Getting to know Adobe
Flash Collaboration Service
by Varun Parmar
At Adobe MAX 2008 in San Francisco, California, Adobe launched Adobe Flash Collaboration Service. Currently in beta, Adobe Flash Collaboration Service is a platform as a service that enables you to easily add real-time social capabilities, such as chat, VoIP, and webcam video, to applications created with Adobe Flex and Flash.
At its core, Adobe Flash Collaboration Service consists of Flex-based client components and a hosted-services infrastructure. In this article, I provide an overview of Adobe Flash Collaboration Service, highlight several use-case scenarios, and offer a sneak peak at the product roadmap.
Huge business opportunity
Given the present economic situation, it's critical for developers to differentiate and identify new sources of revenue growth. One way is to target the untapped and colossal business opportunity associated with developing in-context collaborative applications. But first, what is an in-context collaborative application? At a high-level, these applications have some common characteristics:
- Mode of Collaboration: What is the preferred way to enable collaboration for the specific use-case that the application intends to address for users? Is it text-based chat, VoIP, webcam video, or all of these? Augmenting the primary application with only those collaboration components — those that best meet the use-case needs — provides a superior user experience.
- Context-sensitive: It is imperative for some applications to ensure that context is always maintained for users. For example, if I'm a financial securities trader, then it is critical that I always have access to the live market data feed, and any other application I interact with needs to be in-context to the market data feed. In other words, other applications need to be embedded into the primary application in a way that users perceive other applications as native to the primary application.
- Collaborative: Enabling a mode of collaboration in an application that addresses the needs of specific users can make it indispensable. Whether you add text-based chat, VoIP, webcam video, or all of the above, collaborative applications augment a primary application with the real-time mode of collaboration that best meets the needs of specific users.
- Multiuser/social: Some applications become inherently more useful when more people use them. Such applications benefit from the phenomenon known as network externalities. For example, Facebook becomes more valuable to me as more of my friends and family join the social network.
In-context collaborative applications offer enormous potential to improve the bottom line in various application categories. The following are some high-level examples to get your mind churning about how you might be able to incorporate social capabilities into your application and seize the opportunity to differentiate yourself as a developer:
- E-commerce support: Did you know that 97.5% of online shoppers select an item, arrive at checkout, and then abandon their cart. Imagine being able to assist customers at the critical point of the purchase process. Augmenting the shopping cart with online assistance through chat, VoIP, or webcam video can lead to higher conversion rates, which means higher sales.
- Interactive dashboards: Most web-based dashboards today don't support co-browsing, and decision makers are left to engage in an asynchronous mode of collaboration (typically through e-mail) to discuss the implications of the data exposed through the dashboards. Wouldn't it be compelling if you could enable decision makers to engage in a dialogue right at the source of truth and arrive at conclusions much faster?
- eLearning enablement: The need for training keeps increasing even as budgets get tighter. Companies of all sizes are investing more and more in web-based learning programs to equip the workforce with new skills and capabilities while at the same time meeting compliance requirements. Adding productivity-enhancing features such as polling and whiteboarding can vastly increase the appeal of your eLearning applications.
- Virtual worlds and casual online games: Building online multiplayer games can be challenging and time-consuming. Game developers have a strong desire to work with productivity-enhancing technologies, and Adobe Flash Collaboration Service enables them to quickly and effortlessly add real-time collaboration features.
We are currently working toward a commercial launch of Adobe Flash Collaboration Service sometime this year. As such, we want to keep you informed of the progress we are making against our roadmap. Here's a sneak peek at the things we are working on in rough chronological order:
- Server-to-server management APIs: We know developers want to be able to control more processes remotely in their Adobe Flash Collaboration Service rooms. We have plans to allow bots in rooms, automate more tasks via HTTPS, and generally make it easier for developers to integrate their back-end business logic with our real-time sessions.
- An e-commerce infrastructure for services: How many developer services does Adobe currently sell? That's right, none. We're working with various teams inside Adobe to get the mechanics in place so we can actually charge for usage of Adobe Flash Collaboration Service.
- Recording and playback of data and A/V streams: We can't promise this will happen very soon, but we're actively prototyping for recording and playback of data. We have many interesting and difficult problems to solve before we can offer this as a service, but we're working on it.
- Continual improvements in reliability, availability, and scalability: Before we start charging, we want to ensure we have a rock-solid backbone. So far, the beta is going well, but we're always working to make sure we can handle demand.
If you are ready to commercialize your Adobe Flash Collaboration Service powered application, then we currently offer two options:
- AFCS Pilot/Commercial Program: We've been working with some lighthouse customers to validate their technology and business plan. We're going to open this program up to more people and let them build commercial applications with Adobe Flash Collaboration Service before it's broadly available. To be considered for this program, send an e-mail to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include information about your application and commercial launch plan.
- Pilot program for enterprises and government institutions: We've partnered with ConnectSolutions, LLC to offer a single-tenant, dedicated, managed service for enterprises and FISMA-compliant deployment for government institutions. To learn more, visit FlashGrid.
Now Flex developers can build real-time, multiuser applications in less time than ever before. Download the free Adobe Flash Collaboration Service SDK from Adobe Labs and experiment for yourself.
To sign up for a free account and get your first app up and running, read Ryan Stewart's article, Getting started with Adobe Flash Collaboration Service beta, on Adobe Developer Connection.
To review the gallery of highlighted applications, visit the Adobe Flash Collaboration Service Showcase.
To ask questions, find answers, and offer feedback, visit the Adobe Flash Collaboration Service forum.
For latest announcements please visit our blog:
Varun Parmar is product manager for Adobe Flash Collaboration Service at Adobe. He has also worked at Cisco Systems in an operations strategy role for the Optical Networking Group, as well as at iPark, an international information technology-focused venture capital and business incubator.