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Adobe To Unify Developer Apps With Flash Platform

Adobe is rolling out several new and updated products to fend off Microsoft's Silverlight, not to mention the growing use of open source technologies like HTML, CSS, and Ajax.

Adobe Flash isn't just online multimedia software anymore. It's a platform, as Adobe intends to make clear in a series of announcements coming out of the Adobe MAX 2008 conference that starts on Monday in San Francisco.

"We've wrapped all of our branding and messaging around the Adobe Flash Platform," explained Michele Turner, VP of product marketing and product management for Adobe's platform business unit. This isn't new, she said, "it's just packaged the way it should have been years ago."

Flash powers 80% of the video on the Web, said Turner. And Adobe would be happy to increase that percentage. So, too, of course, would Microsoft, which has been promoting its Silverlight technology as an alternative to Flash.

To fend off Microsoft, not to mention the growing use of open source technologies like HTML, CSS, and Ajax for sophisticated graphics online, Adobe is rolling out new and updated products to cement its role as arms supplier to multimedia designers and developers, whether they're working on the desktop, on the Internet, or on mobile devices.

Toward that end, Adobe plans to roll out a new product called Adobe Flash Catalyst, a design tool for creating application interfaces without coding. Demonstrated previously under the code name Thermo, Adobe Flash Catalyst ingests files from Adobe Creative Suite 4 applications so they can be published to Flash or AIR, Adobe's framework for running rich Internet applications outside the browser, and allows them to be used for design and development collaboratively, in conjunction with an upcoming version of Flex Builder.

"It's an Eclipse-based tool that has an integrated two-way work flow," explained Turner. Its aim is to allow developers and designers to work on projects in parallel.

Adobe plans to release a preview version of the new Flex Builder that integrates with Adobe Flash Catalyst called "Gumbo" on Monday. The company hopes Flex Builder 4 will appeal to a broader audience of developers. Beyond its new collaborative capabilities, the software features enhancements to the core integrated development environment, debugger, and editor. It also includes new code profiling components and data-centric development capabilities.

Turner said that Flex Builder has been popular with JavaScript developers but less so with general scripters. Adobe, she said, wants to make Flex Builder a more general-purpose programming tool.

Adobe also plans to release AIR 1.5, which now incorporates the open source WebKit HTML engine and "SquirrelFish" JavaScript interpreter, support for encrypted SQL Lite, and Flash 10 technologies like native 3-D transformation and animation.

The company plans to release Adobe AIR 1.5 for Mac OS X and Windows on Monday, with a Linux version planned for release before the end of the year.

Linux users will get something sooner, however. Adobe intends to offer a pre-release 64-bit version of Flash Player 10 for Linux though its Adobe Labs site. This enables 64-bit systems to run Flash without 32-bit emulation.

Adobe has also updated its Flash Media Server technology to enable dynamic streaming for servers, and to include enhanced AAC audio and improved content protection. And the company plans to demonstrate Flash Player 10 for smartphones (though not the iPhone).

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