed up to the OSP, including Samsung, Nokia, RIM, HP, Sony Ericsson, LG, Toshiba, Motorola, ARM, Intel and Nvidia.
Notable exceptions at launch were Google, Microsoft and Apple, but a year later Google signed up and even began integrating the Flash player directly into its Chrome browser.
Microsoft and Apple still held out, but Adobe made it clear that it was working on players for these key platforms itself, and moreover that it was working on a new player optimised for Flash playback on mobile devices, released in 2010 as Flash Player 10.1.
With its Open Screen vision and roadmap in place, Adobe’s next task was to bring designers and developers together, crucially incorporating Flash Builder 4 into the new CS5 Web Premium suite with the ability to graphically skin Flex UI components, and adding Flash Catalyst, a graphical application for designing UIs and simple standalone apps.
Catalyst lets you do this either from scratch, or by converting projects from Photoshop, Fireworks and Illustrator – its own file format is Flex-based, enabling designers and developers to work hand-in-hand.
AIR repackaging for the iPhone was exciting in its own right, but was made more so by another Apple device: the iPad
All Adobe needed now was a headline-grabbing new feature for the planned launch of CS5 in April 2010.
Clearly the market-defining smartphone of the day was the iPhone, but as long as Apple dragged its feet over supporting Adobe’s runtimes, this key demographic was off-limits.
Adobe announced that it was adding AIR support to Flash Professional CS5, complete with an ability to pre-compile applications for delivery as native code on the iPhone.
AIR repackaging for the iPhone was exciting in its own right, but was made more so by another Apple device: the iPad.
With its new tablet form factor the iPad was being pitched as the ultimate device for consuming both web content and standalone apps, and given its superior spec over the iPhone and its promise to deliver the “ultimate browsing experience”, support for Flash looked inevitable.
Better still, the iPad was specifically designed to move beyond traditional browsing into rich, immersive reading. With InDesign’s Flash output and early pioneering work on AIR-based readers such as that for the New York Times, Adobe was ready to deliver.
All the work Adobe had put into Flash, Flex, AIR and the OSP was coming together perfectly.
With the launch of CS5, Adobe was finally going to unite desktop and mobile, online and offline, designer and developer and its range of creative apps would span high-end publishing through to video production.
The future looked rosy: the iPad heralded a new generation of rich lightweight hardware designed for consuming rich lightweight content – a perfect match for Adobe’s Flash-based vision.