Monday, October 16, 2006

Why don't more developers use Flex?

Matt Chotin today posted a message from Flex marketing team asking for input from the Flex community on Adobe's marking strategy for the Flash Platform and Flex in particular. I've posted these ideas in this post already both here on this blog and in replies to Ryan Stewart's excellent Universal Desktop column, but I've pulled them together here into one post.

The importance of a good developer network

I agree with Ryan Stewart's comments about the need to learn from Microsoft's (and Sun's to a lesser extent) excellent developer programs. I suspect one of the consequences of Adobe's technical "high-command" being so Java-oriented is that the guys in decision-making positions just don't know how effective MSDN is. For a small annual fee, MSDN subscribers receive every Microsoft product (including Enterprise Editions of Windows Server, SQL Server, BizTalk, betas of Communication Foundation, Presentation Foundation, the lot) through the mail. The weekly .NET Rocks! podcast is hugely popular with over 500,000 weekly downloads and some smart guests.

Adobe's Enterprise Developer Network is fine if you're using LiveCycle but not much good for anything else. If you're building a proof of concept in a corporation your Adobe Flex Builder 30-day trial runs out before you're done building the PoC, never mind selling the concept to the management.

Adobe distributes code for a bunch of kick-ass sample Flex applications to its world-wide sales teams but this code's not available to the community. Sort it out guys. Developers need kick-ass demos to convince internal budget holders to adopt Flex.

What is a development manager's biggest concern about adopting Flash?

Adobe need to realize the importance of getting the ubiquity of the Player message across to developers. If I had to name one "message" that I have found the most effective at getting Flash taken seriously as a development target for the presentation tier, it is the ubiquity of the Player. Adobe has a blind spot here as "designers" in the web industry know about this already BUT DEVELOPERS DON'T KNOW THAT THE PLAYER IS INSTALLED ON 98% OF DESKTOPS. Adobe needs to get this message across more effectively to developers. I give the ubiquity results pride of place in every proposal I make for the adoption of Flash as a platform for enterprise applications.

The importance of selling Flex to the Java community

With the advent of Web 2.0 and the improvements to Microsoft's desktop technologies, enterprise Java developers are feeling the squeeze on the desktop. Many corporations are already migrating their legacy Swing applications to Ajax and Windows Forms. Ajax will be OK as "lipstick" on the JSP "pig" for a while but, unless Java developers get their act together, Microsoft developers will wipe them out on the desktop. There's an obvious opportunity here for Flex to become the Java developer's defense against the Microsoft Presentation Foundation onslaught. The problem is that right now most Java developers don't know Flex exists, and when they do, have completely the wrong idea about what is it, and what it offers them. Understandably Java developers don't yet think of Adobe as a provider of development technologies. Adobe must address that key perception problem.

The importance of leveraging potential industry alliances

There's also a potential mutual co-operation opportunity for Adobe with big technology providers who have a vested interest in seeing Java continue its success. IBM, Sun, BEA spring immediately to mind. Adobe needs to sell those corporations on how Flex can help defend their market share in the new "rich" world. "Is there life after JSPs?" (There's a good title for a billboard.) Why not work with the Eclipse foundation to integrate Flex Builder with the Eclipse Web Tools Platform Project (included in Eclipse, Rational and also now in BEA WebLogic)?

The importance of not giving up on
.NET developers

Adobe would be foolish to continue to ignore the .NET developer community. The .NET developer community is HUGE and growing, not least because it's a fantastic development environment and because it's free. It may surprise Adobe but there is insterest in Flex in the .NET community. When I posted my .NET tutorials on my blog it rose to being the 6th most visited Flex blog on Adobe's MXNA aggregator. I find the lack of .NET samples on completely astonishing. While it's true that many professional .NET developers will be using WPF on the desktop, .NET developers are not all idiots/mindless bigots, there will be many .NET developers who decide to adopt Apollo/Flex for the presentation tier (for lots of good reasons). Let's not concede defeat to WPF before we've started.

The importance of getting Ajax positioning right

Adobe needs to more marketing thinking about Flex' positioning against Ajax. While there are some functionality differentiators for Flex (and these are not well understood by developers), Flex' strongest differentiators against Ajax lie elsewhere. It's in the areas of scalability, performance, documentation and developer tooling where Flex is at it's strongest. That's where the messaging focus should be.


I agree with many of the comments in reply to Matt's original post about the need to make the Flex community appear to be more international. I was pleasently surprised that many of the visitors to my Flex.NET blog were based in Russia, India and Hong Kong. Has Adobe done any geographical analysis of the downloads of the Flex SDK?


AQ said...

I am one of those proverbial .NET dudes who is now sold on Flex. The framework stands on its merits alone but I can tell you the number one reason I meet reluctance is the legacy issue. Some devs and clients just have a bad association with Flash. Luckily for Flex, it's re-branded and under new management (Adobe) which should help marketing efforts somewhat.

