RIP Adobe Flex and what it means for travel websites
Adobe Flex, an application development framework to create Flash applications, has enabled many companies to create a wide range of highly interactive, expressive applications for mobile, web, and desktop environments.
Not to get too technical (anyone who is actually technical will laugh after this explanation), but Flex enabled companies to create highly responsive experiences by moving some of the application logic to the client, enabling users to manipulate some of the data on the page without having to ping the server and reload the page.
This not only delivers super-fast response to the user, but reduces the load on web server, database, etc.
Flex powers many well-known websites and applications from the BBC, Yahoo!, Kodak and Mint.com. It’s also used by prominent travel companies powering multiple applications from Sabre and Travelocity Desktop.
A few weeks ago I wrote about Adobe’s decision to throw in the towel on Flash for mobile devices. By extension Forrester’s Mike Gualtieri noted that the move also spelled the end of Flex development too.
Mike’s a smart guy.
Just a few days later Adobe announced that it will be contributing Flex to an Open Source foundation “…in the same way we contributed PhoneGap to the Apache Foundation when we acquired Nitobi””.
This almost certainly spells the end of Flex as nothing says “I love you” like declaring that you’re ending all significant investment in a platform and leaving the work to “the community”.
This is a big deal for organizations who have made significant investments in Flex and individuals who have personally invested in developing their skills. Those investments will be hard to recover and will require a significant effort in some cases to transition.
I wish there was more guidance provided on how Adobe was going to help their clients and committed developers make the transition other than saying that support for Flex will continue under the open source umbrella, but that HTML5 is the long term direction.
I hope that they will come forward with more details on migration strategy to help their loyal customers manage the transition smoothly and efficiently.
Now, while it may be the right play for Adobe, the way they announced it rubbed me the wrong way.
Firstly, the equivalence they are trying to make with PhoneGap is false.
PhoneGap was already an Open Source product under Nitobi. It’s still my belief that the decision to donate the code to Apache was a condition of the deal driven by Nitobi’s founders to ensure it remained so.
Secondly, the announcement almost presumes that they believe their developers are stupid enough not to see through the spin that is so poor that it’s only worthy of a political campaign – remindful of Bill Clinton’s statement that he was not sure what the definition of “is” actually is.
- The statement “…our customers want more direct control over the underlying technologies they use” attempts to position Adobe as a champion of Open Source projects. It’s as if they think that my merely mentioning open source all developers will get all doe-eyed and appreciate the great gift of ending their investment in the platform. So where is the open sourcing of the other tools that Adobe will continue to develop… and monetize? [cricket sounds]
- “Adobe will continue to contribute to the Flex SDK” – translation: we will provide slightly more than two cats and a dog, but our investment will pale compared to the past.
The final release of Flex, the Flex 4.6 SDK, was delivered on December 1 2011. What Adobe’s statement is telling you, is that basically you’re on your own now.
Companies with lots of time and money invested in Flex need to start planning your evolution from Flex to HMTL5 now.
If you wait too long, you could be left playing catch-up, or worse holding onto an unsupported technology.
Glenn Gruber is a contributing Node to Tnooz and senior mobility strategist at Propelics, an enterprise mobile strategy firm.
Previously Glenn was AVP travel technologies at Ness Technologies, responsible for developing the company’s strategy and solutions for the travel industry.
Prior to Ness he held leadership roles at Symphony Services, Kyocera and Israeli startups Power Paper Ltd and Golden Screens Interactive Technologies.
He also writes a personal blog, Software Industry Insights.