Adobe says role of Flex and Flash has changed, makes play for mobile

Adobe’s Andrew Shorten has posted on the future of Flex, the developer-oriented tool for building applications for the Flash runtime.

This is one of the clearest statements I have seen from Adobe that recognises that the role of Flash on the web is diminishing:

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.

Adobe is not giving up on Flash, of course, and states that it is still the best for certain categories of application:

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.

I would add both statements are written from the perspective of application developers. The role of Flash as a video and multimedia player is a separate issue. Flash is also important in that context. There is some overlap, in that if your application includes multimedia content then Flash is correspondingly more attractive.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that this repositioning of Flash makes it not so different from Microsoft’s Silverlight: a runtime for business applications.

Adobe is focusing on a new market for Flex in mobile. This overcomes the Apple iOS problem, since you can compile a Flex application to iOS native code. Adobe promises “additional mobile development capabilities” later this year and says:

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.

I agree that cross-platform mobile development is a key area and one where there is no clear winner yet. It is a good opportunity for Adobe, though there is increasing competition from the products like Appcelerator Titanium and PhoneGap.

I also think that Embarcadero’s new RAD Studio XE2 will attract interest. This tool which will be released soon does native code compilation across Windows, Mac and Apple iOS, with Android promised, using the Delphi IDE and language.

5 thoughts on “Adobe says role of Flex and Flash has changed, makes play for mobile”

  1. Actually, I think Andrew Shorten is specifically talking about the role of Flex rather than Flash. In our experience (based on feedback from customers of our Flash Platform IDE, Amethyst), many Flash developers simply do not use Flex and many do not even understand what Flex is for. They develop exclusively for Flash using the core Flash libraries rather than the additional (optional) libraries of the Flex framework. Adobe knows this reluctance by many developers to use Flex is a problem. This is no doubt one reason why increasingly the name Flex has been downplayed in favour of Flash (e.g. Flash Builder, The ‘Flash Platform’) but, even so, it remains the case that many Flash developers never use Flex. It is perceived as being a ‘User Interface thing’ for business apps rather than a general-purpose Flash development framework. This isn’t helped by the fact that Flex components seem to duplicate Flash components – using Flex 4, for example, the user has a choice of three alternative buttons: Flash Button, Flex 3 (mx) Button or Flex 4 (spark) button. No wonder they are confused! I’ll wait to see what Adobe does with future versions of Flex. It seems to me that Shorten is trying to position Flex as complimentary to HTML 5 (though now this gives Flash developers even more buttons to choose amongst!) but it does not resolve the problem of explaining clearly to Flash users the compelling reasons for using the Flex framework.

  2. @Huw From Adobe’s perspective, does it matter if developers use Flex or Flash? Probably not; but if the use case for Flex is narrowing, that is because of Flash vs HTML5 not Flex vs HTML5 though it is a subtle distinction.

    I agree there is some confusing legacy cruft in the platform; not sure how easily Adobe can fix that.


  3. Interesting – may be Google feels so strong with Android, that he works on its own proprietary browser runtime and language “Dart”, as they considers JavaScript is crap… what a irony – its driven by proposed dominant market share of Android???

Comments are closed.