Just came back from the Flash Forward
conference in Herbst Theatre, San Francisco. Walking up, there was a big crowd milling outside... heard they sold out the place. Coupled with the New York Times saying that "the web is boring"
these are good signs that things are turning around.... ;-)
One of the things I like best about FlashForward is how people come from all over the world... for me, it's very important that these advances be available to people in a wide range of cultures, places and situations, so I'm glad that developers find it worthwhile to attend. (Another thing I like about FlashForward is that the music is usually roots music instead of techno.... ;-)
Kevin Lynch and Jeremy Allaire did the keynote, and the key theme was that the web still has a long way to go in being both easier to use, and easier to develop. Interfaces need to be faster and more predictable to use, and the Macromedia Flash Player can definitely help with that. Production costs in developing and sustaining web publishing and applications also need to drop, and the tools and servers in Macromedia MX are aimed at helping with these parts two.
Components got big play during Eric Wittman's demo. These reduce development costs by being encapsulated high-level functionality, so creators can spend more time on the app-specific parts of the work instead of reinventing the wheel. Standard components will also help make it easier for consumers to learn a new web application. But the ability to skin and customize a component means things can be tailored for specific presentations, too.
Even though I've seen the Flash MX demo a few times already, it's always fun to watch how new audiences react to different parts, to watch when people nod towards each other when there's something new shown that can help them in their own work. That's the acid test of an engineering investment, and it's great to get that feedback that something can actually make a difference for someone.
Live webcam communication was shown, running off a beta communications server, but there wasn't additional detail yet about features, implementation, or estimated release date. The live video feed was also shown in a "directed viewing" application, where a speaker is shown in live video feed to a distant audience, and where the speaker can control the playing of slides in each viewer's browser, with text-based chat going back to the speaker.
New for me was seeing the Nokia Communicator
in action. This is a phone with a fliptop screen & keyboard, already wildly popular in Europe and due to hit the US later this year when the networks are implemented. I was big on early devices like the Casio 64
, but was into a minimal-metal lifestyle in recent years. I could see working with something like this Nokia, though.
... hmm, the Nokia Communicator demo was for pulling up current weather in a distant city. You could
do this with a regular phone, assuming you knew a phone number which provided this service, but the query-entry would be a pain via verbal/keypad control. Viewing the results would also be a pain if you had to wait and listen to someone tell you "broken clouds in Cairo now, 65oF" or whatever. Besides being easier to use, it's also less of a drain on the server to serve just the requested data, rather than to stream down a whole verbal interface for each request.
Anyway, there was a good buzz at the conference, and I'll link here to other reports I find throughout the next few days.