This article has been updated as of 11/15/11 – additional questions and answers below.
With the recent announcements this week, we know that the Flex community has many questions regarding Adobe’s plans around the Flex SDK. Let us try to answer the questions we’ve heard.
Is Adobe still committed to Flex?
Yes. We know Flex provides a unique set of benefits for enterprise application developers. We also know that the technology landscape for application development is rapidly changing and our customers want more direct control over the underlying technologies they use. Given this, we are planning to contribute the Flex SDK to an open source foundation in the same way we contributed PhoneGap to the Apache Foundation when we acquired Nitobi.
This project will be jointly led by some developers from the Flex SDK engineering team along with key developers from the Flex community, including members of the Spoon Project and contributors from enterprise companies currently using Flex. Flex SDK feature development will continue under a new governance model and Adobe will continue to contribute to the Flex SDK.
Does Adobe recommend we use Flex or HTML5 for our enterprise application development?
In the long-term, we believe HTML5 will be the best technology for enterprise application development. We also know that, currently, Flex has clear benefits for large-scale client projects typically associated with desktop application profiles.
Given our experiences innovating on Flex, we are extremely well positioned to positively contribute to the advancement of HTML5 development, starting with mobile applications. In fact, many of the engineers and product managers who worked on Flex SDK will be moving to work on our HTML efforts. We will continue making significant contributions to open web technologies like WebKit & jQuery, advance the development of PhoneGap and create new tools that solve the challenges developers face when building applications with HTML5.
Will previously discussed Flex roadmap features be released?
The Flex roadmap will be determined by the governing board once it’s been established. We plan to contribute framework features previously highlighted as part of Adobe’s Flex roadmap, into this new project.
Is Adobe still committed to Flash Builder?
Yes. Flash Builder will continue to be developed and Adobe will work to ensure Flex developers can use Flash Builder as their development tool with future releases of Flex SDK.
Will Adobe continue to support customers using Flex?
Yes. Adobe will continue to honor existing Flex support contracts.
So, what’s next?
We are close to wrapping up development on Flex 4.6 SDK and it will be released on November 29th 2011. Following this, we will begin the process of moving to the open development model described above.
On a personal note, we recognize we could have handled the communication better and promise to share regular updates over the coming weeks and months.
We believe these changes to the Flex SDK development model will ensure that the broader community can continue to use and directly enhance Flex for many years to come.
************ UPDATE – 11/15/11 ************
Further to the above questions and answers, we received many comments for clarification and additional information on certain topics. We have provided answers to these below:
What specifically is Adobe proposing?
We are preparing two proposals for incubating Flex SDK and BlazeDS at the Apache Software Foundation.
In addition to contributing the core Flex SDK (including automation and advanced data visualization components), Adobe also plans to donate the following:
- Complete, but yet-to-be-released, Spark components, including ViewStack, Accordion, DateField, DateChooser and an enhanced DataGrid.
- BlazeDS, the server-based Java remoting and web messaging technology that enables developers to easily connect to back-end distributed data and push data in real-time to Flex applications.
- Falcon, the next-generation MXML and ActionScript compiler that is currently under development (this will be contributed when complete in 2012)
- Flex testing tools, as used previously by Adobe, so as to ensure successful continued development of Flex with high quality
Adobe will also have a team of Flex SDK engineers contributing to those new Apache projects as their full-time responsibility. Adobe has in-development work already started, including additional Spark-based components.
Isn’t Adobe just abandoning Flex SDK and putting it out to Apache to die?
Absolutely not – we are incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved with Flex and know that it will continue to provide significant value for many years to come. We expect active and on-going contributions from the Apache community. To be clear, Adobe plans on steadily contributing to the projects and we are working with the Flex community to make them contributors as well.
Flex has been open source since the release of Flex 3 SDK. What’s so different about what you are announcing now?
