Category Archives: flash

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Hands On with Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 for Android

I have been trying several cross-platform development tools for mobile, and today I set out to create an Adobe AIR app for Android using the new Flash Builder 4.5, available separately or as part of the Creative Suite CS5.5.

I made another calculator app, which may seem boring but gives me a chance to compare like with like.

You get started by running up Flash Builder and creating a new Flex Mobile Project.

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The disappointment here is that only Android is supported, so it is not all that cross-platform. According to Adobe’s Andrew Shorten:

An update to Flash Builder, scheduled for June 2011, will provide additional options to package Flex applications for Apple iOS and will include built-in support for packaging both Flex and ActionScript applications for BlackBerry Tablet OS.

so we have not got long to wait.

Flash Builder is based on Eclipse. The IDE is slow at times, for example when switching to visual design mode, but the platform is familiar to many developers and it feels reassuringly enterprise-ready. I find it a productive environment.

I laid out a screen with buttons and a label to display the output. The alignment tools work well although I made them a little too small as you will see shortly. Then I started writing code. The language of Flash Builder is ActionScript, which is based on JavaScript.

Here I met my first little annoyance. You can easily create a click handler for a button by right-clicking in the designer and choosing Generate Click Handler, or by clicking Generate Event Handler in the properties window. However, I thought it would be smart for most of my buttons to share the same event handler. All I need to do is to read the label of the button which was clicked, and pass it to my addnum routine that processes the input:

protected function btn_clickHandler(event:MouseEvent):void
{
    var theButton:Button = Button(event.currentTarget);
    addnum(theButton.label);
}

This works fine, but the IDE does not let you select an existing event handler for a button. You can paste it in, or add in in the source code editor, which is what I ended up doing. The source code editor is rather good, with excellent code completion, hover-over help for keywords, and so on.

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The second annoyance was with the label. I wanted to add a border. I selected the label but could not see a border property. I went to the full list of properties and found exotic things like dominantBaseline in the style list but still no border.

Then I found this in the reference for a label:

Borders are not supported. If you need a border, or a more complicated background, use a separate graphic element, such as a Rect, behind the Label.

I wondered if a panel would work, and started to type it in the editor:

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Well, it looks as if Panel is overkill for simply getting a border, but it was interesting to see the editor report that “Adobe discourages using Panel when targeting profiles: mobileDevice”. I decided to do without a border for the moment.

I finished the coding and successfully ran the project in the Android simulator. Next, I attached a device and created a new Run Configuration for a device attached via USB. I plugged in my HTC Desire running Android 2.2. Provided USB debugging is enabled on the device, this works well. Not only could I run on the device; I could also set a breakpoint and debug on the device. Everything was a bit slow in debug mode but it worked.

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Finally, I built a release version using Export Release Build on the Project menu. You have to sign the package, but there is a wizard to create a certificate for testing.

Here it is on the device – as I mentioned, the size of the buttons needs a little work:

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So how is performance, bearing in mind that the app is trivial. Well, the good news is that performance is OK, though launch is a little slow, except for one thing that I have not figured out. Sometimes I touch a button, and see the graphic effect as the button depresses, but the input does not register. It seems most prone to this just after launching, and usually a second tap works fine.

The vsize reported for the app process by the Dalvik Debug Monitor is around 200K, similar to that for the PhoneGap version.

Overall I am impressed, though I would like to understand the button issue, and I am beginning to wonder if my year-old HTC Desire is a bit under-powered for AIR. Device performance is improving rapidly, and Flash optimization is part of the design process for mobile graphics chips, so my guess is that AIR will be more than viable as a cross-platform toolkit for mobile. You also get the benefit of all those lovely Adobe design tools.

Adobe announces Flash Builder for PHP, PhoneGap integration in Dreamweaver

Adobe has stepped up its support for mobile and Flash development with a couple of announcements today.

The first is that Dreamweaver 5.5, part of the new Creative Suite 5.5, has integrated support for PhoneGap.

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PhoneGap lets you build apps for Apple iOS and Google Android using HTML and JavaScript, taking advantage of the WebKit runtime that is present in these devices. The apps are packaged as native apps and also have access to some device-specific features. This does not mean Adobe is abandoning Flash, but is part of a both/and strategy, which makes sense to me.

There is also a new 4.5 version of Flash Builder which has greatly improved mobile support.

