Adobe gets animated at Macworld

Summary:The company launches a direct challenge to rivals Microsoft and Macromedia with updated Web authoring and animation software. Plus, Adobe ventures into authoring content for wireless devices.

Adobe will unveil new versions of its GoLive Web authoring and LiveMotion animation software during the Macworld Expo in San Francisco on Monday. The products are the company's largest assault yet against rivals Microsoft and Macromedia and Adobe's first volley into authoring content for wireless handhelds and handsets.

GoLive 6 comes just as momentum builds for creating Web content that can be viewed on cell phones from Nokia and other handset manufacturers. Adobe is positioning GoLive as the product of choice for Web designers looking to create dynamic Web pages viewed using both computers and much smaller devices.

Both Web products will be available for Windows 2000 and XP or Mac OS 9 and OS X 10.1. GoLive 6 and LiveMotion 2 will sell for $399 each or $449 as a bundle. Adobe is running a four-month $199 promotion on LiveMotion 2.

Adobe's stock shot up 9 percent Friday after J.P. Morgan analyst Chris Galvin raised his rating to "buy" from "long-term buy" based on new products expected this week and later in the quarter. Adobe's stock closed up $2.82 to $35.90.

Adobe acquired GoLive three years ago, when the product was at version 3. GoLive 4, the first version under the Adobe brand, debuted about a month later, February 1999.

GoLive and later LiveMotion put Adobe on a collision course with Macromedia, which makes the venerable Dreamweaver Web authoring program and popular Flash animation software. But both companies' products trail Microsoft FrontPage in terms of market share, according to analysts. All three products are used to author and manage Web sites.

Adobe has made many improvements to GoLive 6 from version 5. Besides the authoring client, Adobe has added the Web Workgroup Server and Dynamic Content Server. Their addition in part accounts for the $100 price increase over GoLive 5. Both new server-based additions run on the latest Windows and Mac operating systems, respectively, XP and OS X.

The Web Workgroup Server is designed to ease the problem of multiple designers collaborating on a site, said GoLive Senior Product Manager Diana Helander.

"We heard loudly and clearly people were having trouble collaborating in Web teams," she said. Because of the kinds of programs and methods customers were forced to cobble together "it was becoming an expensive proposition when working in teams of five to 20 people," Helander added. The new workgroup server "allows teams of five to 20 people to effectively work together, keep track of versions, add comments, compare the differences between two files and use site management tools."

The server program also makes it possible for designers to collaborate using other Adobe products, such as InDesign and Live Motion, when creating Web sites.

The content server, by contrast, attempts to address a GoLive shortcoming: limited support for certain dynamic page types and scripting languages, such as PHP, Java Server Pages (JSP) and Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASP)

The Dynamic Content Server can be used "to author PHP, JSP and ASP sites visually," said GoLive Product Manager George Arriola.

New GoLive 6 client features include the stashing of design palettes to the top, bottom or side of the screen; design diagramming; importation of FrontPage Web sites and conversion to GoLive 6; visual objects for creating dynamic pages, such as ASP and JSP; QuickTime 5 streaming content creation; and authoring of SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) content, which can be played back on RealNetwork's Real One media player and some next-generation Nokia handsets that use Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) content. SMIL Animation is used to create multimedia elements with simple markup tags rather than complex programming code.

GoLive without wires
The biggest changes to the new product take GoLive beyond Web content viewed using PCs into the wireless handset space. The new version supports Wireless Markup Language (WML), Extensible Hypertext Markup Language ( XHTML) Basic and Compact HTML (cHTML). The full version of XHTML is expected to eventually replace HTML, while XHTML Basic is designed for creating Web content for smaller devices, such as cell phones.

"We now have wireless authoring capabilities for 2.5G and 3G mobile phone devices," Arriola said. "What that means is you now have the ability to either author in code view, source view or layout view visually for Nokia WML-enabled handsets, and that's for WML 1.1 through 1.3 as well their next-generation handset for XHTML basic."

