Adobe Systems has made what the company hopes is a game-changing move by bringing its Flex core software development kit to developers free of charge.
On June 28, San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe announced the availability of the Adobe Flex 2 product line and Adobe Flash Player 9. But it is the companys new tiered licensing model aimed at bringing the power of Flex development to the masses that has the company excited, said Jeff Whatcott, senior director of product marketing for Adobes Enterprise and Developer Business Unit.
"Our strategy is to get us into the enterprise and get a million developers using Flex in three to five years," Whatcott said.
And with a tool set based on the Eclipse open-source development environment, a data services offering and the newly free Adobe Flex 2 SDK, Adobe is preparing developers for the next generation of the Web and rich Internet applications, Whatcott said.
The Flex 2 SDK is the core SDK—a command-line compiler—for Flex, and is the heart of the Flex product line, Whatcott said. This technology used to be available for $15,000 but is now free, he said.
"This represents a tremendous changing of the game and is our approach to getting a lot of developers in the platform," he said.
Meanwhile, Adobe announced Flex Builder 2, which is an Eclipse-based IDE (integrated development environment) for Flex. This tool runs $499 per seat and includes the core SDK. Adobe also is offering Flex Builder 2 with Charting for developers who need visualization, for $749. In addition, Adobe announced Flex Data Services 2, which includes messaging and middleware support. This product runs $20,000 per CPU. For users who dont need to cluster the technology, Adobe is making a community version available, called Flex Data Services 2 Express, Whatcott said. This product is free, but it can only be used on one CPU.
With the Flex 2 SDK and Flex Data Services 2 Express developers can build and deploy complete rich Internet applications with no software licensing costs, Whatcott said. And for increased productivity, developers can use Flex Builder 2 for development, along with Flex Data Services 2 for building data-intensive applications that include real-time data synchronization and collaboration capabilities, he said.
Meanwhile, the Flash Player 9 runtime environment gives Flex developers up to 10 times faster performance through ActionScript 3.0 and a new AVM (ActionScript Virtual Machine), Whatcott said.
Whatcott said Adobe moved to a free model for its core Flex SDK because "now its time, as the market has moved and rich Internet application has gone from a phase where we invented the term in 2002 to now being heavily adopted in the market."
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Moreover, "Flex is all about building next-generation experiences on the Web," Whatcott said. He said a browser is all about document browsing but is not necessarily the best platform for the next-generation of the Web.
"With Flex 2, we have improved the richness and usability of application interfaces available to our staff, which contributes directly to how productive we can be," said Chris Culhane, software engineer for Sun Life Financial, in Toronto, in a statement. "On the development side, we can develop applications twice as fast compared to developing in other environments. We write less code, the Flex applications integrate seamlessly with backend systems, and the final applications are easier to maintain."
"We have always prided ourselves on being an innovative organization and will continue to explore new technologies to further evolve our online product," said David Dean, vice president of software engineering at WeightWatchers.com, in New York, in a statement. "Compared to HTML development, we can create richer, more dynamic user interfaces in Flex—in less time."
In addition, Adobe partners are coming onboard for Flex.
"SAP is continually working to enhance the user experience, simplify the ways in which information workers access and use business information, and enable SAP users to work within the environments and interfaces where they are most comfortable," said Doug Merritt, executive vice president and general manager of the Product & Technology Group at Walldorf, Germany-based SAP, in a statement. "By offering robust technology in Flex and Flash, Adobe is a key partner in these efforts. We are very excited to extend the enhancements in Flash Player 9 to our xApp Analytics customers. Adobe is providing a very rich, easy-to-use and familiar interface to SAP xApp Analytics, further improving the SAP user experience while leveraging the power of SAP applications."
Meanwhile, Whatcott said the RIA (rich Internet application) market has grown up "and we have a model that scales from the smallest project all the way up to mission-critical J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition] applications," he said.
"Flex picks up where AJAX leaves off," he said. "We offer you more functionality for free. We provide commercial-grade tooling, too. We really hope to get a million developers in three to five years."
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