Adobe MAX Europe – Day 3

Today was « learning day ». No « wow », no « aha », just « hmmm » and « slap! » (don’t fall asleep, you idiot!). Originally I had planned a couple of sessions related to LiveCycle Data Services but I’ve been so disappointed by the one of Tuesday that I decided to enjoy myself a little bit. So the first session was about Soundbooth CS4.

I’ve played piano and organ some years back, and I’m an amateur DJ on my spare time, so I tend to love everything related to sound and music. However, I kind of put all of that aside in the past few years so this session was really refreshing for me. And when I said that there were no « aha » moments today, it is not entirely true: you should see the speech transcription engine they added to Soundbooth CS4 and that integrates with many tools in the suite. It’s really amazing. Now I need to see how it works with real-world samples with background sounds and strange French accents. But the demo was definitely interesting. So much so that I couldn’t help thinking how much money could Adobe make if they sold this engine as a standalone service for podcast owners and such. Apart from that, the sound clean-up features are very interesting, especially with the spectral view. I don’t know if it was already there in previous versions of Soundbooth, but it’s really amazing what you can see in there that is just impossible to spot in the infamous waveform view. And if you think that Soundbooth is not useful if you don’t do movie soundtracks or music mixing… well, think twice and give it a try.

The next session was the source of a lot of hesitation. Dave Mc Allister had left a comment on my post before MAX and it really motivated me to know more about the Open Source strategy of Adobe. On the other hand, on the same slot, there was a session about Flex 4 and its new syntax, which obviously I’m very interested in, all the more so as there seems to be a lot of new things, like prefixes instead of namespaces. Eventually, I realized that there would be tons of articles about the new features of Flex 4 closer to the release and then closer to what it will really be. On the opposite, Dave Mc Allister presentation was a panel discussion, something you can’t find on the web by yourself. So I went for « Why Open Source, what makes the cut? ». Now, obviously MAX audience is still mainly composed of designers, because there were very attendees in this session, between 15 and 20 I think. But the discussion was very interesting and it was even easier to ask questions and get proper answers. With Dave were Ryan Stewart, platform evangelist, and Dave Story, who will soon be in charge of all the development tools (Flex, Flex Builder, etc.). The discussion reminded me of the comments of a few friends of mine when Adobe announced that they were going to open source the Flex framework: « Adobe… Open Source… that’s just a marketing move! ». It could have been, but let me tell you that a year and a half later, it’s easy to see that it was much more than that. They actually dive very deeply into the strategic and governance questions related to opening up some of your business. And their example is all the more so interesting as they are engaged in a balancing approach: their objective is not to open source everything they do, but just what makes sense. Hence Open Source proponents inside Adobe have to fight very hard to educate both business and operational people about the added value of Open Source, while reassuring them about the fact that it’s not a silver bullet and that they will not do it with everything. A few people in the audience, including myself, took the opportunity to suggest some improvements to the Flash platform and Dave Story took notes. Maybe one day it will be possible to plug a Webkit module into the Flash player and to render proper HTML inside Flash. Time will tell.

I started the afternoon with a demonstration of the new features of Flex Builder 4. I think Heidi Williams and Tim Buntel were a little disappointed to see such a low enthusiasm in the audience. But from what I heard around leaving the room, a lot of people thought like myself: finally, we get the features that should have been there 2 years ago, nothing more. Data management features are certainly a plus though: you will be able to generate client-side data managers that automatically handle CRUD operations and deal with conflicts, whatever the server-side technology you’re using. It will be interesting to see how useful it can be beyond the simple contact manager application.

My last presentation for the day was one that has been added to the planning at the last minute: Flex and PHP with Zend Builder. This could have been the most interesting presentation of the whole event for me in terms of direct interest for the project I’m working on, since I’m really fed up not to have a proper PHP debugging environment and I want to migrate from AMFPHP to Zend AMF. Unfortunately, the presenter was really a messy guy, and at some point I was just totally lost. His English was not very good and he was very hard to understand. So once I saw that he got debugging working in Zend Builder with Zend AMF, I just left the room.

Overall, it was a very interesting day. Oh and it’s always funny to see where geeks are ready to stick their business cards for a few gadgets :oP

Tomorrow will be a full-day lab about AIR and I hope that the content will be less frustrating than yesterday.

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