Adobe's hosted CoCoMo service released as public beta

Adobe released a public beta of its CoCoMo hosted service for developers on Monday.

Adobe Systems has released a public beta of CoCoMo, a hosted service that developers can use to add video conferencing, voice-over-IP and other collaboration features to applications built with its Flex developer tools.

CoCoMo is an example of how Adobe plans to straddle the worlds of client and cloud computing with its tools for content delivery and application development, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch said at the start of the Adobe Max developer conference in San Francisco on Monday.

"Our view is there should be a balance of each; not wholly on the client and not wholly in the cloud," he said.

CoCoMo services are hosted on Adobe's servers and aimed at developers who want to add sharing and collaboration features to an application. As well as video conferencing and VoIP, the services include file-sharing, chat, data messaging and a multi-user whiteboard.

Lynch showed an application built by startup company Acesis, which had early access to CoCoMo in a private beta. Acesis built an application for doing medical peer reviews that includes the video conferencing and VoIP tools, as well as the ability for doctors in different locations to navigate patient records together.

The patient data itself isn't shared over the Web for security reasons, but the application does share the patient ID number, so the doctors can pull up the patient record from a local database, as well as information like the position of the cursor on the screen, so they can study the record as if they were sitting side by side at the same computer.

Adobe is taking a "wait and see approach" before it commits to a release date and pricing model, Lynch said. "I think you'll see in 2009, based on feedback, a variety of payment models we can use, including subscription and pay per use," he told reporters after his speech.

CoCoMo touches on two of the three big trends that Lynch said Adobe is pursuing -- cloud computing and "social applications." The third is the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices. "Our focus is on giving a reliable and consistent experience across screens of all sizes," including phones and personal computers, Lynch said.

To that end, Adobe is trying to bring a full-featured Flash Player to all mobile phones. A lot of those devices today use Flash Lite, but its capabilities are limited and it is cumbersome for users to download new Flash applications, Lynch said. So Adobe is working with mobile-phone makers to get the full Player on at least high-end phones with enough computing power to support it.

He showed Flash Player running on phones that use the Symbian and Windows Mobile OSes; on a Mobile Internet Device based on Intel's Atom processor; and on T-Mobile's G1 phone, which uses Google's Android software. Adobe is also working on a Flash Player for the iPhone, but it's still waiting for Apple CEO Steve Jobs to approve its use on the device, Lynch said. Adobe made a deal with chip design company Arm to bring Flash Player to Arm's processors, which are used in many devices including the iPhone.

Lynch announced that the Major League Baseball organization will start streaming games using its Flash software next season. He said it was a win over Microsoft, which last year touted the MLB as one of the first big users of its competing Silverlight technology.

While Flash Player is geared toward Web applications and video content, Adobe is pushing the Adobe Runtime Environment, or AIR, for applications that run offline on the desktop. AIR 1.5, released Monday, includes a new text-rendering engine that The New York Times has used to develop a news reader for its International Herald Tribune publication.

Michael Zimbalist, the Times' vice president for research and development, showed how the reader allows people to flip through pages using the right and left arrow keys of their keyboards instead of following hyperlinks. It can reformat pages automatically for different sized screens, including wrapping text around images and inserting hyphens for line breaks. The reader is expected later this year for the Herald Tribune; Zimbalist didn't say if one would be offered for The New York Times.

Adobe is also making a greater push in the enterprise, Lynch said. Salesforce.com Executive Vice President Steve Fisher joined him on stage to urge developers here to use Flex and AIR to build better front ends for applications on Salesforce.com's hosted platform.

"For the last 20 years, enterprise software has been where innovation has gone to die," Fisher proclaimed, telling developers they should get more creative.

The announcements Monday see Adobe expanding into new areas even as it battles an expected slowdown in its business amid the impending recession.

"Clearly we do see we're in a financial crisis, and this will have a short-term impact on Adobe's business," Adobe President and CEO Shantanu Narayen told reporters after Lynch's speech. The company is limiting new hires "dramatically," although it is still adding some staff, added CFO Mark Garrett.

But both executives argued that Adobe will be a stronger company in the long term if it builds a more diverse business now.

Adobe Max ends Wednesday.

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