The past week has brought a series of announcements from Adobe that has elicited myriad speculation and concern from the Flash Platform and Adobe community. As a leading Adobe Solutions provider for Flash Platform solutions, RealEyes wants to address these announcements and how we see their impacting our focus in the technological ecosystem.
Before we begin this analysis, from our vantage point, the largest issue with these announcements is the way in which they were communicated—to the public, to partners, everyone. There was much good news in what Adobe announced; unfortunately, their public relations team chose to focus largely on what was being deprecated, which colored the resulting dialog.
We’d like to take a moment to refocus this conversation for our customers and community. Contrary to popular debate, Flash is NOT dead. And here’s why:
Adobe Focus on Mobile Applications
Adobe announced that it would be more aggressively contributing to HTML5, with future Flash Platform development to focus on personal computer and mobile applications. Great! Our clients who are developing mobile experiences are universally doing so with the intention of making installable applications. More Adobe focus in this area will only enhance the experiences that we are able to work with them to deliver.
The Flash Platform is still the best way to develop mobile application experiences intended to be deployed across the major application marketplaces: Apple, Android, and Blackberry.
However, what got the most attention in this announcement was that Adobe is discontinuing development of Flash Player for the mobile browser. While this got many people up in arms, declaring the general demise of the Flash Player, we at RealEyes can respect this decision and see the validity of it. For Adobe, the return on investment for this runtime simply wasn’t there, and with the fragmented nature of Android (and a few other issues that contribute to delivering an application to all browser, OS, and mobile hardware configurations) the continued development of the mobile Flash Player would be exponentially complex.
For application developers, the mobile Flash Player was never as good a runtime as the desktop one.
So, how is the discontinuation of mobile Flash Player affecting our clients? Really, it isn’t.
Because mobile device users are more likely to look exclusively toward installable applications for rich media content—and RealEyes’ Flash Platform applications largely deliver rich media content—our customers have been developing applications built using the Flash Platform and relying less on the mobile web. Mike Chambers does a nice job of discussing the differences in how users consume rich content on mobile devices compared to the desktop, and we agree wholeheartedly that this is the way to go.
Because Flash Player doesn’t have the same ubiquity on mobile devices as it does for desktop browsers RealEyes was already advising our clients to create fallback experiences for their Flash content for mobile browsers. For most of them we could achieve the same functionality in HTML as in Flash (video being the exception as you’ll see below). Why not forgo Flash entirely and have a single HTML codebase to support? Seems like a decision that makes good business sense.
Not that we aren’t sad to see mobile Flash Player go: we are.
If only because we don’t want the web to have missing plugin alerts. Having the Flash Player plugin available to Android and Blackberry mobile browsers was a convenience that offered a great marketing pitch, but, truthfully, delivered very little. This is due, in large part, to the fact that the majority of the web was design for the desktop and was not meant for (nor is it very functional for) mobile phones – period, full stop.
In truth, we’ve seen just a very few Flash applications developed specifically for the mobile browser. We at RealEyes have developed just one of these for commercial release. And this application was built before AIR for Android and was always intended to be a stop-gap until this runtime was available.
Now, tablets make a better use case for Flash’s place in the mobile ecosystem; however, the number of tablets that support Flash is under 30% of market share. Given this and Apple’s seemingly prohibition on Flash, the Flash Player was just never going to achieve the same ubiquity as it has on the desktop for tablets, or for mobile phones for that matter.
Adobe Supports HTML5 Development
As Adobe is a multimedia creation company it will want to be at the forefront of whatever technology is defining exceptional user experiences for multimedia delivery. And, for a few years now, Adobe’s been looking toward HTML5. Unfortunately, the announcement from Adobe that contains the information about the discontinuation of the mobile Flash Player makes it sound like Adobe’s just jumping on HTML as a development platform. That’s just not true.
