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Adobe: Expect location-linked mobile apps

CTO Kevin Lynch demonstrates apps that pop up when you enter a museum or get near a friend--and of course hopes coders will build those apps with Adobe tools.

Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch
Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch Stephen Shankland/CNET

LONDON--In the future, somebody walking into a hotel room or a museum will get the opportunity to install an app for that location, Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch predicted.

The idea, which Lynch demonstrated at the Open Mobile Summit here to show just how feasible it is, stems from the ever-tighter links between the physical and virtual worlds we inhabit. And it shows that there's still plenty of room for mobile devices to become even more important in people's lives, as if there were any doubt.

"There's a strong future for us with this social- and location-based kind of computing enabled by mobile," Lynch said.

In the first demonstration, a notification arrived on Lynch's Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet when he arrived at the Tate Modern--or at least at a demo version of the museum. The notification offered him an app for the museum with details of paintings and exhibits, something that could replace the audio guides now commonly rented in such areas.

"Proximity sensing will be at a granular-enough level that you'll be able to know where a person is within a few feet," he said.

Another demo showed him ordering food with the tablet at the museum's cafe. A separate app arrived at his hotel room to let him browse the hotel's movies and show his photos off on its TV screen.

"My tablet or my phone can be a controller for the devices in my room," he said.

Location technology could also trigger actions when you're close to a person. Lynch showed an app that let him browse a bookshelf of publicly shared magazines and books on a friend's mobile device. He could electronically "borrow" copies of magazines, getting permission to read them for a few hours. After that, he'd have to buy his own electronic copy.

Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch demonstrates apps that arrive when a person reaches a specific location such as in a museum or near a friend.
Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch demonstrates apps that arrive when a person reaches a specific location such as in a museum or near a friend. Stephen Shankland/CNET

The demo isn't far from today's technological abilities, he said.

"Some of this ready," he said. "This peer-to-peer awareness of devices is something that's becoming possible now. It's enabled in Flash and AIR now," two Adobe software foundations for running apps across a wide range of devices.

Adobe is aggressively trying to adapt Flash for mobile devices--a challenge, given its roots on more powerful personal computers and given the user interface requirements of mobile devices.

Adobe isn't all about Flash these days, though. Lynch also touted Adobe's work to give Web publishing magazine-style sophistication, work that's happening with mainstream Web standards and contributed to the open-source WebKit browser.

AIR lets programmers reach multiple devices, he said, demonstrating the same chess game running on a Galaxy Tab, a RIM PlayBook, and an Apple iPad.