June 01, 2010

Adobe/Wired digital viewer for iPad coming soon for all publishers

I’ve written previously that Adobe is not in the Flash business, or the Photoshop business, or the PDF or HTML5 business. Rather, it’s in the solving customers’ problems business, and any given technology is just a means to an end. Today you’re getting more proof.
As you may have seen last week, Adobe and Wired Magazine have collaborated to bring a richly interactive version of the magazine to iPads. Here’s a 1-minute demo:

I received quite a few questions about how regular Creative Suite customers can tap into these capabilities. Today Adobe announced that the ability to target the digital viewer technology it created for Wired will be made available soon on Adobe Labs. According to VP Dave Burkett,

“We aim to make our digital viewer software available to all publishers soon and plan to deliver versions that work across multiple hardware platforms. It’s safe to say that if you are already working in InDesign CS5, you’ll be well on your way to producing a beautiful digital version of your publication.”

Check out Adobe’s Digital Publishing Platform pages for more background & details.
InDesign CS5 adds a bunch of simple, powerful tools for adding animation and interactivity to documents, and it can export those documents in a number of formats. That is, you can choose PDF, Flash, AIR, XML, etc. based on the needs of your project. Apple blocked AIR conversion on iPads, so Adobe simply built an alternative way to view the content.
It isn’t about one runtime/format vs. another; never has been. It’s about getting results.
PS–I’m really hoping that my inner cynic is wrong, and that this post doesn’t draw a bunch of counterproductive neener-neener jeering from Apple zealots. It would be so, so refreshing to hear instead that people are focused on what benefits them, and that they actually prefer cooperation & pragmatism to ideological finger-pointing.

Posted by John Nack at 6:33 AM on June 01, 2010


  • Stephen Starkman — 10:45 AM on June 01, 2010

    Can’t view the demo on my iPhone ;)
    [Good point; I’ve swapped out the embed code to use the YouTube version of the video. That way everyone should be able to see the demo. (YouTube uses Flash Player to display the H.264 video content in desktop Web browsers & swaps in a different player on i-devices. It’s the same video in both cases, just a different player.) –J.]

  • Julian Kussman — 10:57 AM on June 01, 2010

    The Wired app functions well.
    But why does it need to be 500MB?
    This isn’t a medical encyclopedia it’s a magazine.

  • Rich MacDonald — 11:07 AM on June 01, 2010

    Brilliant work, Adobe.

  • Matt Politano — 11:28 AM on June 01, 2010

    This is great news, John – I’m looking forward to using it! I adopted rich media PDFs as soon as the tools became un-clunky enough but have been looking for a better user experience; this could be just the ticket.
    On a side note, I really appreciate your openness and genuine, authentic communication with users. Now if you could just convince someone on the InDesign team to do something similar…

  • Andrew Burwell — 11:39 AM on June 01, 2010

    So excited to have this. Can’t wait to produce an iPad version of our local magazine. This directly allows me to monetize something I previously couldn’t due to the cost and knowledge required to build an iPad application.

  • Kristin. — 11:50 AM on June 01, 2010

    Don’t care how it’s done (ok, I do…), what format it is, etc. — just glad it WORKS!!! And we’ll all be able to use it!

  • Kevin Lee Allen — 11:54 AM on June 01, 2010

    Well, I’m and Apple fan, not so much a Flash fan and I think this is exactly what I have been looking for in order to illustrate my writing.

  • John C. Welch — 12:02 PM on June 01, 2010

    PS–I’m really hoping that my inner cynic is wrong, and that this post doesn’t draw a bunch of counterproductive neener-neener jeering from Apple zealots. It would be so, so refreshing to hear instead that people are focused on what benefits them, and that they actually prefer cooperation & pragmatism to ideological finger-pointing.