Even more unfortunate in the present debate is a perception that Steve Job’s thoughts on Flash have somehow won and that this was just fallout from an Apple v. Adobe war. Not so fast. Apple and, to some degree Microsoft, have done much to market HTML5 development to the point that its perception overpromises what it can deliver. Although Adobe has been working to educate its community about the benefits of the Flash Player over HTML5 and was backed by legions of developers, animators, designers, and content creators, they couldn’t overcome the tactics of a such powerful and cunning marketing machines. While standing its ground on the mobile Flash Player, Adobe was, in many ways, able to achieve what critics said was not possible with Flash Player on mobile devices.
So, if Steve didn’t win, who did?
Well, Adobe is still poised to win and … more importantly so is its community of developers and customers. Look at tools like Adobe Edge and the new mobile enhancements to Dreamweaver. Also, with Adobe’s acquisition of PhoneGap, Adobe developers are poised to deliver the best HTML5 experiences out there. Yeah, it’s not Flash … but that’s OK. While it seems like Adobe’s making a sharp turn toward HTML5, from where we sit, they are more fully committing to a direction that Macromedia, and then Adobe, started in some time ago. Remember the HTML and Flash being friends video from Adobe MAX last year?
And, with other recent innovations for mobile AIR such as the availability of native extensions, the future of mobile development is exhilarating for any Flash Platform developer. We’re hopeful that Adobe will use this opportunity to sharpen their focus on native mobile functionality and continue the path of making the Flash Platform the best choice for developing multi-platform mobile applications with a single code base.
However, the perception that Adobe’s making a rash decision is very damaging and something that we’re working with our clients to help them understand. The reality of the situation is that not much has changed; however, poor communication, horrible messaging, and virtually no community outreach from Adobe regarding this messaging has made the perception the accepted reality in the short term.
And, if that weren’t enough news for one week …
Adobe Really Open Sources Flex
In clarifying its future plans for the Flex SDK, Adobe announced that the Flex SDK will be contributed to an open source foundation. The good news in this move is that the Flex community is mature enough to take on the governance of this robust framework moving forward. This wasn’t the case in February of 2008 when Adobe released Flex 3 as open source (Adobe had been planning to open source it since April of 2007).
For several years now, Adobe has been moving towards a more open standard with their development and this decision to contribute the Flex SDK to an open source foundation isn’t something that’s Adobe has done in isolation, and not just to the Flash Platform. Some other projects that are on this path are:
- Flex SDK
And, let’s be honest, the original model that Adobe used to open source Flex didn’t go as planned. While Adobe always said they welcomed contributions from the community to grow and improve the Flex SDK, the process for getting a change accepted was unclear and many community contributions were rejected for any number of reasons (valid or invalid). Adobe simply did not have the process or the resources to handle the influx of developers who wanted to contribute. It was a frustrating situation for the Flex development community (and arguably Adobe as well).
So, the vibrant Flex community answered back earlier this year by creating the Spoon Project to better organize and test Flex SDK modifications submitted by the Flex community. It proved to be an excellent model, drove innovation of the Framework, and was an initial step toward the full open source move that Adobe just announced.
Who’s governing the future of Flex? We are!
In case the nuance in what’s different now versus Adobe’s 2007 decision to open source Flex isn’t apparent, the major difference is that the Flex community will extend the Flex code base without needing Adobe’s permission to do so. A new governance, following Apache’s well-established community rules, will be formed to determine the future direction of the codebase.
Since our inception RealEyes has been in close contact with Adobe’s Flash Platform team, we’re excited for this change in governance. RealEyes has always been super excited about the Spoon Project, and our Development Manager (Jun Heider) is very active in this community as the Infrastructure Chairman. We’ve seen that this is truly a community-driven initiative that is supported by Adobe to increase the volume, speed (and maybe even the quality) in which the Flex framework can grow.
We are excited to contribute further to the future of Flex and confident that, like other successful open source communities, the language will continue to evolve.
Also … Flex isn’t all of the Flash Platform
Sadly, many of the announcements that we’ve been talking about, including the open sourcing of Flex, led many to say that Flash is dead. That simply isn’t true. Let’s talk about what the Flex framework actually is: a particular framework used to structure Flash Platform development. Do you have to use it to develop Flash Platform applications? No. And, to be honest, RealEyes doesn’t use Flex in every Flash Platform project because sometimes that framework can make applications to “heavy”. If performance is of paramount concern for a Flash Platform application, Flex often cannot replace pure ActionScript.
