Adobe wakes to mobile world, Web standards

A Creative Suite update that works better with mobile devices and Web standards, combined with some creative iPad apps, shows Adobe's widening horizons.

Adobe's $5 Eazel finger-painting app uses a five-finger multitouch interface to set colors, opacity, and brush size, for undo and redo, and for access to some settings.
Adobe's $5 Eazel finger-painting app uses a five-finger multitouch interface to set colors, opacity, and brush size, for undo and redo, and for access to some settings. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Adobe Systems is something of an industry punching bag in some circles for offering software wedded to a personal computer era we're supposedly outgrowing.

It's time to update that corporate image.

As part of the debut of Creative Suite 5.5, the company today announced a collection of new software that includes three iPad applications; Flash tools better at creating content that reaches devices beyond PCs; and developer tools that bring some of Adobe's strength in design tools to the Web standards world of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

It's not going to be enough to placate critics who dislike the toll the Flash Player takes on their laptops' battery life (never mind that Web standards doing the same thing bring a similar penalty). But it should be enough to convince rational people that Adobe doesn't just see the world through Flash-colored glasses.

Adobe's iPhone, iPad, and Android software so far has been anemic--Photoshop Express is fine as far as it goes, but that's not that far right now. The new applications, due to arrive in May, show more promise and indicate that Adobe isn't blind to the possibilities that tablets hold for the creative set .

CS5.5 Production Premium, one of the Adobe suites being updated on the new annual interim release schedule.
CS5.5 Production Premium, one of the Adobe suites being updated on the new annual interim release schedule. Adobe Systems

Eazel, for $5, is a finger-painting app that uses a clever multitouch interface to bypass menus. Color Lava, for $3, lets people mix colors on a palette and export them to Photoshop. Least assuming but potentially most interesting is Nav, a $2 app that acts as a remote control for Photoshop running on a Wi-Fi connected computer.

The reason Nav is interesting is because it uses a new ability in a free update to Photoshop CS5 that will let other devices control the software. That means others can write their own apps--for example tutorials that actually integrate with the software.

In Web development, the Web design package Dreamweaver CS5.5 draws on standards including HTML5 and CSS3, and it folds in two outside development projects, jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap for handling mobile devices.

Of course, Adobe isn't ditching Flash. New Flash programming tools are geared for reaching mobile devices better, either through Flash directly or with Adobe's indirect repackaging route to reach Apple's iOS devices, and for making development and testing easier. Adobe estimates 131 million smartphones and 69 million tablets will have the Flash Player installed by the end of 2011.

Adobe has plenty of challenges yet. But it's adapting to a new order with more programming environments than personal computers and more cross-platform programming foundations than Flash.

 

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