Since Flex 3, customers have primarily used the Flex source code to debug underlying issues in the Flex framework, rather than to actively develop new features or fix bugs and contribute them back to the SDK.
With Friday’s announcement, Adobe will no longer be the owner of the ongoing roadmap. Instead, the project will be in Apache and governed according to its well-established community rules. In this model, Apache community members will provide project leadership. We expect project management to include both Adobe engineers as well as key community leaders. Together, they will jointly operate in a meritocracy to define new features and enhancements for future versions of the Flex SDK. The Apache model has proven to foster a vibrant community, drive development forward, and allow for continuous commits from active developers.
How will the open source governance work? Where will it be hosted? Who will manage the project? Will Adobe still effectively control the Flex roadmap? How can I contribute?
We are actively working on getting the Flex SDK and BlazeDS projects accepted as incubator podlings at the Apache Software Foundation. We expect to have more information to share on progress in the next few weeks.
We are actively working with members of the Flex community to ensure they are involved in the project management along with Adobe engineers.
What guarantees can Adobe make in relation to Flex applications continuing to run on Flash Player and Adobe AIR?
Adobe will continue to support applications built with Flex, as well as all future versions of the SDK running in PC browsers with Adobe Flash Player and as mobile apps with Adobe AIR indefinitely on Apple iOS, Google Android and RIM BlackBerry Tablet OS.
How will open source Flex development continue against Flash Player and Adobe AIR?
Flex SDK development will continue against released versions of the Flash Player and Adobe AIR runtimes, providing a stable and supported environment for Flex applications.
You said Adobe is committed to Flash Builder – what exactly does that mean in the context of future Flex SDK support?
Future versions of Adobe Flash Builder will continue to provide code editing, compilation, debugging and profiling support for Flex applications. Adobe will undertake the required work to ensure Flash Builder is compatible with future releases of Flex SDK.
Previously communicated road map features, such as enhanced code editing, real-time error highlighting and compile-as-you-type support will be available to both ActionScript and Flex developers.
Is Flex SDK still a viable technology option for existing and new projects?
Absolutely. Flex SDK will continue to be developed, maintained and released as an open source project that Adobe actively contributes to.
You said that you believe HTML is the “long-term solution for enterprise applications” – can you clarify this statement?
However, Flex has now, and for many years will continue to have, advantages over HTML5 for enterprise application development – in particular:
- Flex offers complete feature-level consistency across multiple platforms
- The Flex component set and programming model makes it extremely productive when building complex application user interfaces
- ActionScript is a mature language, suitable for large application development
- Supporting tools (both Adobe’s and third-party) offer a productive environment with respect to code editing, debugging and profiling
Our announcements relating to changes in the way Flex SDK is developed do not change the fundamental value-add of Flex or make HTML5 suddenly more capable than it was last week.
We intend to make investments in HTML-related technologies, so that we can help advance HTML5 to make it suitable for enterprise applications.
We have undertaken some experimental work in this area, but remain unsure as to the viability of fully translating Flex-based content to HTML.
The Falcon JS cross-compiler, referenced above, represents this early work and we intend to contribute this to the open source project.
What happens next?
We are actively working on the proposal for incubating Flex SDK and BlazeDS at the Apache Software Foundation. Once the proposals have been accepted, both Adobe and community contributors can begin committing contributions. We will share an update when the incubator proposal has been posted – we expect this to happen over the course of the next few weeks.
We are working on providing you with more detailed information relating to the open source contributions we are making, how you can contribute to Flex SDK and BlazeDS through Apache’s contribution model and our HTML5-related plans.
We’d like an opportunity to talk to as many Flex developers as possible in person about these changes – to that end, members of the Flex product team along with Adobe evangelists will be organizing a multi-city international tour to enable more direct discussions. Stay tuned for more information.
If there are any questions we have not addressed, please post them in the comments. We ask that you keep questions and comments on topic.
Andrew Shorten & Deepa Subramaniam
Group Product Managers, Adobe