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Adobe Pitches Scenario for a Video Web
Postscript repositioned as a legacy product
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2007-04-03 16:53 (KST)   
Over two days of New York meetings for professional creatives and financial analysts, Adobe announced new versions of their software suites and outlined their take on a future Web based on video and mobility. Webcasts of both meetings are recorded on the Adobe Web site. Their slogan about revolutionizing the world of media and communication appears to be genuinely believed by people at Adobe as the current income from streaming video to mobile phones is not a significant part of turnover.

By contrast there was less attention for Postscript, the original Adobe project for describing pages and the traditional involvement in design for the printed page. Adobe first achieved designer mindshare with Postscript as an industry standard to describe pages and this technology was a basis for the Portable Document Format, still a major part of Adobe turnover.

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The idea that the Web is moving from text to video has been discussed recently by print journalists and may explain the emphasis on Flash. Adobe bought Macromedia in 2005 because of the important potential they see that Flash can contribute to the Web.

For the professional creatives the number of variations on the creative suite package required detailed explanation. The easiest to understand are those for the Web and for video. Then there is "design" as if the others are not design.

"Design" includes print, but the premium version includes Flash and Dreamweaver as well for the Web and mobile devices. The standard just has illustration, photo edit, and page makeup. In my opinion this is still most of what most people need and from the presentation to financial analysts it seems Adobe expect the Design Edition to be the most popular. The Web site has a Flash design that is not easy to navigate if you are just interested in what your bundle of choice is called.

Main contents of each bundle

Will Pollard

InDesign for printed pages, Photoshop for editing photos (Extended for 3D) , Illustrator for graphics, Acrobat to create PDF files, Flash for animation, Dreamweaver for Web pages, Contribute for text changes on Web pages, Fireworks for Web graphics.

The Production Bundle includes Premiere for editing video and After Effects for special effects. The "Master Collection" includes everything.

The presentation for financial analysts explained more about other Adobe products and their thinking on future directions. It may not yet be clear to designers that Adobe are already trying to reach a wider audience. Acrobat, used to create Portable Document Files (PDF), has had a 3D version for a couple of years promoted to engineers, architects and other sectors where documents need to include 3D.

Photoshop, used to edit photographs, has now been extended to connect with 3D and this can be used with medical scanning. The most expensive version also has ways to calculate volumes. There is a more limited version that is adequate for flat images used in print. So the advanced design skills are moving into sectors where previously the software used was thought of as general office productivity.

There is also a move to offer some limited functions online for editing photos and videos. This may be financed by advertising through sites such as Photobucket.

There is already a version of Photoshop for anyone with a digital camera, but the online service is aimed wider still. This is partly in anticipation of more software moving online. By contrast a new project currently called Apollo is intended to allow Flash design to continue on the desktop even without an online connection. This is suitable for form filling or other work with data. The examples shown were based on Flash as a Web interface for forms with PDF kept for a record to print out later.

One early example of Apollo will be a Digital Editions reader that will work with PDF documents and other designs from the new creative suite. As a plugin for Flash it will take less time to download than the Adobe Reader previously known as Acrobat Reader. There may be some confusion as to what reader is required for an e-book. My own experience so far is that the Digital Editions reader has no way to copy the text or graphics and paste them somewhere else. I find this a problem but it may appeal to publishers. The digital rights controls may be stronger with Digital Editions than in a reader for PDF though my expectation is that publishing will continue in PDF as people will find it more useful.

Flash is the most promoted aspect of the latest Acrobat, in the form of Connect -- a video conferencing service. This was used for the Webcast of the financial analysts meeting. Previously there has been a combination of direct video and PDF downloads of the presentations. This had some advantages as the PDF was a record of what was said. Connect is a move away from pages with text towards video, even if words occasionally pass by.

There has been a relevant recent discussion involving print journalists about the way that the Web is moving from text to video. They may just have noticed that newspapers are beginning to use video or there may be more to it. Michael Rosenblum has a copy of most of a Guardian article by Ian Reeves, who has some related video on his own site. Rosenblum is quoted as distinguishing between Web 1.0 as based on text and Web 2.0 as based on video. Personally I find the use of Webs 1.0 or 2.0 confusing but the idea of a text Web and a video Web is interesting. The video on Ian Reeves's site shows several examples of newspapers moving to the Web.

Adobe demonstrated how video can be streamed to mobile phones. NTT Docomo have offered i-channel in Japan for a while. Verizon will have a service in the U.S.A. later this year. So there are examples of the technology in use but it will be a while before this is widely accepted. At the moment most of the Web is still made up of text pages with some graphics or links to animation of various kinds. Search engines will continue to relate to text. Searching through pattern recognition in images is a long way off. For offline devices there is more interest in portable DVD players than in any e-book. The e-book has been talked about for many years now but it seems that video has actually arrived. So it is plausible that a move to a Web largely composed of video would be welcomed if the bandwidth was available and there was suitable content.

There was almost no time spent on Postscript, now part of the "Classic Publishing" business unit based in India. No speaker was invited to New York. Adobe's Shantanu Narayan did say that Postscript remains "a very profitable business" allowing Adobe "to invest in other growth opportunities." One unfortunate consequence of this low priority for hard copy is that some features in Acrobat are hidden from most users. Since version 7 it has been possible to start a Job Definition Format to describe a print requirement alongside a PDF with the content. This is rarely used as nobody knows about it. Many knowledge workers still have a need for hard copy but Adobe is more likely to tell them about video conferencing because this is part of an imagined future. Matt Thompson, senior vice president of worldwide field operations, described print and classic publishing as part of the "legacy products."

There was no mention of MARS, a new format for PDF based on XML and SVG. XML is widely supported for data exchange and is consistent with Scalable Vector Graphics. Adobe's Bruce Chizen did admit that Microsoft may cause some problems for Adobe if they behave like a monopoly. He did not consider that the XML Paper Specification that is part of Vista would make much impact on knowledge workers because of the wide acceptance of PDF as a standard. In my opinion Global Graphics may be more dangerous in the limited world of litho print once known as the "high end," just because Adobe do not seem very interested. Global Graphics support both PDF and XPS and are concentrated in this area.

Bruce Chizen also mentioned open source as competition and there is now a wide area where open source can be effective. The Open Document Format is supported in both Open Office and Google Docs and both can save to PDF. This is the feature of the latest Microsoft Office to which Chizen has objected but was already in Writely before it became Google Docs. Scribus is desk top publishing software that is also based on XML and open source. Importing the Open Document Format is not a problem. There is discussion on the Web site about integration with the Job Definition Format and also connections with content management. The current features of Scribus are at least comparable with an industry standard such as Quark as used within the last decade. It may lack a feature such as transparency but this is something many people have managed without.

Open source can cover the requirements of a text Web and the remaining world of hard copy. The hard copy needs something like a PDF designed for press and some description such as JDF. Given the rush to video and Web animation by the major software companies it could be the open source community that takes advantage of the scope around XML. The text Web will continue for some time and open source will be stronger in video over time. The Adobe launch of Creative Suite indicates that the video Web has started.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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