Flex: where we are headed

It has been about three months since we shipped Flex 4.5 SDK and a corresponding update to Flash Builder, in which we delivered exciting new capabilities to build and deploy applications for Google Android, Apple iOS and BlackBerry Tablet OS platforms. The feedback on the release has been fantastic – with customers blown away that they can leverage one tool, one framework and one codebase to deliver apps across leading mobile platforms, not to mention web and desktop as well.

Since then the product team has been heads-down working on our future plans for Flex SDK and Flash Builder, and although we’re not quite ready to share all the details, we wanted to provide you with some insight into what we’re focusing on, and where we expect to make investments going forward.

Investing in Flex, Flash Builder, Flash Player and AIR

Adobe is continuing to make significant investments in Flex, Flash Builder, Flash Player and AIR – we have hundreds of engineers who are actively working on exciting new tooling, framework and runtime features and enhancements to be included in upcoming releases.

Our teams are currently working on a free update to Flex SDK and Flash Builder for release later this year that will further demonstrate our commitment to delivering a complete solution for building and deploying mobile applications to multiple platforms.

Beyond this update we’re already working to deliver our next major releases.

Recognizing the role of Flex has changed

Since its inception, Flex has been highly leveraged as a leading solution for building “rich Internet applications”– potentially applicable wherever a rich, expressive and engaging user experience delivered via the browser was required. We’ve seen product configurators, e-commerce sites, games, e-learning experiences, banking services, business dashboards, photo editors, audio/video channels, productivity tools, line-of-business applications and more, all built with Flex.

We’re at a point now where it is incumbent upon us to focus on where Flex provides unique value in the marketplace.

There are countless examples where, in the past, Flex was (rightly) selected as the only way to deliver a great user experience. Today, many of those could be built using HTML5-related technologies and delivered via the browser, and at Adobe, we will provide tooling to help designers and developers create those experiences – Edge and Muse are two such examples.

That doesn’t mean, however, that HTML5 is the right choice for all use cases – the performance, framework maturity and robust tooling provided by Adobe are cited as critical factors by enterprise customers as to why they continue to select Flex.

We firmly believe that Flex is already the best technology for building complex, high-fidelity enterprise applications such as business dashboards, line of business tools, real-time trading applications and desktop replacement applications, and see leading companies in healthcare, financial services, communications and other industries standardizing on it. We will continue to heavily invest in strengthening Flex for enterprise use, ensuring that you can deliver expressive, robust applications. As we share more details about our upcoming releases, you’ll see our commitment to tackle areas such as Spark component completion, accessibility, build system integration, performance analysis tooling and integration of a next-generation compiler, making Flex the #1 choice for building enterprise-grade RIAs.

Mobile – the next big thing for Flex

But we’re not just investing in the enterprise. The explosion of mobile devices has opened new doors for end users, enterprise organizations and developers, while at the same time introducing a new set of development challenges. As you’ve already seen with Flex 4.5, we are making big strides in providing developers with a single framework for building and deploying mobile applications to a range of different devices and platforms.

We’re continuing to focus on runtime performance, native extensions, new components, declarative skinning, adding more platforms and improving tooling workflows, such that in our next major release timeframe we expect that the need to build a fully-native application will be reserved for a small number of use cases.

The growth of the mobile market and the challenge of building out applications that work on a range of different form-factors and platforms present us with a huge opportunity to expose Flex to an entirely new audience of developers, while continuing to be relevant for existing Flex developers who are extending their applications to mobile.

The perception of “Flash”

All of this is no good of course if there are misperceptions or lack of awareness about what Flex (and more broadly Adobe) offers for enterprise and mobile application development. With all the FUD about Flash that has been in the marketplace over the past many months, we are highly focused on demonstrating just what Flex is capable of, both in the enterprise and for mobile app development.

On the enterprise side, we’re continuing to build meaningful relationships with large organizations as we introduce them to Adobe’s Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions. Flex is a core part of our CEM technology offering and the dialog we’re having with customers allows us to intelligently position Flex, Flash Builder and our runtimes as a way for them to deliver exceptional customer interaction through rich Internet applications and easy-to-use interfaces on web, desktops, tablets and mobiles (including Apple iOS devices).

For mobile, while we’re relatively new to the market we’ve already seen a great response to our offering – trial downloads of Flash Builder are higher than they’ve ever been before and we’ve already seen hundreds of mobile apps built and deployed to app stores, including several applications that top their category in the Apple App Store. As we roll out additional mobile development capabilities later this year, you can look forward to seeing stronger mobile-focused developer marketing from Adobe, including a series of case studies that highlight the success customers are having with Flex.

