After a quick interview with Julie Campagna, Ed Rowe, the VP of Development Tooling at Adobe, demonstrates how Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 enables developers to reach Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS, and iOS devices using the same codebase. Transcript.
JULIE CAMPAGNA: Hi, I'm Julie Campagna. I manage the Edge newsletter. Today, we're at Adobe headquarters in San Jose, California, and we're going to catch up with Ed Rowe, the VP of developer tooling at Adobe. Ed and his team have been super-focused on solving a really big problem. It's a problem that's been affecting developers and their customers - basically people who want to target mobile platforms and devices.
So we're going to go check in with Ed and see what's happening in the world of mobile application development. Let's go.
JULIE: Ed, the last time I interviewed you for the Edge you were very busy working on launching Adobe AIR. What have you been up to since then?
ED ROWE: That's right. We got AIR 1.0 out, and we're really excited with how that went. Then subsequently the team spent a lot of time working on bringing AIR onto mobile devices. More recently what I've been doing is really focusing on our developer tooling on Flash Builder, on Flash Catalyst, and the Flex framework, and especially over the past year or so, making sure that those things could target mobile devices as well, to try to really bring about a complete workflow.
JULIE: Now, speaking of Flex, it's only been 12 months since you released Flex 4.0.
ED: That's right.
JULIE: Why the rush to release Flex 4.5?
ED: It has been only a year since 4.0. We really felt the need to move quickly because the market, in terms of mobility, is just going crazy. There's so many different kinds of devices coming out and tablets, and we believe that developers have a big problem in addressing these, and we felt that we had a great way to solve it. So we really wanted to move rapidly to get that kind of capability out in people's hands.
JULIE: So today you're going to give us a demo of Flash Builder.
ED: Yeah, let me show you some stuff on Flash Builder. This here is Flash Builder 4.5. We're looking at the design surface, the design view. It's simulating an Apple iPad, but let's say we wanted to go have a quick look at a smaller screen. We'll go to a Droid X, which is an Android-based phone, and you can see it resize smaller.
So you also need to, as a developer, think about how's my user interface going to be if somebody changes the orientation. So we've also built in that capability in the design surface.
Let's just go ahead and have a quick look at what this application actually looks like. We're just going to run it right here on the desktop. Now, of course, we've got a little bit of simulation here where this would be really a touch UI, but I'll just use the mouse to go ahead and simulate touch.
You can see this is the kind of UI that would be appropriate on a mobile device. Part of what we've done in the Flex framework in the last year is to really make sure that a lot of these mobile paradigms are very easy to author for and very performant.
You can see here we've got some nice transitions, kind of sliding things. That's all built in so the developer doesn't have to build those if they don't want to. It's the kind of thing you expect to see on a mobile device.
When we want to go ahead and actually try it out on the device, we're just going to go ahead, and we've got just one button we're going to hit over here in Flash Builder, and you can see I'm hooked up to this Android phone, hooked up to the computer via this USB cable, and here you have the app is already launching.
We've sent it down from Flash Builder to the Android device. It's running. Here you are. You can see it's the same exact application we were simulating on the desktop. You can see the same scrolling list UI, very smooth, very nice.
I can go ahead and click into an item like we saw on the desktop. You can see the nice transition come in. We can go back. It's the exact app we saw. Now, that's cool.
As a developer, I would want to do this, make sure the app works properly when it's on the device, make sure the UI all lays out properly. But also, as a developer, I want to be able to debug this. I want to be able to really see what's going on on the device.
So I'm going to go over here in Flash Builder, just going to go ahead and turn on a break point. What I'm doing is I'm setting up so when I do something on the device, I'll be able to stop right there in the source code and really see what's going on in the logic and everything else.
So if I go ahead and hit this button here, bam! Right there, we stop it in the debugger. We've got the computer debugging against the phone. It's a first class debugging workflow, so I can step through the code. I can look at the contents of variables. All the kind of stuff that I would expect to be able to do when debugging anything on the desktop, we've brought to the phone. This is a really exciting thing for development.
We really spent a lot of time with Flash Builder 4.5 sweating these kinds of details and making sure that the kind of developer experience that I'm going to get on the desktop that I'm going to have available when I use a phone. I could stick a Blackberry on here. I could give you this same thing. I can use an iOS device to debug, as well.
So we’ve been checking this out on an Android smart phone of course. But this same workflow, these same applications can work on tablets, on iOS, iPads, iPhone, on Blackberry. So let’s check out some of that.
So here we have a Motorola Xoom. We've got this same application that we were running on the phone laid out bigger to take advantage of the bigger screen, otherwise, the same beautiful performance, very nice scrolling, nice transitions. It's just a really nice application.
So that's an Android tablet, but I also have over here an Apple iPad, and you can see, once again, same application, same really beautiful performance, great animation and smoothness. We ran it on an Android phone, this is also the same code. We can rotate this tablet to landscape, and you can see the UI adapts to be appropriate for that.
And I didn’t have to write this thing three or four or however many times. We made it once, and it’s got some slight adaptations to the different devices and operating systems.
I think this is the very first time that it's been possible to create mobile applications for all of these different operating systems and device form factors for tablets, for phones, for Android devices, for iPads and iPhones, for the Blackberry tablet, with one smooth workflow using one framework, the ability to use one code base. It's the first time that's been available, and, really, we think that's very significant and an exciting thing that will really help developers a lot.
JULIE: So what's next for you?
ED: We have very shortly, coming up in June, version 4.5.1, and that's when we're going to add support for the Blackberry tablet OS, and that's also when we're going to improve the support of the Apple iPad and iPhone by making the Flex framework work with them. So we're very excited for that release to come out. Then, of course, we have a significant road map ahead of us that we're very excited about, as well.
JULIE: Ed, thanks so much for chatting with us today.
ED: Absolutely, it was a pleasure.
JULIE: All right. Well, Flash Builder 4.5 is available. If you want more information, if you want to download the trial, visit the Adobe Developer Connection. There's also quite a few articles in this edition of the Edge that cover mobile application development, so check it out! I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Edge.