Microsoft tools make you happy! You put in happy, and then you make — happy things! Or I think that’s what this slide means. Photo by BIT-101.

I’m plenty jealous of all the folks in the Flash community who got to hit Flash on the Beach — it sounds like a truly historic event for digital artists, and a sign of the health of Flash that it returned to the coolness of Flashforwards from years ago. bit-101 has a nice flickr set to give you an idea of the vibe. Is it just me, or do people in the UK have more fun?

I’ll get to catch up with Adobe and Flash at Macworld next month, but in the meantime, Flashmagazine.com has some interesting scoops.

First, sneak preview info from the Adobe camp:

You’ll be able to integrate Illustrator and Flash. So much of what we’ve seen so far of Flash 9 has been on the code side, as that’s what is currently available. But Flash will also finally integrate the way it should with Adobe’s other products. You’ll be able to import Illustrator vectors more seamlessly, you’ll have better, more Illustrator-like vector tools in Flash, and (while not mentioned in the Flashmagazine story) more layer-by-layer compatibility with Photoshop. As much as I love code, no amount of code makes up for Adobe’s fine design tools, so I think this is good news indeed — and gives you a reason to own the Flash app, the code editing capabilities not being a terribly good reason. Speaking of which:

Adobe hearts FlashDevelop. Apparently, Adobe is letting tools like FlashDevelop flourish rather than try to remake the Flash IDE as a coding tool. Whaaa … okay! While it’s a little unusual as a marketing strategy, I think it says very good things about the future of coding environments. And I’ve never seen anything as simple, elegant, or open as FlashDevelop in commercial form. I’m finishing my first art project in FD, so I’ll be sharing how to use it. (I’d like a direct quote, which Flashmagazine doesn’t provide, but then again, the fact that most of the major Flash gurus are now using open source coding tools says a lot. Viva Adobe + open source.) You certainly wouldn’t get this kind of open source embrace for Microsoft. No, I’m betting they’d try to feed you a lot of beer, let you play some Xbox games, and try to bribe you to use their proprietary software. More on that in a moment …

Adobe hearts Linux. No more months’ delay between shipping Flash Player for Mac/Windows and Linux. In other news, though, Adobe thinks it may not ship the full Flex Builder for Linux. That may be okay, though; I think Adobe is probably onto something when it suspects Linux users would rather use the open source Eclipse and free SDK. And while Flashmagazine doesn’t mention it here, I’ve also seen some open source visual development tools showing up. Adobe gets to avoid costly (possibly unprofitable) development work, the open source community gets its Flash Player on time but gets to use open source dev tools for free, the Flash platform is healthy, and we can all build cheap Linux boxes for art installations and such. Everyone wins.

Better video in Flash. Flash is already a great video tool, but it’s not perfect. De-interlacing, cue-point support? Sign me up. I expect there are some additional improvements not mentioned here; video is likely to be a big area of focus for Flash 9. Stay tuned.

More details from Flashmagazine:
Sneaks from the Beach

And what about Microsoft? Well, evidently Microsoft was giving away free software, free beer, big parties, and playing Xbox 360 games. That’s my kind of marketing — and frankly, I wonder why the world’s richest software company doesn’t behave this way more often. They’re like your super-wealthy friend, whose house you’re always squatting at because they’ve got the cool toys. As for the actual tools, well, there’s something about 3D in a browser with just a couple of clicks (awesome!) and the ability to make vector squares … uh … move around (huh?) and crash the software (uh….). More beer, please?

Microsoft invades The Beach

My take on Expression, the new design tools from Microsoft: possibly a decent addition to your toolkit, especially if the Firefox and Mac browser plug-ins pan out nicely for cross-platform compatibility. And these days, it seems to be more about small, slick tools than planet-crushing platforms … even with Flash. Think the right tool for the right job. I expect Microsoft may give me some of these tools (though, sadly without the beer), so I’ll do what I do with all my toys … try to make something neat with them.

Also: once it’s mature, the Windows Presentation Foundation could help build one kick-a** VJ tool on Windows, mixing Flash, 3D, vector, and video.

But in the meantime, between Flash, Processing, and Jitter, the last thing I need at this point is another tool. Beer? Xbox games? Parties? For that, I have a high tolerance. Better keep my schedule open for Microsoft’s creative conference, Mix. See you there — I’ll be the one VJing in Internet Explorer.

[tags]Microsoft, Adobe, alcohol, VJing, programming, Flash, video, development, upgrades, events[/tags]

  • Peter, I thought you might be interested in this: http://episteme.arstechnica.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/

    Microsoft has released a .Net runtime as a plugin for OS X web browsers to run some of its latest tools. Check out the thread on ars – it looks potentially very interesting, and comes from a real syntax based programing background. The demos are pretty nice I have to say.

  • Hey, I wasn't kidding when I said cool toys. I don't think you'll be able to use the Mac as a development platform for WPF, though, unless I missed something. (Some of the open-source .NET equivalent tools will work happily on Mac and Linux.) But yes, on Windows you're really set for choices: the WPF stuff, .NET and such (which tie nicely into WPF), Flash/Flex (which can run *inside* WPF), Java and Processing, and then good 'ol Max/MSP/Jitter (which in turn runs Java code and can even encapsulate Processing sketches). Phew.

    Looking down that list, you would *expect* to break into a sweat. But, oddly enough, NONE of these tools is really equivalent to another one. There probably is a tool that is best and most comfortable for realizing any given idea. And while I'd be lying if I didn't say there were a significant number of learning curves here, much of what you learn — smart development patterns, visual techniques, good encapsulation and documentation, good object-oriented programming — will serve you will with all of them.

    Of course, I'll feel even better about them if I have some really good beer. And just as development tools, I wouldn't want to have to choose only ONE kind of beer … you've got your blondes, your pale ales, your reds, your darks, your lagers … and ALL taste better when Microsoft's buying.