We’re excited to be working on the next generation of Flex and look forward to getting continued feedback and input from both new and experienced Flex developers. Be sure to register for Adobe MAX, October 1-4 in Los Angeles, to learn more about our Flex roadmap.

Andrew Shorten,
Group Product Manager, Developer Tools, Adobe

41 Responses to Flex: where we are headed

  1. sathyamoorthi says:

    It is really funny to read this post after flex moved to Apache.

  2. Manoj says:

    At this point of time most of the people commented below would be thinking to remove or take back their comments. The latest decision by adobe to donate Flex SDK to apache was a shock to the entire flex developer community. I strongly believe it is at a wrong time they have announced this because the alternative to enterprise applications which Adobe points to (HTML 5) is not matured yet. As this decision is out, it is now very difficult to convince clients about the future of flex. I have already started facing questions on the future of the existing applications which we have created in flex.

    When flex 2 was introduced there was a big shift from Flash and AS2 to flex. But we had a good product in front of us to start learn and work on. Now when Adobe takes this move we don’t have a specific technology in front of us to choose because Flex is the only technology at this point of time to create RIA apps without worrying about platform and browser compatibility issues.

    I think for the coming two-three years, the RIA developers would be in a dilemma because they don’t have a best technology to recommend until HTML 5 is mature enough to rely on.

    Just waiting for more updates from Adobe on this. 🙂

  3. Tufik says:

    Adobe is killing to Flash, how AOL killed to Winamp, the best player but AOL failed to adapt to changes. Now Adobe is in the same position.

    I think that flash is a web without limitless. The correct alternative to the old and limited HTML, the old and limited JavaScript, and the end of fight of all Browsers for see a correct web.

    What going happen whit the OOP for the web, without Flas?
    What happen with the powerfull tool of video in the web (streaming, live, dynamic stream, etc)?
    What happen with the powerfull webs and apps, similars to audiotool.com, aviary.com, etc.

    The good of flash was the liberty that we had for do every thing and see the same result in all browsers, pcs, tvs, etc. Also the alternative to HTML and HTML5 “the same thing but with a copy/paste of some Flash features”. I think that the new HTML5 want to be Flash.
    In my opinion, i don’t like the decision. The real reaction of the people going to be, search and found new tools, for do the things that HTML5 can’t do.

    When i think in another tecnologies, example C# and Delphy, Delphy or Java don’t say “C# is the future and now we going to dead to Delphy” because, Delphy or Java are alternatives, and are faithful to their great community. I think that adobe have a gread community too and Adobe should think it. Flash isn’t a test technology, nor a temporary technology while another technologies implements caracteristics similars to Flash. And when this happens Flash going to go the recycle bin. Flash always showed the grand thirst for innovation and do grand things without think what the W3C were thinking about the good and bad for the web.

    Finally, Flash is a alternative technology, don’t a spare tire

  4. Sachin says:

    3 years back when i opt Flex, and left .Net someone told me that Adobe always lookafter there developers. now i am really feeling so.. Thanks Adobe

    Sachin Dev Tripathi
    TCS

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  7. Yuval R says:

    Great post! I love what you guys do.

    I would certainly like (and probably need pretty soon) to be able to develop web apps that compile into HTML5/CSS3/JS using Flex, so that I support the coming presentation standard without compromising on framework maturity, high performance and great tooling. Indeed, the role of Flex is changing, and as I see it, this should mean more FLEXibility to compile the same code to various platforms and UI technologies, just like you do.

    This is not just about Apple’s ban on Flash, it’s also the right thing to do. Flash was great at its time, but now that we have a standard way to display rich web content on browsers, Flex should definitely support that move and enable full compilation to HTML5, while providing the best UI framework that developers can have for any purpose.

    Keep on the good job and do keep posting about your plans for Flex future!

    • Clay Borne says:

      I agree completely. This should be no problem to do either if Adobe invests in the architecture. This kind of advance would put Flex into the absolute forefront of web development.

  8. Sloppy says:

    Exciting,Move to impore performance is very important and left Developer and designer work with each also very important.Hearing more good futures.

  9. Pingback: El futuro de FLEX

  10. Pingback: The Future of Flex « Prototype A

  11. Sebastian Zarzycki says:

    Thanks for the update. We’re waiting for Flex 5 and your next move!

  12. We were adapting Flex in early 2007 mainly because cross platform and Linux support. It was great to build one app and run it on Linux, Mac and Win. Official drop of Linux AIR support from Adobe was not very good move, but that is different story.

    Flex designers have very hard task. It is not easy to build platform that works cross platform, cross devices and cross many languages. One of key drawbacks in past was lack of openness. Ability to use native API in AIR should be implemented earlier.

