Thursday, May 01, 2008

What is the meaning of "open" for Adobe?

Adobe have announced an Open Screen Project, based on Flash and AIR, and have already decided to open up on some licences. Details on the Techcrunch blog. “A consistent, more open platform for developers will drive rapid innovation, vastly improving the user experience” said Shantanu Narayen, chief executive officer at Adobe.

"Open Screen" has a good sound to it. Open Source has possibly the best branding buzz since the word "extreme". But there must be grounds for caution when looking at a format supported by large organisations. MTV have tended to respect digital rights. Nothing wrong with that of course but perhaps the policy on digital rights management should be fully described before the Open Screen is adopted more widely. I myself took out a sub through BT for download music that was then suddenly disabled one day following a change of policy. This was quite a while ago so I try to keep an open mind.

Kevin Lynch, Chief Technology Officer, has a video for developers. No mention of PDF or Postscript so a significant change from the previous Chief Technology Officer, John Warnock.

What I think is that PDF should get a mention and also the fact it is rarely mentioned in the context of open source or cheap deals to drive rapid innovation is disturbing. Acrobat still accounts for much of the Adobe income and is still fairly expensive. The Reader is a large download mostly because it already has many features of the full product except they are turned off. So the server software has not got much to do, whatever it costs per seat or per document, than to message Reader to turn things on again. then fuctionality for saving data in forms or adding comments, all the stuff of collaboration, becomes possible. My guess is that similar functionality will be available in AIR at no additional cost at all once the browser is enabled.

As mentioned previously in this blog, there is a project in the labs called MARS which is an XML rewrite of the PDF format. It could be very useful for XML data and connecting with open source software such as the open document format. Worth a mention, you might think. Later today there is a webcast for financial analysts, available on archive for the next fortnight or so. Probably no mention of MARS, my guess. It may happen sometime, but PDF seems to have lost mindshare.

“The market is transitioning from the connected home office to the multimedia enabled home,” said Ned Hooper, senior vice president, Corporate Development, Consumer and Small Business Group at Cisco.

This may be true, but the office is still there and is worth some attention.

The print industry should be very concerned about this balance of presentation. There may be some last minute announcements ahead of drupa but the energy could well be on Creative Suite for mobile devices. Could they turn up at a print show and talk about video like this? Maybe there is a point to this in where the communications market is going. So I don't disagree on the sense of the moves being made. Just that an explanation that included the previous Adobe fans would not have much of a disadvantage. Especially if the open approach reached more of Acrobat.

PDF is now an ISO standard although this is not widely publicised. In January Linux Watch reported Kevin Lynch as saying-

"Today's announcement is the next logical step in the evolution of PDF from de facto standard to a formal, de jure standard. By releasing the full PDF specification for ISO standardization, we are reinforcing our commitment to openness. As governments and organizations increasingly request open formats, maintenance of the PDF specification by an external and participatory organization will help continue to drive innovation and expand the rich PDF ecosystem that has evolved over the past 15 years."

So MARS may crop up sometime.


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