    “So to ensure that won’t happen, i’ll jam a passive-aggressive little poke in the eye, but make sure that it’s a well-hidden little bit of ad hominem, even though that’s the kind of behavior I regularly decry.”
    seriously dude, what did that close accomplish, except to remind us that Adobe bloggers are just as bad as the people they fuss at?
    You and Dowdell and others complain, decry, and accuse all the Flash naysayers of being “blind apple fans”, “Mactards” and all the rest. You’re just as bad as the people you complain about.
    [I don’t use those terms (don’t think I ever have), and I don’t remember John Dowdell using them, either. I’ve never once said that Flash can’t or shouldn’t be improved. (Are you aware that the whole reason I came to work at Adobe was my dissatisfaction with the Flash authoring process?)
    I do however get tired of various Mac-centric outlets finding a way to present *EVERYTHING* as negative. It really makes me think that a big part of some Mac fans’ psyches is a need for enemies, a need to define themselves by hating something or someone else. And they can keep all that. –J.]
    Here’s one…read the Adobe Installation and Licensing blog a few times. There’s a group that gets hammered as much as anyone, and never, never, *never* gets whiney about it, or acts in any way other than relentlessly mature.
    [Good on ’em. I get tired of all the ax-grinding negativity from many parts of a community to which I belong, but which seem bent on alienating people like me (i.e. those who just want to get things done, who aren’t looking to augment their identities by joining an us-and-them tribe). “Think Different, as long as it’s just like we think.” –J.]
    You had a really solid post, that drove home a point being lost on BOTH sides in this nontroversy:
    Solutions to the problem matter more than the personal feelings over a solution. Flash not an option, find another way. That’s what matters.
    [That’s well put. –J.]
    But, you just couldn’t resist the chance to take the shot.
    [And you couldn’t resist bawling me out. –J.]
    Okay, there. you have the response you were fishing for.
    How happy are you about that?
    [Delighted. –J.]

  • Paul Neave — 12:28 PM on June 01, 2010

    I’m sure the Wired iPad app will get many downloads, but I can’t see it lasting beyond the novelty of its first release. The amount of work, time and money needed to pump out 500MB worth of interactive content every month must be huge. It’s a nice proof of concept but I can’t see it becoming the standard way forward. Especially at its current price tag. I don’t see people buying this over the print version. I hope I’m proved wrong.

  • skyler Kline — 1:00 PM on June 01, 2010

    Just the fact that it’s being produced in InDesign will insure that this becomes a commonly used format. (though I agree Wired needs to off reasonable subscription pricing, and not $5 an issue. People need to remember that we always have way more free stuff to read than we have time for. Only truly compelling content will get money from people)
    As much as HTML5 ads to the web in terms of native functionality, it lacks any sort of workflow.
    I’ve been playing with it, but there is no way I could produce as much high quality work as I do in InDesign every day.
    Hopefully we’ll soon see HTML5 export from InDesign, and not have to rely on Dreamweaver/hand coding to produce screen graphics. Even Photoshop and Illustrator are painfully slow in terms of workflow compared to InDesign.
    Just my two cents.

  • beau comeaux — 1:16 PM on June 01, 2010

    Great news! I love that things are moving forward. I would agree that the 500MB size is too big but we’ll see how it develops…

  • Jesper — 1:28 PM on June 01, 2010

    Congratulations; having an end-to-end solution where you can actually edit in InDesign is powerful stuff.
    I like the Wired app and its overall experience. I don’t like how everything is just an image (it’s very heavyweight) and you can’t select text.

  • Tom Okeefe — 1:44 PM on June 01, 2010

    I wasn’t overly impressed with the Wired iPad app for many reasons. For starters what got me a little confused was this. I worked on an iPad app right after Apple announced it and right from the start I was informed that I would work directly with Apple and show Wireframes to get approval before it got built since I was designing something that hasn’t been done before on the the SDK. So when I saw the early demo of the Wired app using Flash when knowing Apple was not going to allow flash I felt that Adobe clearly dropped the ball or maybe they thought since it’s Adobe that Apple would cave in and allow flash. IDK. Sure Adobe is a large business and for the record I use to work for Adobe but it felt a little strange that it was shown before it was even built on the SDK that was available.
    So When I noticed the Wired App was going to be available on iTunes I jumped on it to see how different it would be from the demo. Then my jaw dropped with the 500MB download. I started to laugh out loud literally. I almost canceled download and walked away with a 5.00 lost. So I waited. it downloaded. First impression was laughable. The user interactions were not impressive and much different then the other iPad magazine apps.
    I noticed HTML5 was not being used. Um, was this “Oh fuck you Apple we wont cave in and use HTML5” ? What is the benefit of the technology used when making this app?
    [Are you serious? Really? I mean, are you paying any attention at all? And if you think that HTML5 is some magical fairy dust (just like Cocoa, right?) that’s perfect for everything, why does Apple even enable native app development on iPhones/iPads? –J.]
    The image quality is not that great. It’s not scaleable like all the other apps. It felt like I was thrown back in the 90s with a Director multimedia CD Rom.
    I’m not impressed at all with all the hype this app got before and after. Sure I was part of the 24k downloads the first 24hrs. I wont be on the next issue unless things change. I’ve been impressed with a lot of work from the Adobe Consultant division over the years this one just doesn’t cut it. Just my opinion.