    I really like structure of Flex application. This structure could help also jQuery and HTML5 developers. Just keeping conventions from Flex makes live easier.

    There are many great products already built on Flex. I’m really looking forward to see new roadmap of Flex. 🙂

  13. HTML5 has left much that to demonstrate. Flex top!

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  15. Dinesh says:

    Hello Flex Team,
    Very much happy to know adobe is continuing investments in FlashBuilder . At the same time request adobe to update the FlashBuilder Extensibility documentation–http://help.adobe.com/en_US/flashbuilder/extensibility/index.htm…
    Lots of changes are made but still the documentation not updated . Its giving more pain for developer like me working in the Flashbuilder Plugins. I cant able to use plugins written for FlexBuilder 3 in FlashBuilder 4.As of my knowledge abode is very good at providing documentation.Hope this comment will reach to the documentation team .

  16. Lotus says:

    I would like to read a similar article about Flash Professional.

  17. Rob says:

    Thoughts on Apple: Now that Steve is gone, perhaps his antiquated and dictatorial stance on Flash will go with him. We can only hope. Go Flex!

  18. Matt says:

    Dear Adobe,

    It’s great to read that you treat your platform seriously. You are positioning yourself as enterprise platform provider, but the reality shows you are not there yet. Several improvements to Flex and Flash need to be made for that duo to become truly useful in the enterprise world. I have worked on number of large scale Flex projects for major financial institutions and would like to share some of my observations. I know this is an ultimate wish-list, but all these things really matter:

    * Flash runtime needs to be made more performant. Really big budgets are required to make large modular applications work smoothly. Drop some backwards compatibility baggage if you need to. Virtual machines can be really fast (JVM).

    * AS3 needs to be updated (it’s 5 years old already) to have proper collections library, support for generics and decimal type. You need to make it even more expressive and powerful.

    * Better reflection and code instrumentation capabilities are needed.

    * Better support for modularisation and runtime dependencies is needed – make RSLs even more powerful and controllable by developers.

    * General quality of code across Flex SDK needs to be improved considerably. Having so many bugs and regressions is not acceptable in mature enterprise framework.

    * Performance of Flex SDK components needs to be improved. Hundreds of components and tons of data on the screen should not be a problem. That’s how enterprise applications usually look like.

    * Styling engine in Flex needs to be replaced with one that is more powerful, performant and less buggy.

    * Flex compiler needs to be faster. Compile time in any larger project are so high, that may seriously hurt productivity.

    * Flash Builder needs to become world class IDE – some third party IDEs are ahead (IntelliJ).

    * Proper profiler is a must. Current solution is not powerful enough, doesn’t visualise results well and is way too slow.

    * Better support is needed for tools that are widely used in enterprise, such as maven. Contrary to some opinions, flex-mojos is not good enough yet.

    Flex developers spend too much time fighting their tools. That makes building Flex platforms rather expensive and risky investments. If this perception will get instilled in minds of managers and directors, then enterprise Flex is dead and lots of Flex developers will need to start looking for new job. Keep us informed about your plans.

    Thanks,

  19. It was a great read. I’m proud to be a Flex developer and continue trying to convince my company (of over 20,000 employees) that Flex is worthy of our investment. We’ve been on-board for many years now and I’m hoping this remains the same. Thanks for the inspiring message and keep ’em coming! 😉

  20. Michael says:

    Add the ability to match native applications, access to phonebook, set as widjet and more, this will leverage Flex’s ability to be a power competitor, because of the ease of use and the high versatility of the applications.

    Keep it up.

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  22. Since being in Flex and Flash from the beginning, seeing AIR take off from the runway, I have to say, if you can tweak performance of the Flash Player and Flex compiler, the framework and mobile end speaks for itself.

    Mike

  23. Mister says:

    Don’t forget th majority of us are still making a living building AIR and Flex applications for the enterprise. Be sure that all this focus on mobile and all the new features in AIR to increase performance for mobile transfer back to the desktop.

    There have been a lot of great improvements for AIR on mobile which is terrific, but many of those same improvements have been promised for desktop and not delivered over the last few iterations of AIR and FB. Keep the direction you’ve chosen but don’t forget all of us who enterprise developers building RIA for web and desktop.

    Thanks!

