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Adobe speeds Creative Suite releases to catch tablets

Aims at iOS, Tablet OS, Android

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Adobe Software is accelerating the delivery of new versions of its popular Creative Suite, hoping to keep up with the ever-changing mobile computing market.

The company will introduce a mid-cycle update to the Creative Suite family that will ship every 12 months.

Mid-cycle releases will let Adobe bring new features to its software faster, the company said. It will help ensure in-demand features aren't held back until Adobe's next milestone release of the full suite.

In the past, milestones arrived every 18 months. But Adobe is now moving milestones to a two year release cycle.

The changes take effect with Creative Suite 5.5, announced today, which is aimed at mobile platforms from Apple, Research in Motion, and Google.

Adobe is making it easier to build, test, and debug mobile web apps built for iOS, BlackBerry Tablet OS (the software behind RIM's PlayBook, due on April 14), and Android.

Dave Burkett, Adobe's vice president and general manager of Creative Suite, said that Adobe has been thinking about making the change to its release cycle for "some time" but had finally acted in response to "a lot going on around mobile devices".

That includes not just rapid adoption of the iPhone and iPad, but the furious race to catch up among jealous OEMs, with different form factors running different operating systems.

"It's a flexible process that gives us the opportunity to react to issues customers would like us to be in market with," he said. Burkett would not elaborate on what kinds of features Adobe would introduce in a milestone release and how these would differ to a mid-cycle release. Adobe will not be prescriptive, he said.

In a further break with tradition, Adobe is offering the desktop Creative Suite under a subscription intended to catch casual users such as freelancers and those working on projects.

Creative Suite is usually priced beyond the means of anyone, but the serious professional with an expenses budget. CS 5.5 Design Standard starts at $1,299, but under Adobe's new subscription, you'll pay $35 per month for Photoshop and $95 per month for Design Premium.

With version 5.5, Creative Suite has been updated to capitalize on earlier HTML5 and CSS 3.0 capabilities. Features include auto-code complete, code hinting, and drag-and-drop for HTML5 and CSS3. You could already code using HTML5 and CS3 using tags in Creative Suite, but you did so by hand.

Dreamwaver, included in CS Design and Web Premium 5.5 editions, now comes with jQuery built in for mobile, so you can insert UI components and add jQuery without heavy coding. Dreamwaver also works with WebKit.

Flash Builder, version 4.5 in CS Web Premium 5.5, has been updated so you can share Flex and ActionScript files across different projects and then publish the application to work on the iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry Tablet OS for RIM's PlayBook, and Android without needing to program individually to work on each device's screen. Debugging can also be done on each device via USB connection, saving time building the app. Code templates and code completion are also included, as elsewhere in the CS 5.5 suite. Flash Builder 4.5 is expected in June.

The changes are important to Adobe, because they bring Flex for building Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) to a broader range of mobile devices while, thanks to the many of the code-complete and automaton tools and debugging, making it easier to build the apps.

To get around the Jobsian bar on Flash on the iPhone and iPad, Adobe has included the previously separate Flash Packager with Creative Suite 5.5. ®

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