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Adobe Creative Suite 5.5: Not just a dot release

by David Wadhwani

History tells us that the software industry does not evolve linearly. Instead it evolves with sudden bursts of disruption followed by a lengthy period of normalization followed by another burst of disruption. I think it’s fair to say that we are at the tail end of one of those cyclical bursts as it relates to how content is authored, but we are only at the beginning of a profound period of normalization as it relates to how content is delivered, consumed, and monetized. This round of disruption was caused by the confluence of multiple shifts that all happened at the same time:

Under normal circumstances, any one of these changes would have represented significant opportunities for some organizations and threats to others, but the fact that they are all overlapping represents an even bigger set of challenges and opportunities with far-reaching impact.

It’s clear that several things will change in the near term:

Put simply, everyone wants better ways to build content for these devices, and they want to start looking for new ways to monetize the content they build. 

Adobe plays an important role here, and we have realized that our historical 18-month release cycles are not going to be sufficient to address these rapidly evolving trends. So Adobe decided to ship major milestone releases of Adobe Creative Suite software approximately every two years, with mid-cycle releases that incorporate the most critical features customers need in the interim years. The first mid-cycle release is Creative Suite 5.5, and it addresses these challenges.

Creating for devices

At Adobe, we clearly see three top priorities coming from you, our customers:

Creative Suite 5.5 helps make all of these things happen.

Mobile applications

Creative Suite 5.5 includes major enhancements to Adobe Flash Professional and Adobe Flash Builder software, and augments the Flex Framework with new mobile development features. You will be able to use Adobe tools to effectively build mobile applications, preview them through device emulation on your development machines, and debug them while directly running the apps on devices. We will also be adding native code extensibility to Adobe AIR in the months ahead, which will give you the flexibility to mix native code with Flash-based applications when you absolutely need the performance benefits of low-level code or access to an API that we have not yet exposed in AIR. You can then output native package formats and deploy them through standard application stores (such as Android Market, Apple’s App Store, and BlackBerry App World, to name a few).

I’m very excited about the path Adobe is on. I believe we are providing the best cross-platform solution for high-end smartphone and tablet applications that gives you all the benefits of cross-platform without many of the limitations. 

Check out what Christophe Coenraets (one of our enterprise evangelists) has been building recently on his blog.

Customers have also been speaking out and showing what’s possible. As an example, check out this video from two of our customers.

Multiscreen browser content

Creative Suite 5.5 also enables you to efficiently design and develop rich browser-based content for desktops and devices.  

One way Adobe is making that happen is by contributing even more to relevant open source technologies and participating in the appropriate HTML5 and CSS3 standards discussions. As such Adobe is already actively contributing to jQuery to make that framework mobile-friendly, and we are investigating the possibility of contributing an animation framework. We are also engaged with the CSS3 working group to improve HTML layout and text-flow support to enable richer magazine layouts in HTML.

These contributions benefit HTML of course, but they also enable us to create authoring tools that help you be even more productive. New Adobe Dreamweaver CS5.5 HTML5 and CSS3 features include jQuery support, CSS3 code hinting, advanced media queries, Design view with screen resolution controls, visualization of the Document Object Model (DOM), and browser support in BrowserLab. 

Digital magazines and corporate collateral

Creative Suite 5.5 also enables you to create highly immersive digital magazines and corporate collateral (such as product manuals, retail catalogs, and marketing brochures) using Adobe InDesign CS5.5 software for distribution to all the major tablets: iPad, BlackBerry PlayBook, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and other Android devices. 

Using InDesign to create print magazines or corporate collateral, you can easily add rich, interactive overlays using built-in capabilities (like video, audio, 360-degree views, and slide shows) or by building custom capabilities using HTML5 or Flash.

The output from InDesign CS5.5 can be uploaded to the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite hosted solution (which is covered in more detail later in this article).

Creating on devices

While mobile devices are largely viewed as consumption devices today, creative professionals have clearly told us that they are interested in leveraging tablets in the creation process. Customers wish to express their creative ideas on these new devices and want them integrated into their natural workflows (which start and end with Creative Suite). 

As you probably know, we dabbled with this when we released Adobe Ideas a year ago. To date, it has been downloaded 2.25 million times on iPad (which has sold roughly 15 million units). Given the success of Adobe Ideas and Photoshop Express (which to date has been downloaded more than 20 million times on iOS and Android smartphones), we have decided to take another important step with the Creative Suite 5.5 release.

A free update to Photoshop CS5 enables a tablet or smartphone app to communicate with the Photoshop scripting engine — via a WiFi network connection. This opens the door for app developers to build companion tablet apps that interact with Photoshop. 

Adobe is shipping three tablet apps to get things started:

These three apps are fun and useful, and will hopefully spur Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS, and iOS developers to create some exciting extensions to Photoshop in the months ahead.  You can see several demos on Adobe TV.

Delivering and monetizing content with Adobe Digital Publishing Suite

With all this new content being created for tablets, our customers are increasingly interested in how they can deploy, analyze, optimize, and monetize it. The strongest feedback comes from magazine publishers, but we’re starting to see early indications of strong interest from publishers of retail catalogs, corporate collateral, comic books, children’s books, and more. To help address this, Adobe launched Digital Publishing Suite Enterprise Edition a few months ago, and we have now launched a Professional Edition for traditional magazine and business publishers with Creative Suite 5.5. 

Adobe Digital Publishing Suite enables teams across departments and agencies to take output from InDesign and assemble a complete publication in a hosted service. The service then allows the publication to be fulfilled to Android devices, BlackBerry PlayBook, and iPad. All the content is integrated with Adobe’s Online Marketing Suite, which shows which articles are being read and which advertisements are being viewed. Content can be monetized through single-issue purchases using the standard app store payment infrastructure, integration with industry-specific subscription services, or in-app purchases. More than 250 titles have been published using Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. You can see them at the Digital Publishing Gallery

Video production performance

The other big story of the Creative Suite 5.5 release is video production. The video production space continues to evolve as publishers need to manage more content and get it produced faster. Creative Suite 5 was an incredible release for Adobe in this area, but we wanted to continue the momentum by having a full release of the video products in 5.5, including but not limited to:

Onward

At Adobe, we know that designers and developers need new content-creation capabilities more frequently than they have gotten them in the past so they can keep up with today’s evolving market. We believe that Creative Suite 5.5 is a timely and innovative release that helps you keep pace with this new world. We look forward to seeing what you create with it.

 

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As senior vice president and general manager of the Creative and Interactive Solutions business unit, David Wadhwani leads Adobe's development of end-to-end solutions for content publishers and application developers.