October 9, 2007

Have you seen Thermo?

I have seen the future, and its name is THERMO.

I was at Adobe's MAX conference in Chicago last week and had the opportunity to see what I can only describe as probably one of the most exciting pieces of technology I've seen in the past five years. It is something that will change the way I do my own work and will probably do the same for many others as well. It is called Thermo.

Adobe gave a little sneak peek of Thermo -- which is an application that Adobe is working on (they have made no formal announcement as to when it would ship). The name Thermo is also a codename -- no word on what the final application may be called.

Before I can accurately describe what Thermo is, I have to paint the picture of where things are today.

As my loyal readers, you are familiar with kuler -- which is what Adobe refers to as an RIA (or a Rich Internet Application). That's because while it uses the internet, it doesn't necessarily have to live in a browser. You may also be familiar with AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), which enables RIAs to simply run on your desktop -- no browser needed. Besides kuler, Adobe also recently took the wraps off AMP, or the Adobe Media Player -- which is a player (much like the Real Player or the QuickTime player), but which naturally supports FLV playback amongst many other things. AMP is an RIA that runs on AIR as well.

But how does one build such applications? Well, it usually requires both a designer and a developer to work together. The designer creates comps using applications like Illustrator, Photoshop, and even Flash. These designs may look nice, but they just sit there -- they aren't functional. A developer then has to write the code to make the application function as intended, using tools like Flash and Flex Builder.

Thermo is an application built for designers that allows you to design in Illustrator or Photoshop, and then easily convert design elements into functional code that works. Meaning, you can DRAW a picture of a button or a slider and then simply click on it and tell Thermo you want the picture or design element to be a button. In the background, THERMO WRITES ALL OF THE FLEX CODE FOR YOU. It also means that at the same time, a designer can tweak the LOOK of the app while a developer plugs in code to hook up your app to a back-end server, etc. It's all the same code.

It's unreal, and you really can't fully grasp the potential of this until you actually see it. And what do you know -- you can watch a video of the entire Thermo sneak peek right here... ENJOY.

Would love to hear comments on what others think about this...


khiltd said...

I'm not really a big fan of web sites with bizarre, non-standardized boutique interfaces that move around a lot and make a ton of noise, so I personally wish Adobe would divert some of this extra manpower into something that actually benefitted everyone rather than just widget eye candy fanboys--like getting typography on the web out of the stone age, or building a Flash plugin that didn't slow a Mac to an absolute crawl. The fact that it can take a Photoshop comp as input is kinda neat, but it seems a lot like Interface Builder to me, and I personally derive no benefit from Flex so I have a hard time getting excited about it.

Woody said...

This is stolen directly from MS. Check out XAML and Blend. Still it's a good idea.

Mordy Golding said...

I hear you khiltd -- but there's alot about Thermo that I think is life-changing -- more than initially meets the eye. First, the UI is really nice and clean. Kinda like how I like the Lightroom UI as well. Also, it means you can design a fully-functioning design mockup or comp of even a website to show a client.

I'm not sure how you derive any less benefit from Flex than you do PostScript. Maybe not today, but it isn't far off in the future... Besides Flex is just the guts -- we don't need to know of its existence.

Woody, I'm quite familiar with XAML and Blend. I was looking into XAML way back when I was still a PM on the Illustrator team. Cool stuff all around, but Thermo is positioned as a product for designers, not developers. The interface and ease of use are clear examples of that. You make a good point though.

Anonymous said...

Somebody stealing sth >>FROM<< MS. That's a new one.

Anonymous said...

HAHA XAML and Blend. "ZAM-UHL." lame. Why does MS have to always come and try to use their money to grab market share of areas where it's unnecessary? Really, there's already a standard. Let it be MS.

Sam said...

Looks really good.

The similarities with Flash though are untrue when you think about it. Especiallly FL CS3's ability to turn animation into code. That said the interface looks amazing and much more attractive than flash IMH.

khiltd said...

I don't derive any benefit from Flex because I have Privoxy block all Flash content from the network ;)

The AIR/Apollo gizmos look fun and all, but Kai Krause did the whole blob-shaped windows thing to death decades ago and I've yet to see a "widget" of any make or model that actually enhanced my life with rich internet experiences. They're the desktop equivalent of the pet rock, offering developers little-to-no access to any of the OS's important APIs which make genuinely useful applications genuinely useful. So I can click a button and look up a word in the dictionary or get a stock quote; I could do that before, and without wasting tons of RAM and processor cycles on a superfluous process which continuously struggles to compile and execute code written in various interpreted languages. There's only so much you can do with HTTP, and I'd personally prefer it if it were done in a web browser the same way I prefer watching TV shows on my TV in my living room rather than on my cellpodPDAphone while I'm on the bus. Once something comes along to successfully usurp that ubiquitous stateless protocol then that will possibly be life-changing. Everything else is just a highly-polished retrofitted afterthought.

As for web mockups--yeah that could be useful, but I have a feeling it's going to encourage laziness more than innovation or productivity. How many web designers/developers market themselves as accomplished pros just because they pirated a copy of Dreamweaver and made some really ugly animated rollovers? How many more will be all too willing to slap their name on whatever code Adobe auto-generated for them and pass it off as a finished product? The days of the obnoxious all-Flash website with Java ripple splash pages and accompanying soundtracks may soon return (although admittedly, wedding photographers, industrial designers and fast-food chains never really stopped using them).

I know, you can't blame the tool for the craftsman, but some things just shouldn't be easy; lowers the standards and devalues quality work in the public's already woefully uneducated eyes. If patients started posting ads for student brain surgeons on craigslist and haggling with doctors by saying things like "My 11 year old nephew could cut out this tumor with his I-Webs for less than minimum wage!" they'd probably get slapped with a more deserved frequency.