Adobe recently made some important announcements regarding the future of Flex SDK on the Flex team blog.

This article contains selected questions and answers that have been adapted from blog posts made by Andrew Shorten and Deepa Subramaniam, Group Product Managers at Adobe.

Q: What specifically is Adobe announcing in relation to Flex SDK?

As of November 2011, Adobe is in the process of preparing two proposals for incubating Flex SDK and BlazeDS at the Apache Software Foundation.

In addition to contributing the core Flex SDK (including automation and advanced data visualization components), Adobe also plans to donate the following:

  • Complete, but yet-to-be-released, Spark components, including ViewStack, Accordion, DateField, DateChooser and an enhanced DataGrid.
  • BlazeDS, the server-based Java remoting and web messaging technology that enables developers to easily connect to back-end distributed data and push data in real-time to Flex applications.
  • Falcon, the next-generation MXML and ActionScript compiler that is currently under development (this will be contributed when complete in 2012)
  • Falcon JS, an experimental cross-compiler from MXML and ActionScript to HTML and JavaScript.
  • Flex testing tools, as used previously by Adobe, so as to ensure successful continued development of Flex with high quality

Adobe will also have a team of Flex SDK engineers contributing to those new Apache projects as their full-time responsibility. Adobe has in-development work already started, including additional Spark-based components.

Q: What is the current status of Adobe's submission of Flex to Apache?

[11/16/11] – Adobe is working on the incubator proposal for both Flex SDK and BlazeDS incubator projects.

Further updates on progress will be added to this article in due course.

Q: Flex has been open source since the release of Flex 3 SDK. What’s so different about what you are announcing now?

Since Flex 3, customers have primarily used the Flex source code to debug underlying issues in the Flex framework, rather than to actively develop new features or fix bugs and contribute them back to the SDK.

Following this announcement, Adobe will no longer be the owner of the ongoing roadmap. Instead, the project will be in Apache and governed according to its well-established community rules. In this model, Apache community members will provide project leadership. We expect project management to include both Adobe engineers as well as key community leaders. Together, they will jointly operate in a meritocracy to define new features and enhancements for future versions of the Flex SDK. The Apache model has proven to foster a vibrant community, drive development forward, and allow for continuous commits from active developers.

Q: What guarantees can Adobe make in relation to Flex applications continuing to run on Flash Player and Adobe AIR?

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.

Q: Will Adobe continue to support customers using Flex?

Yes. Adobe will continue to honor existing Flex support contracts.

Q: How will open source Flex development continue against Flash Player and Adobe AIR?

Flex SDK development will continue against released versions of the Flash Player and Adobe AIR runtimes, providing a stable and supported environment for Flex applications.

Q: What does this mean in relation to future Flex SDK tooling support?

Future versions of Adobe Flash Builder will continue to provide code editing, compilation, debugging and profiling support for Flex applications. Adobe will undertake the required work to ensure Flash Builder is compatible with future releases of Flex SDK.

Previously communicated road map features, such as enhanced code editing, real-time error highlighting and compile-as-you-type support will be available to both ActionScript and Flex developers.

Q: What is Adobe's position on HTML5?

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 application profiles.

Given our experiences innovating on Flex, we are extremely well positioned to positively contribute to the advancement of HTML5 development, starting with mobile applications. In fact, many of the engineers and product managers who worked on Flex SDK will be moving to work on our HTML efforts. We will continue making significant contributions to open web technologies like WebKit & jQuery, advance the development of PhoneGap and create new tools that solve the challenges developers face when building applications with HTML5.

Q: Does Adobe recommend we use Flex or HTML5 for our enterprise application development?

HTML5 related technologies (comprising HTML, JavaScript and CSS) are becoming increasingly capable, such that we have every reason to believe that advances in expressiveness (e.g. Canvas), performance (e.g. VM and GPU acceleration in many browsers) and application-related capabilities (e.g. offline storage, web workers) will continue at a rapid pace. In time (and depending upon your application, it could be 3-5 years from now), we believe HTML5 could support the majority of use cases where Flex is used today.

However, Flex has now, and for many years will continue to have, advantages over HTML5 for enterprise application development – in particular:

  • Flex offers complete feature-level consistency across multiple platforms
  • The Flex component set and programming model makes it extremely productive when building complex application user interfaces
  • ActionScript is a mature language, suitable for large application development
  • Supporting tools (both Adobe’s and third-party) offer a productive environment with respect to code editing, debugging and profiling

Our announcements relating to changes in the way Flex SDK is developed do not change the fundamental value-add of Flex or make HTML5 suddenly more capable than it was previously.

We intend to make investments in HTML-related technologies, so that we can help advance HTML5 to make it suitable for enterprise applications.

Q: Will Adobe provide migration tools to enable existing Flex applications to be converted to HTML/JavaScript?

We have undertaken some experimental work in this area, but remain unsure as to the viability of fully translating Flex-based content to HTML.   

The Falcon JS cross-compiler, referenced above, represents this early work and intent to contribute this to the open source project.

Q: Where do I go for more information?

Further updates relating to status of the Apache project contributions will be added to this article.

More detailed updates will be posted to the Flex team blog.