Adobe launches HTML5 rich media editor

The new Adobe Edge application replicates some of Flash's capabilities using Web standards

Planting the seeds to potentially disrupt its own successful franchise in Flash-based animation, Adobe has released a preview version of a new application, called Adobe Edge, designed for assembling dynamic Web content using HTML5 and related open Web standards, the company announced Monday.

"This is a motion and interactive tool for designers who want to build interactive Web content using Web standards," said Adobe Group Product Manager Devin Fernandez.

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Traditionally, Web designers have used Adobe Flash, or a competitor such as Microsoft Silverlight, to add snazzy animated and interactive content to Web pages, in the form of introductory splash screen pages, interactive charts, short videos or banner advertisements. Adobe estimates that 99 percent of all desktop computers possess the player needed to run Flash files.

Over the past few years however, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and other standards bodies have developed a handful of specifications that can be used to make similar rich content. Browser makers are incorporating these standards--such as HTML5, the Canvas tags, JavaScript and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)--into their own browsers, eliminating the need for a separate plug-in, such as the Flash player.

Also not helping Adobe's fortunes any has been Apple, whose CEO, Steve Jobs, has criticized Flash in the past for being too buggy, urging developers to move to HTML5 instead.

"More workloads that were previously reserved for Flash are now being done with Web standards," Fernandez admitted. "We see that as a huge opportunity for the company, to help people take advantage of HTML5."

This tool uses HTML5, CSS and Javascript to insert animated Web content directly onto an HTML page. In an approach similar to Adobe's Flash authoring tool, Edge permits a developer to change the attributes of an image or an HTML element over a pre-set length of time, giving the resulting Web page an animated feel.

"Adobe has shown that it can pivot nicely to new trends. It shows that they can remain the premier tools vendor no matter what the technology inside is," said IDC applications development analyst Al Hilwa. "There are very few companies in tune with designer needs and sensibilities as much as Adobe is, and this tool really shows it. It brings the time-line model familiar to many Flash developers to the new world of HTML5 and JavaScript, while retaining the integrity of the code."

Adobe does not expect that Edge will supplant Flash entirely, at least not in the near future. "Flash technology will remain a key component for specific use cases, such as high-end video or gaming," Fernandez said. "We definitely see HTML5 and Flash continuing to co-exist, and so we'll continue to work on solutions for both at Adobe. Users will decide what technology they will use."

The preview edition is available as a free download. Adobe expects to release the final commercial version sometime in 2012, Fernandez said. Versions will be available for both Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh computers.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's email address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com.

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