Flash and Flex are not going away. Adobe is still committed to developing tooling to support development for the Flash Platform. Further, Adobe hasn’t open sourced the Flash Player, the most installed piece of software in the history of the internet. Adobe plans on steadily contributing to the Flex SDK in its open sourced project and we are working with the Flex community to make us contributors as well.
Adobe and Enterprise Applications
In a week of poorly handled communication, probably RealEyes’ largest concern was Adobe’s statement that “In the long-term, we believe HTML5 will be the best technology for enterprise application development.” Ouch. Big enterprises have invested millions upon millions of dollars in the development and maintenance of Flash Platform applications. At the very least that statement can erode the confidence that large companies (or companies of any size, really) have when building systems based upon Adobe technology. Something that we feel is probably a bit of an over-reaction.
Also, without context this statement is very misleading. Currently, HTML5 does not have full functional parity with the Flash Platform. A few days after making this statement, Adobe clarified it by indicating what it intended as a timeframe for HTML5 to be able to truly complete with Flash Platform development: three to five years. That timeframe could be heavily extended when considering corporate browser adoption timelines.
There’s no enterprise that can wait three to five years for functionality.
As Adobe stated, “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 and automation.
We see all that as being the case and some more:
- Enterprise clients tend to have slower adoption rates for software, meaning that not all enterprises support the advanced HTML5 features that exist.
- In particular, the video capabilities in HTML5 are not as robust as what is available in the Flash Platform including multicasting with integrated hardware acceleration and advanced security models.
- The testing issues for supporting browser fragmentation can be daunting to enterprises, compared with supporting a Flash Platform application that can be deployed across desktop browsers with consistent display and functionality.
RealEyes will continue to recommend Flex and Flash Platform development to our clients where it makes real business sense to do so. That said, there are reasons to use HTML over (or alongside) the Flash Platform, and we have plenty of clients we support who do that as well.
The Impact to RealEyes
So, what does all of this mean to RealEyes? In the short term, it has meant a challenge to bring context to Adobe’s announcements and dispel rumors and misinformation to our clients. In the long run, it probably doesn’t mean a lot.
We have already been on a path of technology diversification with continued focus and adoption of HTML5, its supporting technologies, and native mobile development. Many of us are in the technology space because we enjoy the challenge of evolving our skills as the industry grows. However, for the next few years, we anticipate that the Flash Platform will continue to be our predominant focus.
Our development specialty has been in delivering industry-leading streaming media solutions and multiscreen development. Flash and AIR are still the best solutions for this and will be for a while. The timeline for that largely depends on Adobe and, as a valued Adobe Solutions Partner, we will continue to support them in as educated and balanced way as possible.
We are actively involved in the future of the Flex framework through the Spoon Project and excited about the potential for future growth for that project. We are now even more apt to contribute to the betterment of this already robust framework for the benefit of the Flex community.
Finally, RealEyes has always helped our clients to choose the best technology to power a given project and we will continue to do this. And, as HTML5 becomes a more comprehensive solution, we will likely recommend it more frequently. It is truly about what is right for the current and future on a case by case basis. Our clients and projects will continue to be industry leaders, no matter the technology behind them.
Now, we can’t see all of the news in a positive light. And not all of it is positive – certainly not for the 750 Adobe employees who were laid off and their families. However, this degree of restructuring in the fourth quarter isn’t unprecedented for Adobe. We’ve seen this over the past couple of years. This year, as in years past, we lost meaningful relationships with Adobe employees that we’ve been happy to collaborate with on community and development projects. We at RealEyes have close contact with Adobe and tend to focus on how individuals shape the platforms, products, and communities that we work with instead of quarterly earnings and fiscal projections. While adjusting to this restructuring, we wish all of the affected employees only the best in their next moves and hope that they will continue to make positive contributions to the technical community they have helped to shape.