While the wireless authoring feature may be appealing to many Web designers, Adobe's first iteration does have some shortcomings. For one, the designer must choose his target device at the onset and cannot easily change formats. GoLive 6 also does not offer the option to convert existing Web sites into a format usable on wireless handsets, forcing the designer to retool by hand.

"We don't actually do translations," Arriola acknowledged. "The only translation we have--and it isn't for wireless--is that you can take HTML documents into XHTML or back into HTML."

But the translation situation may be resolved by changing technology as XHTML basic replaces WML on wireless phones, said Arriola, who predicted this to happen by the end of the year. Nokia and other major Japanese handset makers "are going towards XHTML Basic in which the code is very similar so there really won't be that problem how do I get my WML content over the XHTML or cHTML."

Users of the Windows version of GoLive will be able to use emulation software to test WML and XHTML code for Nokia handsets and some others. Mac users, however, will have no such tools, which are provided by the handset makers for Windows only.

Flash in the pan
Adobe's larger challenge will be convincing Web designers to consider LiveMotion 2 as an alternative to Macromedia's Flash 5. Flash has emerged as near de facto standard for developing Web animation. The tool is particularly popular for creating Web-based games and short animated films.

With the first version of LiveMotion, Adobe hoped to create a robust time-line animation tool, but the product could not compete with Flash in terms of scripting, said LiveMotion Product Manager Michael Ninness.

Ninness said Adobe fixed that problem and more in the new version.

"Anything you can create in Flash, you can create with LiveMotion," he said.

Ninness faulted Macromedia's Web products, such as Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash, for each using different scripting languages.

"We decided to go with Java Script," he said. "It's a non-proprietary language and there are after all more Java Script developers out there than (Macromedia's) Action Script, so it should be easier for them to learn."

For those developers that would like to create Flash content using LiveMotion, Adobe's new animation product will convert Java Script to Action Script.

"By making the main authoring model Java Script, it will be easier for the general-purpose Web developer as opposed to the Flash developer," Ninness said.

Recognizing Macromedia's enormous lead in Web animation, "We're not positioning this as a replacement to Flash," Ninness said. "Flash is a very respectable product, but it has some issues on usability and also some major integration issues with the other Adobe content creation tools everyone uses, such as Photoshop and Illustrator."

Adobe will unveil new versions of its GoLive Web authoring and LiveMotion animation software during the Macworld Expo in San Francisco on Monday. The products are the company's largest assault yet against rivals Microsoft and Macromedia and Adobe's first volley into authoring content for wireless handhelds and handsets.

GoLive 6 comes just as momentum builds for creating Web content that can be viewed on cell phones from Nokia and other handset manufacturers. Adobe is positioning GoLive as the product of choice for Web designers looking to create dynamic Web pages viewed using both computers and much smaller devices.

Both Web products will be available for Windows 2000 and XP or Mac OS 9 and OS X 10.1. GoLive 6 and LiveMotion 2 will sell for $399 each or $449 as a bundle. Adobe is running a four-month $199 promotion on LiveMotion 2.

Adobe's stock shot up 9 percent Friday after J.P. Morgan analyst Chris Galvin raised his rating to "buy" from "long-term buy" based on new products expected this week and later in the quarter. Adobe's stock closed up $2.82 to $35.90.

Adobe acquired GoLive three years ago, when the product was at version 3. GoLive 4, the first version under the Adobe brand, debuted about a month later, February 1999.

GoLive and later LiveMotion put Adobe on a collision course with Macromedia, which makes the venerable Dreamweaver Web authoring program and popular Flash animation software. But both companies' products trail Microsoft FrontPage in terms of market share, according to analysts. All three products are used to author and manage Web sites.

Adobe has made many improvements to GoLive 6 from version 5. Besides the authoring client, Adobe has added the Web Workgroup Server and Dynamic Content Server. Their addition in part accounts for the $100 price increase over GoLive 5. Both new server-based additions run on the latest Windows and Mac operating systems, respectively, XP and OS X.

The Web Workgroup Server is designed to ease the problem of multiple designers collaborating on a site, said GoLive Senior Product Manager Diana Helander.

