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Adobe Flex: Article

Adobe Sends Flex to the Apache Foundation

The Apache Foundation will have to vote on whether it will take Flex and its roadmap under its wing

After casting a pall on the future of Flash by canceling any further development of Flash on mobile devices last week, Adobe has abandoned its Flash-based Flex application SDK to the tender mercies of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), reinforcing the idea that Flash is ultimately toast, burned by rival HTML5, a posthumous victory for Steve Jobs who openly loathed Adobe's stuff.

Flash's future looks bleaker still considering Flex can build both desktop and mobile apps.

The Apache Foundation will have to vote on whether it will take Flex and its roadmap under its wing. Flex has been open source since 2008 but will have to shift out from under Adobe's control and be managed as an independent project.

Adobe says it's working on proposals for ASF to incubate both the core Flex SDK and BlazeDS, the messaging system for pushing data from a back-end Java EE server to a Flex application, as so-called "podlings."

Adobe also means to contribute complete, but yet-to-be-released, Spark components, including ViewStack, Accordion, DateField, DateChooser and an enhanced DataGrid; Falcon, the next-generation MXML and ActionScript compiler currently under development; Falcon JS, an experimental cross-compiler from MXML and ActionScript to HTML and JavaScript; and Flex testing tools.

Apparently nothing will happen before November 29 when Flex 4.6 SDK is released.

Meanwhile, Flash might be hounded to an early grave by an upstart "Occupy Flash" movement bent on "ridding the world of the Flash Player plug-in."

Its "manifesto," which proffers instructions for disabling Flash, repeats many of Jobs' criticisms that Flash is "buggy. It crashes a lot. It requires constant security updates. It doesn't work on most mobile devices. It's a fossil, left over from the era of closed standards and unilateral corporate control of web technology. Web sites that rely on Flash present a completely inconsistent (and often unusable) experience for a fast-growing percentage of the users who don't use a desktop browser. It introduces some scary security and privacy issues by way of Flash cookies."

Adobe's retreat from mobile Flash inspired some anonymous web developers to go out and buy the occupyflash.org domain in the name of technological consistency and uniformity across devices.

Their actions got reinforced by Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe who tweeted "HTML is the 99%." They also came under flak from Flash developers who felt their livelihoods were being threatened. As a result there is now an Occupy HTML web site dedicated to "ridding the world of HTML purism."

Anyway, Adobe is trying to maintain a very delicate balance. It admits on its blog disclosing its retreat from Flex that "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 applications profiles."

It's trying to hang on to developers while pushing them toward HTML5, telling them Flex at best has three-five years left. Between now and then use cases will be disappearing given HTML5's rapid advance.

By way of reassurance, Adobe says it will continue to contribute to Flex and assign engineers from the Flex development team full-time to the Apache project. The rest of its Flex people will get to go off and work on the brave new world of HTML5.

It promises that Flash Builder, the Flex IDE based on Eclipse, will continue to support Flex and that Flex support contracts will be honored. It says 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."

See http://blogs.adobe.com/flex/2011/11/your-questions-about-flex.html.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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