Adobe is unleashing Creative Suite (CS) 5.5. The number after the decimal point indicates that this is an incremental update, but CS 5.5 includes a number of impressive improvements and tools that make it feel more like a major release. At the same time, CS 5.5 shows that Adobe has no intention of fading away any time soon.
The very public battle between Apple and Adobe over the exclusion of Adobe Flash from Apple's iOS mobile devices seemed to suggest that Adobe's best days were behind it. The move across much of the Web, and with browsers like Internet Explorer 9 to embrace HTML5 seemed to indicate that perhaps Flash was becoming obsolete.
Adobe either didn't get those messages, or simply didn't accept them. Instead, Adobe developed CS 5.5 which adeptly straddles the line between the traditional Adobe tools and emerging new technologies to give developers a platform that delivers both. CS 5.5 can help developers make the transition to embrace newer technologies, and help Adobe remain relevant at the same time.
With CS 5.5, Dreamweaver has integrated support for iQuery and HTML5. The inclusion of HTML5 support means that Flash developers can seamlessly work with either platform rather than being forced to choose between the two.
Al Hilwa, an IDC Analyst, likes the direction Adobe is heading in. "This is a great strategy for them because plugin approaches will always own the high-end of graphics manipulation, but HTML5 will be very widely adopted for all other Websites."
As critical as the Flash vs. HTML5 battle is for interactive Web content in general, the major battle ground for Adobe has been mobile. The rise of smartphones and tablets has shifted the focus to mobile devices. Flashbuilder 4.5 is capable of creating apps compatible with both Android (including the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet) and Apple's iOS, giving Adobe a solid platform for addressing the mobile market.
Hilwa commends Adobe's evolution as a mobile platform. "Adobe has been executing steadily in mobile, and while the closed nature of mobile platforms has been a set-back, I think Adobe has made substantial progress here. I will keep watching for WebOS and Windows Phone 7 support with the AIR runtime."
Adobe CS 5 was launched just under a year ago, at the end of April, 2010, and the suite is not cheap. Developers who invested in CS 5 will want CS 5.5 in order to take advantage of the tools for developing mobile apps, but may not be willing to pay too much for it. Upgrade pricing for Adobe developers running CS 5 could be a crucial factor in the success of CS 5.5.
But, Adobe is also introducing a subscription model. The subscriptions are not cheap -- starting at $35 a month -- but will enable developers to always have the latest version without having to invest so much money with each release.