Another Microsoft group that you should check out is the Patterns and Practices team. This is an elite group of architects that puts out free guidance packages such as Enterprise Library. These frameworks, which are released under a permissive shared source license, are incredibly useful in training developers how to leverage the complex .NET APIs in building enterprise applications.

I think Adobe should seriously consider a program such as this if it wants to penetrate the enterprise market.

Anonymous said...

Yep count me in on that .NET and FLEX head count. We have several projects on the go with the two intertwined. Really though Adobe needs to address tow key issues for me. External interface needs some more work. IE scrap it and allow AMF or RTMP across the activeX, and if Adobe is going to stick to Java, why not encourage people like WebOrb, FlashPlayerControl, lately Janus, and other 3rd parties to "fill" the void or open up the sdk a bit more. .NET blows at presentation. WPF is going to mend that but wont be available to all machines for a while but FLASH IS.

All I need to do to sell Flex is show charting components to the managers and they are sold. LOL.

Campbell Anderson

Anonymous said...


Great write up! I too am with you on the Flex.NET developement.

I added my two cents here:

Also, some of your tutorials helped me get started...just wanted to Thank you for that!


Anonymous said...

Great Write up, dude!
Count me in too for the Flex.NET revolution :))
Adobe should try to eat a larger chunk of the RIA market before WPF comes in. The way "Sparkle" is going..I see Flex getting swallowed

Anonymous said...

How about this for an answer: Because Flex and Flash sucks?!?!?! Have you seen the Flash IDE, it's a be-otch to develop on. And Flex 1.0, had what, no IDE at all? Flex 2.0 might be decent, but it's no wonder why it hasn't caught on.

KarlB said...

I am sold on Flex, and I could convince project management to get on board if Adobe actually made remoting easier for .Net developers.

Sure, I can pass data back and forth from web services, but I want RemoteObjects with .Net.

Why Adobe hasn't released or even announced when Remoting will be released for .NET is astonishing. Are they trying to hand Microsoft XAML the gold medal?

Look Adobe, we see Flex, we like it, we're sold, now help us help you.

Chris said...

I love Flex but that Microsoft steamroller is heading this way...

My clients demand .NET 2.0, so unless Adobe provide decent support for bridging with Flex, real-soon-now those same clients will be demanding WPF instead of Flash...

The whole Office2007 PDF Saga isn't a big help for the Adobe / Microsoft relationship either...

Chris said...

I love Flex but .NET pays the bills...

Unless Adobe write some decent interface code (like FlexBridge but something that actually works with aspx pages), those same bill-payers of mine will demand WPF rather than Flex/Flash - and I can't say I blame them...

The whole MSOffice2007 & PDF Saga doesn't help the Adobe / Microsoft relationship either...

Joule said...

Hei bro,

i really interesting about develoopment using Flex, i'll compare between Microsoft WPF and Flex, which one is better.

but your article is great,

i'll plan use .Net and Flex next...

Scott Barnes said...

Agreed on all points Graeme :)

I'm sorry to say that Adobe's current response was to "Use coldfusion 8's new .NET support as a broker between Flex and .NET solutions".

I've also spoken to Mark Piller (CEO) of WebORB, and Adobe have indicated it's support for WebORB is at "arms-length".

I know it sounds like FUD, that's not my intent. What is, is that I'm afraid there isn't likely to be .NET support on the cards going forward - not for a while longer anyway (I haven't seen or heard anything from LiveCycle Data Services that change this either).

The moment I hear anything, you'll be the first to know if this changes :)

Scott Barnes
Developer Evangelist

Mantasha said...

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Programmer's Guide to Java
Certification A Comp. Primer SE
By Khalid A. Mughal, Rolf W. Rasmussen Publisher : Addison Wesley
Pub Date : August 04, 2003

Java™ Development on PDAs
Building Applications PocketPC
By Daryl Wilding-McBride Publisher : Addison Wesley
Pub Date : June 05, 2003

Learning Java™, 2nd Edition
Publisher : O'Reilly Pub Date : July 2002
Pub Date : June 05, 2003

Jython for Java Programmers
By Robert W. Bill Publisher : New Riders Publishing
Pub Date : December 21, 2001

Enterprise JavaBeans, 3rd Edition
By Richard Monson-Haefel Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : September 2001

Java 1.5 Tiger: A Developer's Notebook
By David Flanagan, Brett McLaughlin Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : June 2004

Java Tutorials Index 1
Java Data Objects
By David Jordan, Craig Russell Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : April 2003

Java™ Extreme Programming Cookbook
By Eric M. Burke, Brian M. Coyner Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : March 2003

Java™ Performance Tuning, 2nd Edition
By Jack Shirazi Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : January 2003

Java™ Performance Tuning, 2nd Edition
By Jack Shirazi Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : January 2003

JavaScript & DHTML Cookbook
By Danny Goodman Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : April 2003

Java Servlet & JSP Cookbook
By Bruce W. Perry Publisher : O'Reilly
Pub Date : January 2004
Java Tutorials Index 2