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Flex 4.5 compiles to AIR apps on Android, Blackberry and iOS, as well as desktop Mac, Windows and Linux.

You can debug directly on an Android device connected via USB, or using a new emulator built into Flash Builder:

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Adobe has also announced Flash Builder 4.5 for PHP, in partnership with Zend. A great feature is that you can debug seamlessly from PHP code on the server to Flex code running in a Flash client, provided you are using Zend server.

The new Flash Builder products will ship within 30 days. The premium edition is part of the Creative Suite 5.5 bundle – an improvement over Creative Suite 5.0 which only bundled the Standard edition – or available separately, while Flash Builder for PHP is a separate purchase at $399 or €319 for Standard, and $799 or €629 for Premium.

I asked Adobe’s Adam Lehman, Flash Builder produce manager, how developers should decide between PhoneGap and AIR for Mobile, given that both are now in Creative Suite.

They’re coming from two different technical perspectives. If you’re going to come in with your HTML skills and try to build an application that way, PhoneGap is better than trying to go and learn ActionScript and Flex from scratch. But from a performance and functionality perspective we believe we’re offering a lot better solution with Flash Builder and Flex.

The other part of it is that our tooling is superior. The sort of workflow that we showed [Design and develop with round-tripping between Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder] isn’t going to be available on the PhoneGap side with our tooling. Dreamweaver might be able to support different layouts and things like that, but it is not going to be a full-fledged IDE. What you’re getting with the AIR runtime and the full tooling stack is far superior that if you were building the HTML-based PhoneGap app. You can always tell a PhoneGap app, you can tell that it is running in an embedded browser. There’s tons of inconsistencies between the devices because the browsers are very different. There’s a lot of advantages to going AIR where you know that the design is going to look exactly the same. But while we love Flash we’re not zealous about it to ignore the fact that you can build with these other technologies as well.

More information on Flash Builder 4.5 here.

Adobe announces Flash Builder for PHP, PhoneGap integration in Dreamweaver

Adobe has stepped up its support for mobile and Flash development with a couple of announcements today.
The first is that Dreamweaver 5.5, part of the new Creative Suite 5.5, has integrated support for PhoneGap. PhoneGap lets you build apps for Apple iOS and Google Android using HTML and JavaScript, taking advantage of the WebKit runtime that is present in these devices. The apps are packaged as native apps and also have access to some device-specific features. This does not mean Adobe is abandoning Flash, but is part of a both/and strategy, which makes sense to me.
Adobe has also announced Flash Builder 4.5 for PHP, in partnership with Zend. A great feature is that you can debug seamlessly from PHP code on the server to Flex code running in a Flash client, provided you are using Zend server.
Flex 4.5 compiles to AIR apps on Android, Blackberry and iOS, as well as desktop Mac, Windows and Linux.
The new Flash Builder products will ship within 30 days. The premium edition is part of the Creative Suite bundle or available separately, while Flash Builder for PHP is a separate purchase at $399 or €319 for Standard, and $799 or €629 for Premium.
More news on this and screenshots soon.

Adobe AIR 2.6, MonoMac 1.0, cross-platform is not dead yet

It is a busy time for cross-platform toolkits. Adobe has released AIR 2.6, and reading the list of what’s new you would think it was mainly for mobile, since the notes focus on new features for Apple iOS, though AIR is also a runtime for Windows, Linux and desktop Mac. New features for iOS include GPU rendering – a form of hardware accelerated graphics – access to the camera, microphone, and camera roll, and embedded Webkit for apps that use web content. On Google Android, you can now debug on devices connected via USB.

There is also a new feature called “owned native windows” which lets you have a group of windows that remain together in the Z order – this lets you have things like floating toolbars without odd results where toolbars get hidden underneath other applications.

Asynchronous decoding of bitmaps is another new feature, allowing images to be processed in the background. This seems like a stopgap solution to overcome the lack of mullti-threading in AIR, but useful nonetheless.

Since the Flash runtime does not run on iOS, Adobe has a packager that compiles an AIR application into a native app. This is now called the AIR Developer Tool or ADT. You can use the ADT to target Windows, Linux or Android as well; however platforms other than iOS still need the AIR runtime installed.

Adobe is dropping support for the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G. iPhone 3GS or higher is needed.