  • Michael Long — 2:45 PM on June 01, 2010

    You might find the following article on the upcoming Popular Mechanics iPad magazine app informative.
    One thing that’s interesting is that the PopMech magazine / app (coded directly in Objective-C) is reported to be a rather lean 60MB.
    Compare that to the 500MB Wired application generated by the Adobe system…
    [First of all, the Wired app is “coded directly in Objective-C,” written in Xcode. InDesign produces the content read by the app; it doesn’t produce the app itself.
    The file size issue is a legitimate one, though I take your comment about “generated by the Adobe system” as implying “you guys make fat, lame, bloated stuff” when in fact this issue of the Wired app contains quite a bit of video and imagery (e.g. navigable 3D content).
    I’m curious how much of the issue is being rendered as images to provide typographical precision. I think the iPad ships with just a handful of fonts, and the typography in the NY Times Reader (which I otherwise like) kind of sucks. I’m hardly alone in making such an observation. –J.]

  • Tom Okeefe — 2:57 PM on June 01, 2010

    I don’t think HTML5 is magical fairy dust by no means. I would like more interaction with content then in the Wired app. I do want clickable text rather then a large heavy image. If HTML5 can do that or Obj. C. i can care less. As long as it’s a better experience.
    [I hear you, Tom. I don’t know whether HTML would offer the typographical richness that Wired really prizes. It’s a shame that Apple’s decisions around the iPhone OS SDK boxed out customers’ ability to use Adobe’s Text Layout Framework. –J.]

  • Eric — 3:13 PM on June 01, 2010

    I’ve been quite upset over the past few weeks because where I work has developed Flash-based e-learning material. But with the iPad we’ve seen a really great opportunity for our particular type of material where it would server a very important part of our future distribution of educational material. And I’ve been dreading the future just a little bit.
    But this has put my mind at ease. I’ve downloaded the Wired app, and think it represents a great way to go. Having been a big fan of Apple and Adobe has just become easier again. Thanks for getting us going in the right direction!
    And I really appreciate your level-headed approach to this controversy, John. As soon as my $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit hits my account, I’m picking up the CS5 Design Suite I’ve been wanting. The demo of Photoshop CS5 has really impressed me.
    [Thanks all around, Eric. –J.]

  • Michael Glasser — 3:30 PM on June 01, 2010

    Wondering if the application, in any form, is available for other platforms (Android, etc.)
    [No, because other platforms can run AIR. –J.]

  • Bill OBrien — 3:51 PM on June 01, 2010

    Complaining about what the other kid on the block did to you is a waste of time. If there is a problem jump in and try to fix it..
    Your concern about zealots reminds me of my short list of descriptions that I got from Michael H. Reichmann and Luminous Landscape.
    We will always have the following three types of people on the internet.
    A – Nattering Netboobs of Negativity.
    B – Net Know Nothings
    C – Those stuck with Brand Tribalism and Posturing
    Ignore “em”, press on with the task at hand.

  • Vaughan — 5:25 PM on June 01, 2010

    Just wanna say I love this evolutionary step by adobe :-) A real paradigm shift for how content is created and consumed by all. I’m an apple zealot but I’m really excited and optimistic about these moves. Nice post John.

  • Mondo Johnson — 7:32 PM on June 01, 2010

    Great Job Adobe, a great work around to an unfair situation.

