April 15, 2010, 11:44 AM

Adobe launches a cool tool for web designers, but Apple sours on it

With Adobe’s new Creative Suite 5, web designers have a user-friendly way to build Flash-enabled applications—like videos with buy buttons—and deploy them across multiple e-commerce and m-commerce platforms without having to work with software code. But because of a block of CS5 by Apple Inc., designers will still have to turn to software code developers skilled in Apple’s technology to build apps for the iPhone and iPad, experts say.

With Adobe’s new Creative Suite 5, web designers have a user-friendly way to build Flash-enabled applications—like videos with buy buttons—and deploy them across multiple e-commerce and m-commerce platforms without having to work with software code. But because of a block of CS5 by Apple Inc., designers will still have to turn to software code developers skilled in Apple’s technology to build apps for the iPhone and iPad, experts say.

“Adobe has this great new product that builds on the ubiquitous presence of Flash across most computers, and even though they made it easy to make their Flash content work on the iPhone and iPad, Apple is blocking it from its products,” says Sheri McLeish, an analyst in information and knowledge management systems for research and advisory firm Forrester Research Inc.

To develop rich media and video content for Apple’s products, web designers are still limited to working only with Apple’s preferred Objective-C programming language, which Apple has been relying on for years, technology analysts say. “Apple has said that it doesn’t want Flash on the iPhone because it’s buggy, but the real reason is that Apple is trying to be very controlling,” says Al Hilwa, program director for applications development software at research and advisory firm IDC. “Apple wants everything channeled through them to control the customer experience.”

Adobe released this week its Creative Suite 5, which comes with the new Flash Catalyst application for designing interactive Flash content without having to write software code. The suite, which also includes Photoshop, Dreamweaver and other Adobe tools for building online content, comes with 250 new features. The suite also includes web analytics technology from Omniture, which Adobe acquired last year, and provides support for both Windows and Mac operating environments. “This release first and foremost addresses the challenges facing publishers and creatives worldwide—how to build profitable businesses around digital content,” says Adobe president and CEO Shantanu Narayen.

Aside from Apple’s technology, the CS5 suite supports web content design and development on all other major e-commerce and m-commerce operating systems, including the Android, Symbian and BlackBerry platforms for mobile devices. Analysts say this is likely to result in extensive development of Flash-enabled interactive content despite Apple’s opposition, and it could even leave Apple playing catch-up, experts say.

Although a dominant player now in advanced smartphones and other mobile devices, Apple could see the popularity of other Flash-enabled mobile devices surge in popularity at the expense of its own products, Hilwa says. On the other hand, he adds, Flash itself may eventually get surpassed by new technologies, notably HTML5, a new version of the hypertext markup language common on web sites.

HTML5, which is still under development under the guidance of the WorldWideWeb Consortium, the web’s standard-setting body, is designed to support the display of rich media within web browsers. But difficulties in establishing common technology standards for HTML5 is likely to delay its deployment for three to five years or more, Hiwa says.

In the near term, Apple’s resistance to cooperating with Adobe will prevent web designers and developers from creating applications that can run across all platforms, analysts say. Apps they develop for Apple’s products will have to be native only to those products.

“There are a lot of web developers and designers who would really like to target the iPhone or iPad as well as other mobile devices, and do it with the tools they use today like Flash, so it’s unfortunate that Apple has chosen to pull the rug out from under Adobe in particular and cross-platform mobile development in general,” says Jeffrey Hammond, a web technology analyst at Forrester Research. “I have to recommend that our clients not target the iPhone with anything other than a pure native mobile development approach in the near term. That’s unfortunate, because the net result is that it’s going to cost companies significantly more to target the iPhone as part of a cross-platform mobile initiative.”

Adobe has priced CS5 at about $2599 for its Master Collection, which includes Photoshop, Flash Catalyst, Dreamweaver and other tools. It is also offering lower pricing for individual tools.

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