It seems as if a lot of people are wondering about the future of Adobe Flash, Flex framework, and AIR, lately. These three Web technologies make up the Adobe Flash Platform, and after the Adobe announcement that they would stop development on the Flash Player for mobile, many are asking just what this will mean for the future of Web technology and standards.
The most recent Chicago Flex meeting (which is a regular event gathering for the Chicago Flash Platform developer community) this past Wednesday on November 30th, 2011 attempted to shed some light on these questions.
“Embrace change” was basically the mantra set forth by Adobe Flash Platform Evangelist Kevin Hoyt (who made an appearance at this meeting to share his current thoughts, and who last year in November 2010 visited Chicago to promote the Flex framework for mobile apps).
Michael Labriola, of Digital Primates, a company that specializes in Flex enterprise applications also spoke at this meeting. He talked about how Adobe is giving Flex to the Apache Foundation, basically giving everyone access to the SDK, will be open-source, and volunteers will give support to improve Flex as a community. Michael is also a key player in the Spoon Project, which oversees this Adobe Flex transition to Apache.
The general theme of this latest meeting was an update on all this, but also that developers shouldn’t put limits on their skill set, and also embrace other emerging technologies to supplement the current Web standards. It should be understood that Flash Player will continue to be around for a long time, as it will be offered in it’s current form for supported mobile devices. Kevin Hoyt did mention that there will be an official “Whitepaper coming out [soon] that addresses everything” from Adobe, as far as the official details of future support of Flash Player will be.
Hoyt stressed embracing upcoming Web standards such as HTML5 since Web developers and designers should “Find your requirements before you choose your technology”.
“People look at Adobe as a creative company” Adobe is known for the “creative, hot, and sexy, that’s our DNA”, he mentioned.
He expanded upon this by saying Adobe’s job is providing tools for “Allowing [developers] to deliver the best content they can, regardless of the [method or process]”. Basically meaning that Adobe will “have the technology to explore that creativity” at the current time.
“If you want to build applications for desktop or mobile” there’s Adobe AIR for that task. Hoyt also confirmed that Adobe has “re-affrimed our commitment for AIR”. This means that the AIR runtime model for publishing apps across multiple platforms, desktop and mobile included, will be continued to be supported into the future.
Michael Labriola also chimed in to say “Know what the project is [first], then choose the technology”. “Support time should [also] determine the technology used”, and “it’s about the real requirements of what the project is meant for”. Basically, developers shouldn’t bank their entire skill set on learning only one technology language, regardless of how widely used it is.
Ross Gerbasi, a senior technical engineer at 15 Letters, a Chicago-based interactive design company, also was at this latest Chicago Flex meeting and shared some opinions. The company primarily uses Flash technologies to create interactive kiosk experiences for large companies and interactive museum displays.
On Adobe Flash and Flex framework he said, “Sure it was a standard being pushed forward by one company, but I liked that”. This was a reflection on the idea that the Adobe Flash technology has gotten so advanced and gotten to a mature point for creating interactive experiences, then Adobe decision to stop developing it for mobile use.
Finally, JP Bader, organizer of the Chicago Flex group, questioned the motives of Adobe’s current shift on focus to Web standards such as HTML5. He added that he recent announcement to abandon Flash for mobile is like “Adobe says ‘we’re going to persue the creatives, and abandon the enterprise'”.
Adobe’s recently acquired PhoneGap (which is an HTML packager that uses WebKit to create Web apps for mobile) seems to be the next Adobe tool, though how well can it be used to make complex enterprise applications at this point? “How does that factor (for developers) into the future of Flex development on mobile?” Bader asked.
Michael Labriola finally summed up this discussion and meeting by saying, “Adobe is focusing on creative right now for the next year”.
This discussion was a fairly positive one in offering some explanations of what Adobe’s intentions were to stop development for Flash on mobile devices. Basically they will be creating and polishing up tools that create content for mobile more easily and more seamlessly across other platforms as well.
This feels like a good compromise as Adobe will continue to focus on the strength of Flash, and AIR, where they are best suited for (3D, gaming, apps, and Web video), and also continue to embrace emerging Web standards like HTML5 as it becomes more widely used among Web designers, developers, and application developers.