By Harry McCracken | Monday, August 1, 2011 at 2:01 am
Adobe may be in no hurry to wind down its huge, aging, sometimes frustrating business built around Flash, but it isn’t dumb. It’s obvious that the future of rich Web sites–especially on phones and tablets–is about HTML5. And therefore it’s practically mandatory that Adobe release an application that lets creative types build such sites–a program that can join Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and other Adobe products as a standard part of the world’s design toolbox.
That product is called Adobe Edge, and it’s now available in a free very-early-preview version that Adobe says isn’t even a beta yet. It joins Wallaby, a Flash-to-HTML5 converter, among the company’s offering for an era in which Flash is hardly dead and HTML5 is still getting going.
Like Flash Pro, Edge is built around a timeline editor. But it’s not a Flash clone: the interface is quite different. And in its current incarnation, Edge is an animation tool: there’s no way to add interactivity or logic or video or any of the other things that would allow designers to build full-on Web apps that would truly give Flash a run for its money. You can’t even draw any shapes except for rectangles and rounded-corner rectangles.
Adobe says it plans to build Edge out feature-by-feature in future previews, taking user input into account along the way, until it has a more well-rounded product that it can officially ship. (The company isn’t saying when or how it plans to release the final product, but it seems inevitable that it’ll eventually be part of one or more editions of its Creative Suite megabundle of design applications.)
How far will Adobe take Edge? We’ll see. But the company sounds like it’s being serious and ambitious and doesn’t intend to dumb Edge down to prop up Flash. It says that it sees Flash continuing to be the most logical tool for certain types of creations, such as advanced games–which is another way of saying that HTML5 will be capable of doing most of the things that Flash does today. (Of course, HTML5 living up to its potential is contingent on browser makers and other interested parties finalizing its features and supporting them in a more or less consistent fashion: at the moment, HTML5 is different things to different people, and it’s sure not the same thing in every major browser.)
It’s certainly in Adobe’s interest to have a polished, comprehensive Edge ready by the time HTML5 loses some of its current experimental tinge. Some software company is going to come up with the definitive HTML5 authoring package. If Adobe doesn’t pour its heart into making Edge that product, it’s opening up a huge opportunity for some other outfit. Even if Flash doesn’t fade away as quickly as some folks expect (and, often, hope) that it will.