RealEyes Media is celebrating six years of managing and sponsoring the Rocky Mountain Adobe Users Group in 2010. While this group is just part of RealEyes’ overall commitment to the development community, RMAUG holds a special place in our hearts – and those of the Denver Adobe community.
RMAUG grew out of the Rocky Mountain Macromedia Users Group (RM3UG for nostalgia’s sake), and continues to focus on the best tools that generate content for the web. This means that our presentations could be on anything from Flash to After Effects to Photoshop. Another thing that hasn’t changed in all these years is that our group meets on the second Tuesday of each month and routinely books some of Denver’s best developers and designers for presentations.
The upcoming February 2010 meeting is no exception. Juan Sanchez (from EffectiveUI and scalenine.com) will talk about UI Design and Production Workflows for Flex Using Fireworks, Flash and Flash Catalyst. And, if that isn’t enough product diversity, RealEyes’ David Hassoun and Scott Sheridan will be demoing Soundbooth, Audition, Lightroom, Bridge, and more!
Denver developers and designers: RMAUG is a great place to see the latest Adobe technology innovations, and learn the techniques that turn novices into experts, and experts into Web gurus. Make sure to stay in the loop by visiting our site, following RMAUG on Twitter, and checking our our Adobe Group. There are lots of ways to be involved, and we’d love to see you soon!
This year, the RealEyes crew is toasting the Holidays Mad Men style. We wish our
clients and friends the very happiest of Holidays – we’ll see you all in 2010!
David Hassoun and Jun Heider of the RealEyes team will be presenting at MAX 2009 October 4–7 in Los Angeles, California. David will be presenting on Video in the Enterprise and Jun Heider’s topic will be Tackling Memory and Performance in Flash, Flex, and Adobe AIR.
Be sure to sign up and check out David and Jun’s sessions. Register here for what promises to be an amazing event!
Video in the Enterprise – David Hassoun
Learn how you can deploy video in Flash within your enterprise. This session will walk you through how you can support employee generated video, control access with LDAP and how to install, configure and customize the Adobe Flash Media Server within your network. The lab will focus on the specific challenges faced within large enterprises and implementing user authentication techniques using server side ActionScript. Step through the processes to deploy and discover the benefits of edge caching and other deployment techniques for high volume streaming using Flash Media Server within your network to publish live and recorded media.
Tackling Memory and Performance in Flash, Flex, and Adobe AIR – Jun Heider
Learn everything you need to know about managing memory during the lifetime of your application. We’ll address how objects are created and deleted, how the garbage collector works, and how to debug your applications to find any leaks. We’ll also cover how you can monitor the memory and performance of your application using the Flash Builder 4 Profiler. You’ll walk away with code in hand that provides solutions to common problems likely to be encountered when creating a wide range of applications.
RealEyes Media has been working at fever-pitch for the last few months to bring you the most Flash-tastic event in Denver’s history: Rocky Mountain Adobe Camp. And, of course, our crew will be there (alongside other premiere designers and developers) to present sessions on how you can best use Adobe’s web technology in your career. We invite you to join us in Downtown Denver on June 22, 2009 for the first ever Adobe Camp!
Here are the sessions that our team is presenting:
- Building Flash Video Players: Progressive and Streaming (David Hassoun)
- Enterprise Encoding and Encrypting (Jun Heider & David Hassoun)
- Building Your First Flex/AIR Application with Flex 4 (Jun Heider)
- Building Custom Connect Pods in Flash with Sync SWF (Nils Thingvall)
- Creating Courses and Curricula in Adobe Connect Pro (Jorma Jennings)
And, while we’re giving props to our team, we want to thank the Adobe Camp planning duo: Amanda Johnson and Josh Lucero. Make sure to meet them at the camp as well – they are making sure it will be a great day!
RealEyes Media’s Jun Heider will be speaking at 360|Flex (May 18-20 in Indianapolis) on Flex Application Profiling by Example. Expect a session light on slides and heavy on demonstration, in typical Jun style.
