[update] There is now some more solid information on the future direction of Flex available here.
We’re a week after Adobe’s shocking announcements around its future vision of the Flash Platform – time to get some perspective and see what exactly has happened.
Unfortunately on a number of topics we’re no closer to having real answers but this is my personal take and summary of what is publicly announced:
Flash Player for mobile (e.g. on Android) will not be further developed nor receive any further updates after version 11.1 (which was made available earlier this week) apart from critical bug fixes and security updates.
The Flash Player is still available for download and existing SWF content is supported, at some point in the future SWF content targeting new features will likely no longer work on mobile browsers. There has been talk about Adobe allowing OEMs to license Flash Player and do their own implementation, something which RIM reportedly wants to do for their PlayBook and upcoming QNX based devices (lets hope for more willing OEM partners to do their own Flash Player porting).
Adobe will invest further in AIR to package applications to mobile across devices, the recent acquisition of Nitobi and the involvement in the PhoneGap project also fits into this picture.
Unclear to me is if Flash Player 11.1+ content will be supported in AIR for Android and other devices. I don’t see how that would work if they don’t want to continue to port newer versions of the Flash Player – unless they take a strategy like on iOS where the runtime gets cross compiled to native binaries for each platform.
The Flash Professional engineering team has had a number of layoffs, though the product is still under development.
Product management is located in the US but the development is being outsourced to India. The next release of Flash Professional will have a feature to export to HTML5. If its anything like Wallaby or Google’s Swiffy project, ActionScript support – if any at all – will be very limited.
The Flex SDK is going to get donated to an open source foundation and the Spoon project and Adobe (unclear how active and to what extent) will be involved in shaping its future.
The blog post announcing this however goes on to mention that HTML5 and web standards will be the best long term strategy – which undermines their case for continued support of the framework.
Flash Builder will still be developed and reportedly some Flash Catalyst features will merge into that product. The Falcon compiler project is still being worked on.
That seems like a pretty sensible move to me, imagine that at some point soon HTML5 will also become an export format here too.
LiveCycle and Acrobat Connect are being “wound down” – best guidance I’ve found on it is that they’re cutting investment on it, though continue to support it for existing clients in the government and the enterprise financial services market.
I am still baffled at what Adobe was thinking in the way they communicated these changes. Clearly serious mistakes were made and I’m already seeing consequences everywhere.
Flash Player on desktop technically has a bright future ahead for gaming in particular, the issue here is if the actions of last week have not undermined Adobe’s credibility to such a point that nobody is willing to invest. After all, they’ve now proven that the very thing you’ve been working on for months or years can be pulled out from under you at any point in time.
Most shockingly is still how MAX attendees were misled – thousands of people paying thousands of dollars to make it out to an event that claims to give them insight into the roadmap at Adobe. It is now also clear that Adobe employees did not know about these upcoming changes until the day itself, so this is no criticism on their part.
I still strongly stand behind my call for a leadership change at Adobe. Spending billions of dollars over the years on developing a mobile platform to then abandon it without any advance guidance or clear transition path to your user base is inexcusable. The enterprise Flex market is one few that actually prefers proprietary solutions, they want a strong company backing the technology they use and a roadmap they can trust on.
We’ll see how these decisions play out, the move towards web standards can proof to be a good one in the long run but the more critical problem is restoring confidence in Adobe.