Adobe’s Falcon JS: Compile Flex code to HTML and Javascript

Adobe has issued further information about its intention to donate the Flex SDK, which builds Flash applications from XML and ActionScript, to the Apache Software Foundation. Specifically, the donation will include:

  • BlazeDS, the free version of LiveCycle Data Services
  • Falcon, the new Flex compiler due to be completed in 2012
  • Falcon JS, a previously unannounced project

Of these, Falcon JS is the most eye-catching. This is an “experimental cross-compiler from MXML and ActionScript to HTML and JavaScript.” In other words, Falcon JS has the potential to give developers a migration path from Flash to HTML clients. Note that it is described as a cross-compiler rather than a porting tool, so it may well be that the output is not easily edited. The Google Web Toolkit works like this, converting Java to JavaScript but not in a form that anyone is expected to edit. Adobe also adds:

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.

What about the most sensitive of Adobe’s statements, that HTML is the long-term solution for enterprise applications? Adobe says:

In time (and depending upon your application, it could be 3-5 years from now), we believe HTML5 could support the majority of use cases where Flex is used today.

and adds:

We intend to make investments in HTML-related technologies, so that we can help advance HTML5 to make it suitable for enterprise applications.

I am not sure to what extent the new statement will ease the worries of Flex developers; but at least Adobe is clear about its intentions. While there are benefits in the Flex SDK moving to Apache, overall the message is that Adobe is hastening towards HTML 5. I am surprised, considering the progress the company has made in creating a strong cross-platform toolkit for mobile and desktop applications. Although no-one should doubt that Adobe will continue to support and evolve Flex as a development platform, it has in effect declared it to be a legacy technology, and I would guess that the effect will be to depress the level of activity there.

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  3. Adobe favours HTML over Flex, retreats from its enterprise app platform
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