The session will start with a brief explanation of the concepts that will be discussed and then kick into high gear with demonstrations and live profiling with the Flex Builder Profiler. During the session the features of the Flex Builder Profiler will be illustrated and light will be shed on how to analyze the data collected by the Profiler. The goal of this session will be to arm the attendee with the ability to use the Flex Builder Profiler to help increase the responsiveness and decrease the memory consumed by their applications.
Hope to see you there!
RealEyes Media is excited to sponsor and plan the very first ever Adobe Camp event! In fact, you can get an early jump on registration and head over to the Rocky Mountain Adobe Camp website to learn more and register!
Rocky Mountain Adobe Camp is a one-day, three-track event focusing on the power of of Adobe’s Flash Platform across digital disciplines such as application development, media production, and eLearning. With a diverse group of industry-leading speakers from Adobe, Digital Primates, RealEyes Media (just to name a few) there will be in-depth presentations and unique hands-on activities for everyone from newbies to gurus.
Check it out, and if you’re in Denver, we hope to see you at Rocky Mountain Adobe Camp on June 22nd.
Want to dive head first into the Flex universe?ﾠ Whether you’re a long-time RIA developer or just getting your feet wet, 360|Flex is among the best places to come to learn, network,ﾠand be inspired.
Jun Heider and David Hassoun will again be among the speakers at 360|Flex, this time at the San Jose conference (August 18-20, 2008).ﾠ You’ll have to pick between their presentations, however, as they both present on Wednesday, from 1:00 – 2:20.
- David Hassoun: Advanced Video Streaming with Flash Media Server
- Jun Heider: Using the Flex Builder 3 Profiler
There is still time to register for this event, and we hope to see you there.
360|Flex was the first all Flex/Apollo themed conference.ﾠThis conference takes you into the nitty-gritty of Flex development. If you’re serious about Flex, then you need to attend this conference.
360|Flex is a community driven event. The sole purpose of the show is to bring the best of the Flex community together in one place to share war stories from the trenches and to allow the experts to share their deep technical knowledge to a large group. Another benefit is finally being able to put a face, voice and personality onto the bloggers, flexcoders and article writers that you’ve come to depend on.
David Hassoun and Jun Heider of the RealEyes team will be presenting at MAX 2008 in San Francisco (November 16 – 19, 2008). MAX is an experience unlike any other, an opportunity to connect with thousands of designers, developers, partners, executives, and Adobe staff for education, inspiration, and community.
Go ahead and register for this spectacular event, and be sure to make room for David and Jun’s sessions in your schedule.
Anatomy of a Video Player - David Hassoun
What goes into a great video player? This session will show you the basic structure of an FLV component, and how you can start building your own from scratch to provide the most custom experience possible. See how to use ActionScript 3.0 to connect to Flash Media Server and take advantage of features like Enhanced Seeking and error handling. Learn how to use new Quality of Service APIs in Flash Player 10 (now in public beta on Adobe Labs) to deliver the best experience to your users.
Products: Flex, Flash Player, Flash Media Server, Flash, AIR, ActionScript
When: Monday, November 17, 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Debugging and Profiling with Flex Builder - Jun Heider
Learn how to use the powerful debugging and profiling tools included within Flex Builder to build high-performance, reliable applications. We’ll cover some advanced debugger features you may not know, as well as go into detail about how to get the most out of the profiler.
Products: Flex Builder, Flex
When: Wednesday, November 19, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
David Hassoun, John Crosby, and Jun Heider have all been recognized by Adobe as Flex Champions. They even have medals to prove it!
The Flex Developer Community Champion program awards status to highly-experienced Flex developers who are also active in the Adobe developer community. Adobe says, “Community champions receive community recognition, access to Flex product pre-release information, speaking opportunities in some Adobe sponsored events, access to Adobe resources (i.e., presentation slides, champion web portal, champion forums, etc.) and some funding available for approved events”. More information about the program is also available in Kevin Hoyt’s podcast interview with Suzanne Nguyen (mp3).
If you are a passionate, experienced Flex developer and have the expertise to help other Flex developers you should consider joining the the Flex Developer Community Champion program.
Congratulations David, John, and Jun!