Over the past 5 years, I have been deeply involved in data visualization at one level or another, though my attention and interests have been primarily focused on Xcelsius as a dashboard and data visualization application (if you have not figured that out by the content on this blog). From what I know, Xcelsius was the first full blown business application built around Macromedia’s Flash technology. In essence, Xcelsius is a customized Flash component compiler, though there is much more to it making it a great tool.. Adobe’s Flash technology has evolved from a vector animation tool used for web sites, to a robust development platform with Flex. As a Flash designer in the late 90’s, it has been quite astounding to see the evolution of this technology and its contribution for accelerating the standards for user experience and data visualization.
Changing Landscape for UI Design
With the introduction of Microsoft Expression and Adobe Apollo (code name for Adobe’s new desktop application framework) in 2007, we are about to see the next great change in what we consider “user friendly” experiences for desktop applications. The role of the user experience professional and graphic designer will expand, as the collaborative creation process between designers and developers becomes much easier. It is understood that generally, developers don’t make the best designers or UI designers.
For today, I will address Adobe Apollo, which is the codename for Adobe’s new framework for building rich internet applications on the desktop. Adobe’s acquired Flash technology has revolutionized the way we interact with web applications with sharp vector graphics, sophisticated animation, and multimedia (sound and video). At the end of the day, the end user has been stuck in the browser environment, which has several restrictive security settings do to the volatile nature of browsing the internet. This is where Adobe Apollo will come into play to alleviate these issues by leverage the power of the Flex platform for development, Flash for rich user experience, and a native HTML and PDF viewer (all wrapped up into a desktop framework).
What does this mean?
An extremely powerful medium for presenting information for use with any on-demand business model. For end users, the quality and “cool factor” for your desktop applications will expand beyond your wildest dreams. Since we are not restricted by the browser, and wasted bandwidth for downloading all of the UI components, developers can create a efficient balance between on demand content, and embedded content on the desktop. Did I meantion that this framework is cross platform? Finally, for all of those Flash based widget framworks…you better find your niche and hold on for dear life!
While I did not get into MS Expression, there is some major overlap between these technologies. I think that the major adoption barrier for Adobe, is the number of Flex developers V.S. Visual Studio and .NET developers who can now look to Expression for robust user interface design. I know that Adobe has an aggressive go to market strategy, but verdict is still out in the enterprise software space. For the consumer market, I can’t wait to see how companies like Ebay and Amazon apply this technology.