Disclaimer. Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer.
Part 1. Emotions.
Three days ago I’ve received the following email from an enterprise architect of one of our former clients (we’ve conducted two Flex training classes there):
“Adobe has been in the news lately with Flash not being developed for mobile devices and then the Flex SDK being donated to Apache. With all these things going on I was thinking if it still makes sense to develop using Adobe Flex for RIA applications. There are several opinions out there on the web but would like your take on the future of Flex and Flash. Is it still a safe bet to develop in Flash for RIA applications. Does HTML5+CSS+jQuery come close in terms of functionality that Flex offers? Please let me know.”
I’ve quoted this email because it described well what many of enterprise IT shops are talking about after Adobe simply decided to change their priorities. It started with that infamous blog of November 9th stating that Adobe didn’t care about Flash Player in mobile devices. But they didn’t stop there. Now they’re donating Flex framework as well as BlazeDS to Apache Software Foundation. Flash Catalyst was a mistake. It seems that Adobe decided that enterprise IT shops extinct. Apparently someone invited Adobe’s executives to a wild orgy, and the morning after one of Adobe leaders said, “How about changing our vision? I clearly see us in digital marketing and digital media! Enterprises are soooo boring, right hun?” Then Adobe went berserk.
Five years ago no one in the enterprise IT considered Adobe capable of anything but making nice tools for designers. They put tremendous effort into getting their foot in the door and be treated seriously by most (if not all) Fortune 100 companies. Back in 2006 enterprise developers didn’t want to hear about Flex framework. It changed. Very serious applications were developed and deployed into production using Adobe Flex and AIR as a front end tool. Will Adobe respect their existing support contracts with all these customers? For how long? Who’s going to provide such support if Adobe laying off hundreds of people second year in a row? As of today (Dec 14, 2011) Adobe didn’t care to make a clear statement about support of their enterprise customers.
Adobe’s executives keep silence. Santanu Narayen, the CEO was always the man of few words. But is Kevin Lynch, the CTO, in town? On Earth?
A couple of technical managers and evangelists are trying to fix the ugliness of the situation, but there is not much they can do. They can’t speak up for executives. Their words like “we’re absolutely committed to…” can’t be trusted anymore. These nice professional people are not being invited to decision-making orgies.
One of the very respected software engineers (a former Adobe employee) twitted, “Watching Adobe remove engines, wings, drop fuel, seats while in midair flight with customers aboard is truly fascinating.”
I see the situation similarly: today’s Adobe is a plane driven by pilots who lost control and are trying to press random buttons hoping to find the way home.
Part 2. Business.
Coming back to the original question, “Is it still a safe bet to develop in Flash for RIA applications?” This was the question of an enterprise architect of a mid-size IT shop, who’s not into politics and honestly tries to make the right technical decision.
The short answer is yes, you have nowhere else to go if you’re planning to deploy applications in production in 2012-2013. Flex is the best Web framework available today, and the fact that Adobe is donating it to Apache is better for everyone. The same applies to BlazeDS. As a matter of fact, Adobe stopped supporting BlazeDS two years ago, anyway.
I’m sure, under Apache Flex framework will go strong. My main concern is if Adobe will be willing to keep their future releases of Flash Player in sink with the future releases of Apache Flex?
If you are planning to go mobile, the most cost-effective platform is Adobe AIR. Can you afford to hire three teams with three sets of skills to develop for desktop, Android, and iOS? If you can’t, stick to AIR.
Part 3. Political stuff in the large enterprises.
Back in 2006, enterprise architecture groups of large enterprises were the main obstacles for making Adobe Flex an approved tool for development of the Web applications. Now, because of those drunk pilots, it’s their “Told’ya!” time.
Part 4. What to read next on the subject?
I like this post by Adam Flatter from Roundarch.
Part 5. Summary
1. Flex remains my first choice framework for developing RIA and AIR for developing desktop and mobile applications.
3. Our company, Farata Systems will offer commercial technical support for Flex, AIR and BlazeDS both on the desktops and on tablets. We’ll make an official announcement about it shortly.
5. Under such management Adobe won’t last long and will have to be acquired by another company.
Happy New Year, everyone! It’s going to be fun.