  • Rick McCleary — 7:35 PM on June 01, 2010

    J – I could send you a private email about this, but I want to say it publicly:
    I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have in the driver’s seat of tool development for mobile devices (umm.. iPads) than you, John.
    What others see as “whining” (c’mon, really??) is nothing but advocacy for an open approach to problem-solving. No one – even Mr. Jobs – works in a vacuum. An absence of critical response to one’s actions (i.e., Apple) leaves one with the impression that the whole world loves you and the way you’ve chosen to do things. And, I’m sure the negative feedback you get on this blog enters into your decision-making as well, John.
    To all the haters out there:
    Be aware of what you have here and treasure it. Name me one other blog maintained by a decision-maker within a major company that displays openness, candor, AND, at the same time, actually solicits your input on how to design the products you actually use.
    Have at ’em, J.

  • Paul Sydney — 8:09 PM on June 01, 2010

    The file size issue is a legitimate one, though I take your comment about “generated by the Adobe system” as implying “you guys make fat, lame, bloated stuff”
    But the wired app is not going to be 500MB, it must be something to do with the way the “pages” are generated. I’ve seen 3D games for iPhone that weigh in less than that.
    But I must say that this could be fantastic for getting media onto the iPad. I look forward to seeing how this evolves.

  • Mike — 12:44 AM on June 02, 2010

    Hi John,
    it’s absolutely great that you will give us the tools to publish for all the current platforms. That’s the right way for sure.
    They might need polishing (Interactive pdf export from InDesign doesn’t support image states while the Flash export does…?) but I’m sure you will make the tools better over time.
    I have to agree on the Wired app though – what’s the point in having an application that delivers all the content as images? (and in two versions for portrait and landscape)
    We’ve had enough of that on the web in the 90ies. But I guess they had to do the switch pretty late in the production process (…who’s to blame for that…). Let’s hope for the next versions.
    Keep pushing (open standards)…

  • Kevin Bomberry — 11:33 AM on June 02, 2010

    Really? You’ve seen the app and you’re asking why it needs to be so large?
    Okay, content…. there’s a lot of it.
    Images: All of the “shuttle” builds are basically stacks of PNG images… so if you have a build-in that has50 steps, that’s 50 images… times the number of “build-ins” and “tap to switch” features. Also, the spreads… a 1024×768 image is about 1-2 mb, depending on detail, so 50 pages with full page images is about 50 MB.
    Video: Then there is all of the video. Video at full-resolution is not small. I won’t go into details but there are several full size videos in the zine-app. And depending on the settings even though H.264 is smaller than other formats, it’s still video – and that takes up space (the final frontier). And I think that there are more than 10 videos (say at 15-20MB each) so that’s about 150-200 MB (and I’m being conservative).
    And now for something completely different…
    Player: I’d say that the “player” itself is probably somewhere between 5-15 MB, and almost all the rest is content.
    So, in conclusion, Julian, the app is big because content is king. A big fat space hungry king. Cheers!

  • Mark — 8:07 AM on June 03, 2010

    I think Adobe and Wired did a great job with the first issue. I have to imagine it is a significant milestone in the world of publishing and only a sign of things to come.
    One of my main hopes for the iPad was being able to abolish the stacks of magazines around my office. This not only gives me hope of making that a reality, but having a much more interactive experience in addition.
    People might also want to checkout the digital versions of National Geographic through the Zinio app. They have also incorporated interactive features, but not yet to the extent that Wired and Adobe did. I would like to see Adobe/National Geo partner up!

  • Lazy Adobe — 8:28 AM on June 03, 2010

    A designer who examined the Wired app reports “each Wired issue is actually a bunch of XML files that lay out a bunch of images. And by ‘a bunch of images’ I mean 4,109 images weighing in at 397MB.”
    “His investigation, published on the InterfaceLab blog, notes that “each full page is a giant image – there are actually two images for each page: one for landscape and one for portrait mode. Yes, I’m laughing on the inside too. There is no text or HTML, just one gigantic image. The ‘interactive’ pieces where you can slide your finger to animate it are just a series of JPG files. When you press play on the audio file and see the progress meter animate? A series of PNG files.”
    “Something is wrong with this picture. Something wrong and something very lazy and/or desperate,” he added.”
    OH MAN, this has to be the most hillarious thing ever.
    Hey Adobe and Conde Nast, have you see the Sports Illustrated HTML5 powered magazine? It has guess what? Real selectable text.
    “Not all publishers are sold on cranking out the most elementary electronic versions of their paper magazines. At Google’s I/O conference, Sports Illustrated demonstrated an HTML5 version of its work that marks up sections and articles using new structure elements and adds drag and drop navigation features (for creating bookmarks of embedded media such as video clips), while also taking advantage of Web Workers and other features of HTML5 that makes the content significant faster than rendering objects in plain JavaScript or Flash.”
    Here’s the video in WebM format, no Flash required, no Flash crashes.