If you want to build a cross-platform app but prefer .NET to Adobe’s Flash and ActionScript, the Mono folk have what you need. I’d guess that the Mono team has a small fraction of the resources of Adobe; but nevertheless it has delivered MonoTouch for iOS and is working on MonoDroid for Android. Just completed in its 1.0 version is MonoMac, for building Cocoa applications on Apple OSX. Mono is not fully cross-platform, since the GUI framework is different on the various platforms, but you do get to use C# throughout.

I am happy to agree that true native code is usually a better solution for any one platform; but at a time when the number of viable platforms is increasing the attraction of cross-platform has never been greater.

Adobe targets Apple iPhone and iPad browsers with tool to convert Flash projects

Adobe has released an “experimental technology” codenamed Wallaby on its Adobe Labs site. Not all Adobe Labs projects become fully released products, but it is an indication of serious interest. The experiment was first previewed at the Adobe Max conference last year.

Wallaby is an Adobe AIR application for Windows and Mac. The tool is simplicity itself: just select a .FLA file and convert it.

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.FLA is the format of Flash projects, not Flash output. gauges

According to Adobe’s John Nack Wallaby has limited goals, focused on “converting typical banner ads to HTML5.” It is aimed at WebKit-based browsers, the implication being that Adobe’s main intent is to enable Flash ads to work on Apple’s iPhone and iPad, though it also works on Google Chrome and Apple Safari on the desktop. There is no ActionScript conversion, though you can edit the exported project after conversion and add your own scripting.

ActionScript is based on JavaScript so a conversion tool should not be too hard.

Other Flash features not supported include video, sound, 3D transforms, Filters, Inverse Kinematics, and gradient strokes

The fascinating aspect of Wallaby is in its potential. Users do not care whether a web site or application uses Flash or HTML5; they just want it to work. Adobe’s primary strength is in its design tools. One possible scenario is that Adobe might gradually extend its HTML5 support so that the tools are applicable for both platforms; Flash could become a workaround technology for legacy browsers.

No doubt Adobe would rather see the Flash runtime used everywhere but at least the company has a plan B. If, for example, Apple comes to dominate personal and mobile computing and continues to block Flash wherever it can, then that is important. Adobe already has a Flash to iOS packager for apps; now it has the beginnings of a solution for in-browser Flash on iOS as well.

Update: revised post with more detail about what is not supported.

Google, Adobe Flash, and H.264 video

On signing into Google Docs today I saw the following:

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I clicked Learn more and was directed to this article. The files you can upload and play:

  • WebM files (Vp8 video codec and Vorbis Audio codec)
  • .MPEG4, 3GPP and MOV files – (h264 and mpeg4 video codecs and AAC audio codec)
  • .AVI (many cameras use this format – typically the video codec is MJPEG and audio is PCM)
  • .MPEGPS (MPEG2 video codec and MP2 audio)
  • .WMV
  • .FLV (Adobe – FLV1 video codec, MP3 audio)

And how do you play a video?

Simply click a video file that you’ve uploaded to your Documents List and the video opens in a new page that includes a video player. You will need to have Flash installed for the video player to work.

At the same time, Google says it is removing H.264 support from its Chrome browser:

Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.

How do we make sense of this? The implication is that Google is not in fact bothered about H.264, but rather wants to promote Flash for video instead of the HTML 5 <video> element. That is a problem for Apple iOS users who cannot run Flash, and puzzling insofar as you would expect Google to be promoting rather than discouraging HTML 5 adoption.

Possibly the real target is Apple. Flash has become a key selling point for non-Apple mobile devices. By making more use of Flash, Google can make the web more annoying for iOS users and thereby promote Android.

As John Gruber observes, Google has some questions to answer.

Update: Google’s Mike Jazayeri has posted some more background on the decision here.

Hardware vendors chase Apple’s iPad at CES with Android, not Windows

There is a chorus of disapproval on the web today as Asus announced a full-fat Windows tablet  (Eee Slate EP121)  at CES in Las Vegas, along with three other devices running Google Android – the Eee Pad MeMo, the Eee Pad Transformer, and the Eee Pad Slider.

The most detailed “review” I’ve seen for the EP121 is on the Windows Experience Blog. Core i5, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD, capacitive screen with touch and stylus input.