"We heard loudly and clearly people were having trouble collaborating in Web teams," she said. Because of the kinds of programs and methods customers were forced to cobble together "it was becoming an expensive proposition when working in teams of five to 20 people," Helander added. The new workgroup server "allows teams of five to 20 people to effectively work together, keep track of versions, add comments, compare the differences between two files and use site management tools."

The server program also makes it possible for designers to collaborate using other Adobe products, such as InDesign and Live Motion, when creating Web sites.

The content server, by contrast, attempts to address a GoLive shortcoming: limited support for certain dynamic page types and scripting languages, such as PHP, Java Server Pages (JSP) and Microsoft's Active Server Pages (ASP)

The Dynamic Content Server can be used "to author PHP, JSP and ASP sites visually," said GoLive Product Manager George Arriola.

New GoLive 6 client features include the stashing of design palettes to the top, bottom or side of the screen; design diagramming; importation of FrontPage Web sites and conversion to GoLive 6; visual objects for creating dynamic pages, such as ASP and JSP; QuickTime 5 streaming content creation; and authoring of SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) content, which can be played back on RealNetwork's Real One media player and some next-generation Nokia handsets that use Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) content. SMIL Animation is used to create multimedia elements with simple markup tags rather than complex programming code.

GoLive without wires
The biggest changes to the new product take GoLive beyond Web content viewed using PCs into the wireless handset space. The new version supports Wireless Markup Language (WML), Extensible Hypertext Markup Language ( XHTML) Basic and Compact HTML (cHTML). The full version of XHTML is expected to eventually replace HTML, while XHTML Basic is designed for creating Web content for smaller devices, such as cell phones.

"We now have wireless authoring capabilities for 2.5G and 3G mobile phone devices," Arriola said. "What that means is you now have the ability to either author in code view, source view or layout view visually for Nokia WML-enabled handsets, and that's for WML 1.1 through 1.3 as well their next-generation handset for XHTML basic."

While the wireless authoring feature may be appealing to many Web designers, Adobe's first iteration does have some shortcomings. For one, the designer must choose his target device at the onset and cannot easily change formats. GoLive 6 also does not offer the option to convert existing Web sites into a format usable on wireless handsets, forcing the designer to retool by hand.

"We don't actually do translations," Arriola acknowledged. "The only translation we have--and it isn't for wireless--is that you can take HTML documents into XHTML or back into HTML."

But the translation situation may be resolved by changing technology as XHTML basic replaces WML on wireless phones, said Arriola, who predicted this to happen by the end of the year. Nokia and other major Japanese handset makers "are going towards XHTML Basic in which the code is very similar so there really won't be that problem how do I get my WML content over the XHTML or cHTML."

Users of the Windows version of GoLive will be able to use emulation software to test WML and XHTML code for Nokia handsets and some others. Mac users, however, will have no such tools, which are provided by the handset makers for Windows only.

Flash in the pan
Adobe's larger challenge will be convincing Web designers to consider LiveMotion 2 as an alternative to Macromedia's Flash 5. Flash has emerged as near de facto standard for developing Web animation. The tool is particularly popular for creating Web-based games and short animated films.

With the first version of LiveMotion, Adobe hoped to create a robust time-line animation tool, but the product could not compete with Flash in terms of scripting, said LiveMotion Product Manager Michael Ninness.

Ninness said Adobe fixed that problem and more in the new version.

"Anything you can create in Flash, you can create with LiveMotion," he said.

Ninness faulted Macromedia's Web products, such as Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash, for each using different scripting languages.

"We decided to go with Java Script," he said. "It's a non-proprietary language and there are after all more Java Script developers out there than (Macromedia's) Action Script, so it should be easier for them to learn."

For those developers that would like to create Flash content using LiveMotion, Adobe's new animation product will convert Java Script to Action Script.

"By making the main authoring model Java Script, it will be easier for the general-purpose Web developer as opposed to the Flash developer," Ninness said.

Recognizing Macromedia's enormous lead in Web animation, "We're not positioning this as a replacement to Flash," Ninness said. "Flash is a very respectable product, but it has some issues on usability and also some major integration issues with the other Adobe content creation tools everyone uses, such as Photoshop and Illustrator."

Topics: Software

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