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