Nice in its way; but no kind of game-changer since this is an echo of early Windows slates which never achieved more than niche success. Four big disadvantages:

  • Short battery life
  • High price
  • The stylus
  • and another thing: in the rush to embrace touch computing, vendors appear to have forgotten one of the best features of those early tablets: you could rest your hand on the screen while writing with the pen. If you have a combined touch/stylus device that will not work.

Microsoft fans will be hoping CEO Steve Ballmer does not make too much of the EP121 and devices like this in tonight’s keynote. If he does, it will seem the company has learned little from failures of the past.

Asus deserves respect for introducing the netbook to the world in 2007, with the original Eee PC. It ran Linux, had an SSD in place of a hard drive, battery life was good, and above all it was light and cheap. Back then the story was how Microsoft missed the mark with its 2006 Origami project – small portable PCs running Windows – only to be shown how to do it by OEMs with simple netbooks at the right price.

Asus itself is not betting on Windows for tablet success; after all, three of the four products unveiled yesterday run Android. Despite what was apparently a poor CES press conference these may work out OK, though the prices look on the high side.

There will be many more tablets announced at CES, most of them running Android. Android “Honeycomb”, which is also Android 3.0 if Asus CEO Johnny Shih had his terminology right, is the first version created with tablet support in mind.

But why the tablet rush? The answer is obvious: it is because Apple has re-invented the category with the iPad. Since the iPad has succeeded where the Tablet PC failed, as a mass-market device, intuitively you would expect vendors to study what is right about it and to copy that, rather than repeating past mistakes. I think that includes long battery life and a touch-centric user interface; keyboard or stylus is OK as an optional extra but no more than that.

Equalling Apple’s design excellence and closed-but-seamless ecosystem is not possible for most manufacturers, but thanks to Android they can come up with devices that are better in other aspects: cheaper, more powerful, or with added features such as USB ports and Adobe Flash support.

It is reasonable to expect that at least a few of the CES tablets will succeed as not-quite iPads that hit the mark, just as Smartphones like the HTC Desire and Motorola Droid series have done with respect to the iPhone.

Microsoft? Ballmer’s main advantage is that expectations are low. Even if he exceeds those expectations, the abundance of Android tablets at CES shows how badly the company misjudged and mishandled the mobile market.

The implication for developers is that if you want app ubiquity, you have to develop for Android and iOS.

Microsoft could help itself and its developers by delivering a cross-platform runtime for the .NET Framework that would run on Android. I doubt Silverlight for Android would be technically difficult for Microsoft; but sadly after PDC it looks unlikely.

Ten big tech trends from 2010

This was an amazing year for tech. Here are some of the things that struck me as significant.

Sun Java became Oracle Java

Oracle acquired Sun and set about imposing its authority on Java. Java is still Java, but Oracle lacks Sun’s commitment to open source and community – though even in Sun days there was tension in this area. That was nothing to the fireworks we saw in 2010, with Java Community Process members resigning, IBM switching from its commitment to the Apache Harmony project to the official OpenJDK, and the Apache foundation waging a war of words against Oracle that was impassioned but, it seems, futile.

Microsoft got cloud religion

Only up to a point, of course. This is the Windows and Office company, after all. However – and this is a little subjective – this was the year when Microsoft convinced me it is serious about Windows Azure for hosting our applications and data. In addition, it seems to me that the company is willing to upset its partners if necessary for the sake of its hosted Exchange and SharePoint – BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), soon to become Office 365.

This is a profound change for Microsoft, bearing in mind its business model. I spoke to a few partners when researching this article for the Register and was interested by the level of unease that was expressed.

Microsoft also announced some impressive customer wins for BPOS, especially in government, though the price the customers pay for these is never mentioned in the press releases.

Microsoft Silverlight shrank towards Windows-only

Silverlight is Microsoft’s browser plug-in which delivers multimedia and the .NET Framework to Windows and Mac; it is also the development platform for Windows Phone 7. It still works on a Mac, but in 2010 Microsoft made it clear that cross-platform Silverlight is no longer its strategy (if it ever was), and undermined the Mac version by adding Windows-specific features that interoperate with the local operating system. Silverlight is still an excellent runtime, powerful, relatively lightweight, easy to deploy, and supported by strong tools in Visual Studio 2010. If you have users who do not run Windows though, it now looks a brave choice.