    Steve Jobs really nailed it when he called out Adobe for being LAZY.
    [That’s right. Going from “Apple suddenly spiked your solution (that featured great performance, beautiful selectable text, etc.” to “We’re back, delivering performance and interactivity” in five weeks sure is LAZY. Yes, LAZY LAZY LAZY. And it’s not intellectually lazy to throw around epithets while hiding behind a phony name and email address. Thanks so much for sorting me out. –J.]

  • Lazy Adobe — 9:04 AM on June 03, 2010

    People expose your stuff as outdated and stupidly huge kludge and they will call you out on it.
    “The problem with these XML + images architectures is that they are essentially reinventing HTML with no added benefit. When I showed the Wired app to a colleague of mine, someone I consider to be one of the top HTML/Javascript developers in NYC, his assessment was the same: Why the heck didn’t they use HTML5? We stepped through each “page” of the Wired application, looked at each interactive piece – but failed to find anything that ruled out the use of HTML and JavaScript.”
    Face it, Adobe is in the business of Flash, despite all the lies about being a “tools” company. When people like John Nack are so stubborn to defend a dying, unstable, CPU hog platform like Flash, you know they’ve been drinking the Flash koolaid for too long.
    [To your cowardice, let’s add ignorance. The Wired app has nothing to do with Flash. Now, it’s entirely possible that it could be done better via PDF or HTML or some other non-bitmap representation. The point was to get the job done in a way that would meet the customer’s goals (high fidelity, including typographical fidelity, and timing). I’m sure the team is looking at ways to make things better. But it’s kind of laughable to hear JAFOs like you throw stones. –J.]

  • Jason Short — 10:11 PM on June 03, 2010

    “Apple’s decisions around the iPhone OS SDK boxed out customers’ ability to use Adobe’s Text Layout Framework.”
    Here’s a simple suggestion. If you just use PDF or HTML to render text – just to make it selectable, your not moving the ball forward (even backwards in my opinion). Adobe needs to render text natively with the same rules as In Design does. This will reduce the gap between design intent and experience. To do that you need to extend the native NSText classes and add in Adobe’s text layout special sauce.
    Do that and you will have real dynamic layouts that reflow, resize, allow selections, and reduce the gap between artist and consumer to nothing.

  • Gregory Wostrel — 6:51 AM on June 04, 2010

    You know, I am sure the development of the Wired mag iPad app was complicated and the client may have been hard-headed and demanding, but making a “magazine” out of thousands of images? Adobe, what the heck, images of text? From Adobe? The people who started with postscript and publishing and typography?
    I think it is a little sad. And if Wired and/or dev time pressures caused these decisions to be made I would say, IMO, it would have been in Adobe’s best interests to say “No, we are going to do this the right way”.
    1995 called and they want their website back.

  • Mike — 12:39 AM on June 19, 2010

    I checked the link he posted about the HTML5 magazine and it’s an interesting read. If you read between the lines of the flamebait there’s something to be said for publishing in HTML5.
    Like this:
    “Adobe’s solution to publishing digital content on iPad is a lot like its strategy for delivering Creative Suite content on the web: cut up Photoshop and InDesign designer’s print pages into large image files fit into an HTML table. That creates a website that looks exactly like the existing print work, but which doesn’t really look (or act) like a website. ”
    Instead of taking the flaimbait (which you seem to do a lot and is kind of sad) I would have preferred to see a response to the actual content of the comment + article (which is not the flamebait, but in my opinion it’s the quote I have pasted above).
    Looking forward to a response to the actual subject matter!

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