Adobe, Wired, tablets, & the future of magazines

Adobe and Wired have teamed up to demonstrate a richly interactive tablet-based prototype form of the magazine. It features embedded 360° object viewers, support for video and audio content, and the ability to rotate the page using the tablet’s accelerometer. Check out the demo:

So, what tablets will this support? In short, lots.
I believe the demo video was done via Adobe AIR running on a Windows 7 tablet. Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone conversion technology will allow publishing to the Apple iPad. And at the Mobile World Congress this week, Adobe announced AIR on Android & has shown the Wired prototype running on Android-based tablet devices powered by NVIDIA Tegra chips. In short, Adobe is working–as it always has–to help people publish across platforms.
What will be the real-world impact? Macworld editor Jason Snell has posted some skeptical tweets, comparing the demo to CD-ROM and VRML visions of yore. He makes good points about the cost of developing rich content, but I can tell you I’m excited about some of the tools Adobe has in the pipeline–stuff that’ll make interactive production easier & more efficient. Stay tuned.

14 thoughts on “Adobe, Wired, tablets, & the future of magazines

  1. Terrific demo. Do you have any more information on the apps that were used to pull this off? I assume Wired is using InDesign and the new multimedia Flash features in CS4 to publish this content to the AIR app?

  2. I am skeptical as well — computers are not magazines. Rich content = the web. I want to read things on a tablet PC or an eBook reader, not “interact” with it. And will the content be accessible offline – like in an airplane or train?
    [Absolutely. That’s a big selling point of AIR & has been since its start. –J.]
    If so, how much storage will that take?
    [Obviously that depends on the amount of video in particular. Things like text & layout data are pretty trivial to store. –J.]
    Will magazines come on DVDs? If not, why bother — I can just look at a website to get my interactivity. I think magazine and newspaper publishers have to realize that paper based anything is dying and adapt their business model to how the world consumes information.
    [I guess I don’t really understand the distinction you’re drawing between Web-based content & demos like this one. They’re both just presentation vehicles for words, images, and sounds, served to you over a network. Adobe tools will help you make either or both, depending on your/your clients’ needs. –J.]

  3. It’s Flash hog, it will hog your tablet’s CPU and waste power oh not to mention I sure will enjoy looking at those Flash ads.

  4. Bravo Adobe and John,
    The marriage has begun, waiting to see the courtship….from a “layman’s” point of view, Apple, I hope, will rethink its straightedge ideas with IPad.
    A faithful Microsoft guy….
    Ken in KY
    PS, I don think the anonymous “lolflash” understands AIR

  5. I don’t have any interest right now in buying a tablet, but I still find this kind of applications really exciting.
    What they are doing could easily be done as a web application, but people expect to get web content for free while they are willing to pay for applications. So it looks like it will be an application to support the economics of building out something like this.
    This type of digital magazine is going to make the InDesign to Flash import incredibly important. Which we will be seeing the payoff of the Text Layout Framework, with Flash now being able to handle text exactly the way it looks from InDesign.

  6. Given all the buzz about this demo, I was expecting a lot more. Minus the touchscreen (which didn’t even feature any pinching/zooming gestures), this looks like the interactive zines that were big in the mid-90s. Basically just a midly interactive PDF, in tablet form. *zzZzzz* Wired of all magazines should be pushing the digital transition farther. Not happening in this demo.
    Also, I have a strange urge to give that pompous CD a good punch in the mouth. Self-importance contributed to the erosion of Wired’s reputation and relevancy.

  7. John,
    With all the buzz about Flash/no-Flash on Apple devices, one thing has been lost in the shuffle: the disconnect designers have in creating output from Adobe tools to AIR or Flash is beside the point.
    Case in point: we produce PDF ebooks for our business and have since 2002. InDesign output — coupled with Acrobat Professional — allows us to deliver robust, interactive and ‘lean’ PDFs that our customers love.
    The kicker? Outputting to Flash or AIR is *orders of magnitude* greater in complexity, the number of tools required and so on. While you’re likely to strenuously object to that characterization, believe me we’ve analyzed all three, our skill sets and workflows, and there are too many obstacles and barriers in the way of great output.
    So for many of us out here who love and use Adobe tools, why is it so hard? Why can I, for example, output a Quicktime video and pics to iDVD or DVD Pro and create world-class content in a process that was historically *very* hard until Apple made it simple?
    So I submit that focusing on the runtime (i.e., Flash) on the iPad or iPhone is missing the point. You could (and arguably already do) own the tools, the mindshare of designers, and could make the really hard, really easy for Wired-magazine like output on an iPad or any device.
    [You make some good/fair points, Steve. Trust me when I say that people here have been working to address your concerns. I look forward to sharing more, but not quite now. –J.]

  8. The sentence, “…the disconnect designers have in creating output from Adobe tools to AIR or Flash is beside the point.” should read, “the disconnect designers have in creating output from Adobe tools to AIR or Flash *is* the point.”

  9. Steve,
    Have you looked into exporting an InDesign document as an XFL project that can be opened in Flash? I haven’t done it myself, but I’ve seen demos and looks quite easy. Here’s a demo of it from Adobe:
    However, I understand there are some limitations right now in Flash CS4 in editing text that has been imported over inside the Flash IDE. These issues are apparently being addressed in Flash CS5.
    Now once it’s inside of the Flash IDE, there is a certain skillset in making it interactive. More complexity does require a programmer. However, I’ve seen designers do some incredible things with Flash with little to no programming. Outputting a Flash project to AIR is just a matter of compile settings, unless you are taking advantage of a specific AIR API.

  10. Newspapers have been designing pages every day for decades. What’s the problem? Throw in some interactive stuff (slideshows, videos, links to longer stories) and I simply don’t see the problem. I’ve laid out pages fast when I had to. With the right automation it shouldn’t be that hard to make compelling looking online content.
    As someone who is helping put out very complex e-learning material (translation of printed course materials to online) that has been declared by some experts in the field as the best e-learning materials they’ve ever seen, I can agree that designing interactive content is complex. But I’ve also helped throw newspapers together daily for 15 years. It’s doable with the right people behind it and the right tools to automate it.

  11. Hi John –
    Thanks for responding to my comments. Basically what I was asking / saying with my series of questions was that, if the content was not available offline than what would be the point of the interactive magazine. Given that you suggested the content would be available offline my question is, how will magazines be delivered? I would guess in some sort of electronic form that is downloaded to your PC as opposed to something that you receive in the mail. But how would this deliver method effect the business model of print magazines sold at newsstands, etc.?
    [Those “what the hell happens to traditional publishing” questions are a bit beyond my pay grade. 🙂 I wish I knew, but I’m not sure that anyone does. –J.]

  12. I hope this experience is just not limited to Air on Android with a Tegra GPU.
    How about Air on a Windows 7 multitouch tablet? I want this goodness too!

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