  24. Pingback: Adobe’s Flex Future « NTG Blog

  25. Bruno Santos says:

    I was first introduced to Flex by the amazing James Ward (AKA RIA cowboy) in 2009 during a JBoss Conference in Chicago. I then decided to play with it and see what it could do. I was blown away with the productivity level of the tool. For a few months I’ve tried to introduce it in the company but to no avail. My colleagues would just laugh at me everytime I would mention the word ‘Flash’. Their immaturity added to Steve Jobs comments made them think that they were right. Then, it came the opportunity to use it. Basically we had a very small time to develop an application and, somehow quite inexplicably, I was pushed to develop it alone. I chose AIR and they laugh, even though no one else had any idea how to develop it in such small amount of time. In the end I did it alone, on time and still had time to help colleagues on other tasks. More recently I’ve used it again on a short time project where the initial tools were LAMP, since I was the one developing it proposed Flex, BlazeDS and JBoss. We delivered two months ahead of time. Those who laughed are now trying to catch up with Flex.

    So yes, if you ask me, Flex is here to stay and the misconceptions of Flash will slowly but surelly go away. I just ask for one thing, don’t abandon the Linux Player 32/64 bit and revive Linux AIR when possible.

    Great job Flex team and Adobe.

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  29. Francisco says:

    It’s great post. I think that 4.5 Sdk open new doors to all Flex developers. Congratulation for the post, bye

  30. Lionel says:

    “a free update to Flex SDK and Flash Builder for release later this year” … yes !!.

    As far as The perception of “Flash” is concerned,

    – keep making Flex more powerful and accessible (as you are already doing).
    – make training and documentation widely available.

    We, the developers using it, will put out the products that make everyone see the true potential of the platform.

    Good Work !

  31. Rene Muniz says:

    This is great news, keep it up. I have one question for you. The flex framework offers a lot of advantages to developers, its programming model is easy to learn and powerful, as for the the fact that is a framework on top of Flash, the FUD about flash and your own realization that HTML5/CSS3/Javascript is being used more an more. Have you guys consider porting the FLEX framework to run on top of these IN ADDITION to Flash. I know there are limitations so there would not be feature parity at first, but as the browsers evolve and standardize the gap should get smaller. It would be great if developers could use the FLEX framework to develop HTML5/CSS3/JS apps.

  32. Andrew it’s good to hear these sorts of public views from the team. From where I sit as a developer & consultant it is easier to sell Flash,Flex & AIR as a solution today (versus a year ago) because the problems they solve are now more defined.

    The use case for Flex is narrower, is this a bad thing? Hell no. As developers we aren’t wasting time justifying Flex against JQuery any more. We are free to pursue the real strengths of Flex which for my money is UX & multi-platform deployment.

    You mentioned the perception of Flash and I think this is the biggest challenge. The developer evangelising is good but we need to see some real mainstream noise. I want to wake up in the morning and read on sites like Wired, Mashable etc about how Flash powered apps are making the top ten on the AppStore. Stir the pot if needed, shake the hornest nest if you have to but please make some noise because the general perception at the moment seems to be ill informed e.g. “you can’t build apps using Flash because Steve Jobs banned them…”

    That last sentence is something I have heard more than 20 times from non Flash and Flash guys within agencies down here in Australia in the last 3 months. BTW the quickest way to enlighten them I’ve found is to show them an AIR app running nicely on your little iPod Touch and then send them a link to install Holly’s LaunchPad app (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/airlaunchpad/ ).

    LaunchPad rules and if I was Adobe I would turn the taps on and pump resources into it, get it in front of Flex developers and even better into FlashBuilder. When it comes to selling Flex guys on the ease of deploying to desktop & mobile this little app is worth more than 20 dev center articles.

    Now I hope that MAX really starts a groundswell for all this and with AIR 3.0 removing many of the show stoppers for some mobile app requirements it has all the ingredients for it to really flare. Exciting times…

    • Could not agree with Mike more!

      Adobe please make some noise 🙂

      It’s good to see FLEX is a framework which allows to develop to more than one platform on 1 codebase. And when it’s deployed it actually works!!! (…cannot say this for html5/java/css3 pages\apps.

      I hope that one of the focuspoints of adobe will still be the use of flex in web environments.

      Not all apps\pages are worthwile to post in an appstore, they need to be visited from web). 😉 people still visit webpages… Imho there are still points which can be optimized in that area (creating smaller file size; or why not deliver the standard Flex Runtime Shared Libraries with the next flash to a local directory.

      Futhermore I think adobe can really score by offering more actively access to popular api’s like facebook etc etc. (likebutton is almost undoable, but these are things clients ask for and are expensive since it’s not a line of code).

      hehehe lot’s of typing to show I’m a fan of the platform but it could improve by offering tighter connection to the framework it resides in > the web.

      Cheers, and waiting for some nice news @ MAX in october.

      Maarten

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  35. Phantom says:

    I strongly believe that this is the best time to be a Flex developer! Great things and experiences come ahead, let’s enjoy our moment. 🙂

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  37. Drew says:

    Very exciting…looking forward to hear more…

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