Is Adobe’s new HTML5 Edge tool Expression Blends replacement?

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In October 2010, Steve Ballmer met with the CEO of Adobe the apparent discussion was around how to compete with Apple head-on.

Having been an internal lead on Adobe competes within Microsoft, it got my wheels turning and I tried as much as I could to get some insight into what that meeting was actually about. It was a very weird meeting given the heated competition both Microsoft and Adobe have had over the past 5 years (almost as big as Apple competes).

Adobe have lost some staff to Microsoft so my first thoughts were that maybe the ex-employees are looking to patch a bridge and discuss some ways to work together in terms of how Flash and say XBOX etc. could work together (there’s a huge casual games market up for grabs that uses Adobe Flash).

Today however my spidey senses got all tingly when I saw the new Adobe HTML5 Edge tool sneak peak via Adobe Labs.

This tool is the missing piece in what I call the HTML5 all up story – i.e. it is fine to hack together add-ons to existing tools for HTML5 coding compliance but it needs a designer story.

The more I looked at the sneak the more I started to think about that meeting and how it could have possibly gone down.

If Microsoft wants to sacrifice Silverlight on the web to gain momentum in the mobile device market than overall, the threat matrix for Adobe drops quite significantly. In that, really the only threat to Adobe Flash is around how it sockets into a mobile device such as Android, Windows Phone 7 and so on.

If I was in a meeting with an executive again and I was talking about the SWOT for an Adobe, partnership I would lead in more with opportunities that lead to strengths rather than threats / weakness in this partnership.

Firstly Adobe Flash is likely to be the continues user experience platform for mobile devices – if and a big if – the company can fix performance issues on all.  Creating a universal user experience on all devices is no easy trick in HTML5/JavaScript and having the tooling and cross-compile functionality that Adobe’s been making waves about lately could be a very important technology intersection.

Flash has always thrived at being a parasite on many hosts so it is not as if this is new dangerous territory for it to take such technical dependencies on.  The product also as I stated before has a lot of already existing Casual Games / Widget Apps already made today that could be ported over.

Downside is they do not have the developer base – design yes, developers no.

Secondly, Microsoft has failed at attracting the design market. We spent millions and came up short every time as whilst I use Microsoft Expression Blend daily its one hard cumbersome tool that even most .NET developers won’t touch let alone designers. It just failed.

The Expression Blend team is now parked in the archive bay and I wager Silverlight 5 additions will likely be its last shipment for the product. If that being the case, sure the tool failed at its charter in attracting the devigner audience to the .NET codebase(s) of tomorrow but the problem didn’t go away – if anything it just got worse.

If you are going to then tell designers of tomorrow to build HTML5/JS or even Silverlight vNext solutions for Windows8 and beyond – how do you get them to combine design and development skills?

Adobe.

Adobe have the design audience locked, it’s the only company in the world where in every design agency there is a design tool owned by them either bought or pirated. They make a tidy profit from it as well.

Flash now can produce iPhone and Android based solutions and it would not actually take much to get that solution into Windows Phone 7 given the Silverlight/XAML parity – in fact, some devs in Microsoft have shown that getting Silverlight to cross-compile to a swf isn’t farfetched, as it would seem.

Putting Adobe Flash or at the very least using the same iPhone cross-compile methodology for Windows Phone 7 is a massive win for both. You get a new developer audience on both sides for one and lastly the design audiences can also play their respective roles within the tools they feel the most comfortable with.

Winning as the Sheen would say.

That all being said there’s a flaw in this theory, it positions Adobe to be way to powerful in the device discussion and the last time Adobe/Macromedia held dominance in this space it took Silverlight to wake them up – you don’t want that again, trust me.

How do you keep Adobe in check whilst competing with Apple at the same time as if you create a universal app that works on all devices then this if anything can fuel iPhone’s appstore submissions more so.

The answer is you put your hopes on forking the API’s beyond the HTML5/JavaScript purity. You essentially embrace and extend (yay, it’s so fresh and new right?). Everyone can keep the entire tech on the same playing field initially but with Windows Phone 8 & Windows 8++ it sort of takes on a completely new adoption curve.

That is a good thing as it fuels competition for one and both Apple and Microsoft do not have to necessarily fund large amounts of dollars in both tooling and marketing. Adobe wins because it gets more hordes adopting its tooling but at the same time, it cannot survive unless there’s competition between Microsoft and Apple. Google is the cream on the cake, as it then has to dovetail into the same competition stream – thus a forcing function for their Android story.

All Microsoft has to do is sacrifice Silverlight for the web (video will always be a big problem for both to contend over just like QuickTime vs Windows Media Player) and Expression Blend.

Did I mention XAML team is disbanded and the Expression Blend team has been put in park?

If you can get developers & designers working in both HTML5/JavaScript as well as proprietary platform specific technologies universally its less investment in language / runtime research & development more in terms of differentiation of hardware specific features.

It rather works that way for the console market.

Note: I have no inside goss on this one so this is me just spit balling based of my own conspiracy theories.

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  • Jacky

    *If* DirectUI uses XAML and it ships without Blend designer support it will be the biggest clusterfuck in history.

    Visual studio is simply not up to the job and never SHOULD be put up to the job. Editing XAML by hand is also a shitfest for anything but trivial apps.

    Why cant MS just stick with a single vision? The right vision! Yes so far it has not caught on, but sometimes strategies takes more than 5 years to succeed Giving up with up with Blend now would be a huge disaster and a step backwards.

    Then some asshat like adobe comes along with a POS like Edge, totally rips off the Blend idea, BUT follows through, builds the HYPE and SUCCEEDS.

    MS are just left saying “yeah we were first to market” but fucked up…Oh well.

    If MS mess with the Blend story I promise there will be hell to pay from the dev community…you have been warned!

  • Mark

    That demo is too funny.

    Having spent the last 10 years coming to the conclusion that maybe flash intros on websites are not the greatest idea, Adobe solve the problem by inventing a way for designers to create animated intros using “web standards”.

    Do we still get a skip intro link?

  • @ Mark:
    LMAO.. i hadn’t thought of that and yes… now there is also a standards compliant version of BLINK waiting to unfold…BEHOLD… Retro-Interactive-Web! 🙂

  • Hmmm, it looks a lot like Sencha Animator…

  • Al

    Great stuff as always. I would love to see you put together a post for Silverlight developers considering a move to FlashBuilder/Flex. It seems like it is what Silverlight was supposed to be. I just might be making the transition later this year depending on what comes out of Build.

  • ac

    Can I have Flash with C# & C++ & something like google native-client sandbox for c++ in IE that’s verified (like hypervisor) to be correct?

  • Anonymous

    yep ur right is too funny but many probles with be in it even not demo..lol
    http://full-windows8.blogspot.com/