By now, it’s everywhere in the news: Flex SDK, along with the related technologies, is going open source! This includes everything needed to build Flex applications, including the core libraries and components from the SDK (which were already free), the source code for the ActionScript and MXML compilers, and the ActionScript debugger. Moreover, Adobe will provide full support for the infrastructure, including open bug database, nightly builds, etc.
Just yesterday I was a little angry at Adobe as I felt Flash CS3 doesn’t live up to expectations. Although it’s called Flash CS3 Professional, it offers less components than its predecessor. Macromedia Studio 8 lineup had Flash in two flavors – the ‘basic’ version and the ‘professional’ one. The main difference was that the Professional version had more components for data access, a datagrid, window component and so on. In CS3, they kept the Flash Professional name but included just the basic components compiled for CS3 – button, checkbox, etc. So what they are saying is “If you want to build any application beyond trivial, you’ll have to use Flex”.
At the same time, Microsoft is pushing hard their technologies. They provide Visual C#, Visual Web Developer, AJAX .NET and MSSQL 2005 Express for free. If you’re on Windows, you have everything you need to create server-side applications. Sure, these tools don’t have the more advanced functionality, but it’s enough for small to medium sized projects. Add to this their new Silverlight and it becomes clear Adobe it’s in their crosshairs.
With Adobe opening Flex, we can expect a free Eclipse-based Flex IDE within a few months that integrates the compiler and the debugger and the competition will be stronger than ever. I suspect Adobe will also push ColdFusion as much as possible as the preferred server-side solution for Flex.
Currently ColdFusion has a much smaller user base than .NET, which is almost as ubiquitous as PHP. On the other hand, for the past 10 years Flash has been unrivaled on the web and making inroads on the desktop (not just Macromedia Central or Apollo but all the swf-to-executable wrappers like Zinc or Screenweaver). It’ll be interesting to see how the situation will evolve during 2007.