The Apple iPad was a hit

I still have to pinch myself when thinking about how Microsoft now needs to catch up with Apple in tablet computing. I got my first tablet in 2003, yes seven years ago, and it ran Windows. Now despite seven years of product refinement it is obvious that Windows tablets miss the mark that Apple has hit with its first attempt – though drawing heavily on what it learnt with the equally successful iPhone. I see iPads all over the place, in business as well as elsewhere, and it seems to me that the success of a touch interface on this larger screen signifies a transition in personal computing that will have a big impact.

Google Android was a hit

Just when Apple seemed to have the future of mobile computing in its hands, Google’s Android alternative took off, benefiting from mass adoption by everyone-but-Apple among hardware manufacturers. Android is not as elegantly designed or as usable as Apple’s iOS, but it is close enough; and it is a relatively open platform that runs Adobe Flash and other apps that do not meet Apple’s approval. There are other contenders: Microsoft Windows Phone 7; RIM’s QNX-based OS in the PlayBook; HP’s Palm WebOS; Nokia Symbian and Intel/Nokia MeeGo – but how many mobile operating systems can succeed? Right now, all we can safely say is that Apple has real competition from Android.

HP fell out with Microsoft

Here is an interesting one. The year kicked off with a press release announcing that HP and Microsoft love each other to the extent of $250 million over three years – but if you looked closely, that turned out to be less than a similar deal in 2006. After that, the signs were even less friendly. HP acquired Palm in April, signalling its intent to compete with Windows Mobile rather than adopting it; and later this year HP announced that it was discontinuing its Windows Home Server range. Of course HP remains a strong partner for Windows servers, desktops and laptops; but these are obvious signs of strain.

The truth though is that these two companies need one another. I think they should kiss and make up.

eBook readers were a hit

I guess this is less developer-oriented; but 2010 was the year when electronic book publishing seemed to hit the mainstream. Like any book lover I have mixed feelings about this and its implications for bookshops. I doubt we will see books disappear to the same extent as records and CDs; but I do think that book downloads will grow rapidly over the next few years and that paper-and-ink sales will diminish. It is a fascinating tech battle too: Amazon Kindle vs Apple iPad vs the rest (Sony Reader, Barnes and Noble Nook, and others which share their EPUB format). I have a suspicion that converged devices like the iPad may win this one, but displays that are readable in sunlight have special requirements so I am not sure.

HTML 5 got real

2010 was a huge year for HTML 5 – partly because Microsoft announced its support in Internet Explorer 9, currently in beta; and partly because the continued growth of browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, and the WebKit-based Google Chrome, Apple Safari and numerous mobile browsers showed that HTML 5 would be an important platform with or without Microsoft. Yes, it is fragmented and unfinished; but more and more of HTML 5 is usable now or in the near future.

Adobe Flash survived Apple and HTML 5

2010 was the year of Steve Jobs’ notorious Thoughts on Flash as well as a big year for HTML 5, which encroaches on territory that used to require the services of a browser plug-in. Many people declared Adobe Flash dead, but the reality was different and the company had a great year. Apple’s focus on design and usability helps Adobe’s design-centric approach even while Apple’s refusal to allow Flash on its mobile computers opposes it.

Windows 7 was a hit

Huge relief in Redmond as Windows 7 sold and sold. The future belongs to mobile and cloud; but Windows is not going away soon, and version 7 is driving lots of upgrades as even XP diehards move over. I’m guessing that we will get first sight of Windows 8 in 2011. Another triumph, or another Vista?

The Java crisis and what it means for developers

What is happening with the Java language and runtime? Since Java passed into the hands of Oracle, following its acquisition of Sun, there has been a succession of bad news. To recap:

