Farewell Flex. Good riddance.
It’s been an unsettling and uncertain week.
Even before the news broke – I’d felt the winds of change. Like the icy chill of a company changing direction, without the slightest regard for its loyal and dedicated developer community.
The Flex Evangelists were all suddenly blogging about PhoneGap instead.
For months, I’ve found it impossible to get publishers interested in an AIR mobile book I’m inspired to write. “No interest in AIR”, they would say.
Christian Cantrell blogged about porting AIR applications to HTML.
But despite the mixed messages, AIR seems to be safe – we think.
It’s healthy for a company to adapt to become more competitive in the face of new opportunities. It should be a positive thing, shouldn’t it?
That’s not how the message was conveyed. If it was Adobe’s intention to generate as much FUD and negative speculation as possible – they couldn’t have done a better job.
I remember that Macromedia had a better understanding, and respect, for the developer community.
Last month, I was involved in a mobile developer conference. Just a small affair. 200 people. Mostly new to the mobile arena, and mostly interested in developing enterprise apps, not public apps on an app store. As a result of my afternoon workshop, many of these developers went away VERY interested in Adobe AIR and MadComponents. Some have already adopted it for their projects.
I invited Adobe to come along to my conference and give some mobile-related presentations. Dreamweaver and Flash Builder. After some unfruitful discussion with Adobe Singapore – they didn’t want anything to do with it. How stupid is that!? It would have been an excellent and unique opportunity for them to win the hearts and minds of developers in the region. Although I did a pretty good job by myself. I’m not officially an Adobe evangelist. But people respect my untethered opinions more than they respect Adobe or its evangelists nowadays.
I hear about Adobe employees being laid off. So let’s hope that the axe has fallen with callous severely on Singapore. Because Adobe’s Group Marketing team there are about as effective as a chocolate teapot.
Mostly, I’ve been really worried about the ferocity with which Adobe had been pushing Flex for mobile. Putting all Adobe’s AIR for mobile eggs in the Flex basket was a dreadful mistake. Flex is tolerable inside its niche. Bloated enterprise apps. But if Adobe pushes the notion that Flex 4.6 can export to compete on consumer app stores – then the harder they fight to win that battle, the more they risk losing the war.
The war is the general perception of Adobe AIR on mobile. And it could make or break Adobe.
I’ve always described the power of Pure ActionScript AIR as Adobe’s best kept secret. If Adobe take the lean meat of AIR 3, and sandwich it inside layers of fat and bloated Flex… Well, it’s no wonder that the wider developer community is deterred from a technical standpoint. Flex has already compromised the credibility of AIR on the desktop ( see: http://al3x.net/2011/01/15/user-hostile-platforms.html In that article, if you scroll down to the third paragraph of “Postscript, January 16 2011″… “… the developer of JamCloud who claims that the poor performance of many AIR apps is avoidable by using AS3 and not Flex”. ).
This is what I had against Flex. It was threatening the survival of the entire mobile future of AIR and the Flash Platform.
So I’m pleased that Adobe is turning away from Flex.
Ungrateful maybe, because as a Senior Flex Developer I’d made good money from Flex. But familiarity with Flex lead to contempt, and often frustration, about the limitations of Flex compared to Pure ActionScript.
Sure, Flex made cool “look how easy this is” , “Drag and Drop” demos – but Flex was a real pain to scale up to anything real.
I think Flex inhibited the adoption and development of more lightweight, possibly better, AS3 frameworks that were around. After all, who was going to take notice of anything else, if Adobe was throwing all it’s weight behind Flex. Now it’s gone, I wonder if developers can fill the void?
After all, the general idea of Flex was ok. It was just the bloated implementation that was awful.
In the mobile space, we’re ok. We still have a great framework. MadComponents. A lot of developers are using this now for both enterprise and consumer apps. I’m currently improving JSON support, and adding a SplitView and other enhancements to the extended library. Watch this space. Despite the FUD, I’m still enthusiastic and committed to AIR and the MadComponents project. Even more so now Flex is dying.