Disappointed to the MAX

This one hurts. For the last two years, I’ve trekked westward to partake of the AdobeMAX conference. A few days ago I got the bad news that The Corporation would not foot the admittedly substantial bill this time. As for paying the $1600 myself, I’d have an easier time convincing the home Board of Trustees (wife, kids, cats) of putting that money in an Icelandic bank. Jeez, it’s as if there were some kind of global economic meltdown happening. Did I miss a meeting?

MAX is Adobe’s biggest, glitziest, most-cutting edge user conference event of the year, where they show off the tools and the vision that they’re pouring their best efforts into. And it’s where the cool kids hang out. It’s the hipster Macromedia crowd, with Adobe’s $$$ to spend. The Vegas show in ’06 was particularly decadent. Someday I’ll blog about the party at Rain. Though I’d be breaking the WHAM SAM policy (What Happens At MAX, Stays At MAX). It’s easy to feel a little old amongst the sk8boarding Flex shredders. I have computers older than some of these people. But the vibe and the energy are a lot of fun. The technology is exciting. I get free drinks when people mistake me for Kevin Lynch. And after a long day in XMLand, I get treated to the vocal stylings of Richard Cheese. It is geek heaven. Man I’m gonna miss it.

MAX is where I first saw Adobe AIR, then called Apollo. Ditto for Mars technology, which is a XML-based file format for PDF rendering. Sound familiar? IDML for InDesign, XFL for Flash, Mars for PDF. To say that Adobe sees XML as the core of future publishing technology is the understatement of the year. To them, it’s not Cousin Oliver, it’s the whole damned Brady Bunch. And the ramifications are huge. These file formats will be even more revolutionary than what MP3 was to audio. No longer is content locked in a large, opaque formats. Anyone with the knowledge and a text editor can open, examine, and edit InDesign, Flash, and PDF content. Not that you would, but you could. More to the point, a developer could write an application to parse InDesign, Flash, and PDF content via XML. Oh wait, that already exists. It’s called a browser.

“But,” you say, “a browser doesn’t have a tool panel like Flash, InDesign, and Acrobat. And a browser only works when you’re connected to the internet.” Right. I hate to get all Socratic in a blog with a candy-like logo, but you just answered your own question. Adobe AIR and Flex let developers write rich internet apps that work online or offline, with all the benefits of a browser, and a completely custom interface.

If this vision becomes reality, the Creative Suite will be exploded into a thousand rich internet applications. Each customized up the wazoo. All seamlessly fitting with each other because they all speak in XML. All connected back to the Enterprise Content Mothership, be it MarkLogic, XHive, or Joe Mama’s XML Database. InDesign on your iPhone? No problem. Just deciding which flavor of “InDesign” might be the challenge. There will be hundreds.

Gotta go, there’s a board meeting in 5 minutes. The cats are demo-ing a Rich Internet Litterbox.


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