  • The JavaOne conference in September 2010 was held in the shadow of Oracle OpenWorld making it a less significant event than in previous years.
  • Oracle is suing Google, claiming that Java as used in the Android SDK breaches its copyright.
  • IBM has abandoned the Apache open source Harmony project and is committing to the Oracle-supported Open JDK. Although IBM’s Sutor claims that this move will “help unify open source Java efforts”, it seems to have been done without consultation with Apache and is as much divisive as unifying.
  • Apple is deprecating Java and ceasing to develop a Mac-specific JVM. This should be seen in context. Apple is averse to runtimes of any kind – note its war against Adobe Flash – and seems to look forward to a day when all or most applications delivered to Apple devices come via the Apple-curated and taxed app store. In mitigation, Apple is cooperating with the OpenJDK and OpenJDK for Mac OS X has been announced.
  • Apache has written a strongly-worded blog post claiming that Oracle is “violating their contractual obligation as set forth under the rules of the JCP”, where JCP is the Java Community Process, a multi-vendor group responsible for the Java specification but in which Oracle/Sun has special powers of veto. Apache’s complaint is that Oracle stymies the progress of Harmony by refusing to supply the test kit for Java (TCK) under a free software license. Without the test kit, Harmony’s Java conformance cannot be officially verified.
  • The JCP has been unhappy with Oracle’s handling of Java for some time. Many members disagree with the Google litigation and feel that Oracle has not communicated well with the JCP. JCP member Doug Lea stood down, claiming that “the JCP is no longer a credible specification and standards body”. Another member, Stephen Colebourne, has a series of blog posts in which he discusses the great war of Java and what he calls the “unravelling of the JCP”, and recently  expressed his view that Oracle was trying to manipulate the recent JCP elections.

To set this bad news in context, Java was not really in a good way even before the acquisition. While Sun was more friendly towards open source and collaboration, the JCP has long been perceived as too slow to evolve Java, and unrepresentative of the wider Java community. Further, Java’s pre-eminence as a pervasive cross-platform runtime has been reduced. As a browser plug-in it has fallen behind Adobe Flash, the JavaFX initiative failed to win wide developer support, and on mobile it has also lost ground. Java’s advance as a language has been too slow to keep up with Microsoft’s C#.

There are a couple of ways to look at this.

One is to argue that bad news followed by more bad news means Java will become a kind of COBOL, widely used forever but not at the cutting edge of anything.

The other is to argue that since Java was already falling behind, radical change to the way it is managed may actually improve matters.

Mike Milinkovich at the Eclipse Foundation takes a pragmatic view in a recent post. He concedes that Oracle has no idea how to communicate with the Java community, and that the JCP is not vendor-neutral, but says that Java can nevertheless flourish:

I believe that many people are confusing the JCP’s vendor neutrality with its effectiveness as a specifications organization. The JCP has never and will never be a vendor-neutral organization (a la Apache and Eclipse), and anyone who thought it so was fooling themselves. But it has been effective, and I believe that it will be effective again.

It seems to me Java will be managed differently after it emerges from its crisis, and that on the scale between “open” and “proprietary” it will have moved towards proprietary but not in a way that destroys the basic Java proposition of a free development kit and runtime. It is also possible, even likely, that Java language and technology will advance more rapidly than before.

For developers wondering what will happen to Java at a technical level, the best guide currently is still the JDK Roadmap, published in September. Some of its key points:

  • The open source Open JDK is the basis for the Oracle JDK.
  • The Oracle JDK and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) will continue to be available as free downloads, with no changes to the existing licensing models.
  • New features proposed for JDK 7 include better support for dynamic languages and concurrent programming. JDK 8 will get Lambda expression.

While I cannot predict the outcome of Oracle vs Google or even Apache vs Oracle, my guess is that there will be a settlement and that Android’s momentum will not be disrupted.

That said, there is little evidence that Oracle has the vision that Sun once had, to make Java truly pervasive and a defence against lock-in to proprietary operating systems. Microsoft seems to have lost that vision for .NET and Silverlight as well – though the Mono folk have it. Adobe still has it for Flash, though like Oracle it seems if anything to be retreating from open source.

There is therefore some sense in which the problems facing Java (and Silverlight) are good for .NET, for Mono and for Adobe. Nevertheless, 2010 has been a bad year for write once – run anywhere.

Update: Oracle has posted a statement saying:

The recently released statement by the ASF Board with regard to their participation in the JCP calling for EC members to vote against SE7 is a call for continued delay and stagnation of the past several years. We would encourage Apache to reconsider their position and work together with Oracle and the community at large to collectively move Java forward.  Oracle provides TCK licenses under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms consistent with its obligations under the JSPA.   Oracle believes that with EC approval to initiate the SE7 and SE8 JSRs, the Java community can get on with the important work of driving forward Java SE and other standards in open, transparent, consensus-driven expert groups.   This is the priority.   Now is the time for positive action.  Now is the time to move Java forward.

to which Apache replies succinctly:

The ball is in your court. Honor the agreement.

Adobe MAX 2010 – it’s all about the partners

Last week was all conferences – Adobe MAX 2010 followed by Microsoft PDC – which left me with plenty of input but too little time to write it up. It is not too late though; and one advantage of attending these two events back-to-back was to highlight the tale of two runtimes, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. MAX was a good event for Flash, and PDC a bad one for Silverlight, though the tale has a long way yet to run.

The key difference at this point is not technical, but all about partners. At MAX we saw how the Flash runtime is integral to the Blackberry PlayBook, with RIM founder Mike Lazaridis coming on stage to tell us so. Flash is also built into Google TV, and Andres Ferrate and Daniels Lee from Google Developer Relations presented a session on creating web apps for the platform – worth watching as it brings out the difference between developing for a TV “lean back” environment and traditional mouse or touch user interfaces -  and we also heard from Samsung about its Flash-enabled TVs coming in 2011. In each case, it is not just Flash but AIR, for applications that run outside the browser, which is supported. Google TV runs Android; and AIR for Android in general drew attention at MAX, encouraged by free Motorola Droid 2 smartphones handed out to attendees.

If the task was to convince Flash developers – and those on the fence – that the platform has a future, MAX delivered in spades; and Adobe can only benefit from the uncertainty surrounding the most obvious runtime rivals to Flash, Java and Silverlight.

But what about that other platform, HTML? Well, Adobe made a bit of noise about projects like EDGE, which exports animations and transitions to SVG and JavaScript using an extended JQuery library, as well as showing a “sneak peek” of a tool to export a Flash animation (but not application) to  HTML. Outside the Adobe fan club there is still considerable aversion to Flash, stoked by Apple; in one of the sessions at MAX we were told that Steve Jobs’ open memo Thoughts on Flash has done real damage.

My impression though is that Adobe still has a Flash-first philosophy. The Solution Accelerators announced for LiveCycle 2.5, for example, all seem to be based on Flash clients, which could prove difficult if Apple’s iPad continues to take off in the enterprise. Adobe could do more to provide JavaScript libraries for LiveCycle clients, and tools for creating HTML applications. If you came to MAX looking for evidence that Adobe is moving towards web standard HTML clients, you would have been largely disappointed; though seeing JQuery guy John Resig in the day two keynote would give you some comfort.

Some other MAX highlights:

  • Round-tripping between Catalyst and Flash Builder at last. This makes Catalyst more useful, though I still find myself thinking that the Catalyst features could be rolled into one of the other products, either as a designer personality for Flash Builder, or maybe in Flash Professional. The former would be easier as both Catalyst and Flash Builder are built on Eclipse.
  • Enhancements in the Flash Player – I am writing a separate piece on this, but it is great to see the 3D extensions codenamed Molehill, which together with game controller support lay the foundations for Flash games that compete more closely with console games.
  • Analytics – Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture a year ago was a far-sighted move, and the company talked about analytics in the context of applications as well as web sites. Despite unsettling privacy implications, the ability for developers to drill down into exactly how an application is used, and which parts are hardly used, has great potential for improving usability.
  • Digital publishing – it was fascinating to hear from publisher Condé Nast about its plans for digital publishing, using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite to create files targeting Adobe’s content viewer on iOS and eventually AIR. As a web enthusiast I have mixed feelings, and there was some foot-shuffling when I asked about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation); but as someone with a professional interest in a flourishing media industry I also hope this becomes a solid and profitable platform.

Disappointments? I was sorry to hear that Adobe is closing down contributions and reducing transparency in the open source Flex SDK, though it is said to be temporary. It also seems that plans to enhance ActionScript are not well advanced; Silverlight remains well ahead in this respect with its C# and .NET support.

What about Adobe’s enterprise ambitions? Klint Finley’s post on the Adobe Stack and what it means for Enterprise Development is a good read. The pieces are almost in place, but the focus on document processing at the back end, and Flash and Acrobat on the front end, makes this a specialist rather than a generic application platform.

Overall though it was a strong MAX. I appreciate Adobe for not being Google or Apple or Microsoft or IBM, and hope that takeover rumours remain as rumours.

See also my earlier post Adobe aims to fill mobile vacuum with AIR.