3 years ago I was working at Fidelity (in Boston), trying very hard to get Flash adopted by the development teams. Flash was already being used favorably by the design groups, but ActionScript 2.0 was still too new to gain respect for Flash amongst the engineering crowd. That’s around the time when Macromedia starting calling (out of their Newton, MA office), announcing that they had a new Flash-based solution that would appeal to developers.
As they came in to demo Flex, it appeared to me and others that it was being marketed as a Flash alternative, not so much a complimenting framework to the Flash Platform. It became obvious that this was Macromedia’s tact, to position Flex as something new, somewhat adverse to the timeline/stage/symbol world of Flash. Until then, the interface that designers came to know and love was never sneered at, but appreciated as a full-on-controlling design environment for Rich interfaces. [As I’ve said many times, with my Film/Television background, I clung to Flash mostly because the IDE reminded me of staging a movie.]
Many of us got defensive, claiming Flex took longer to develop with and wasn’t as ‘flexible’ if your intentions were a custom interface. It turns out, we didn’t need to create much of an argument. Flex’s pricetag alone was enough to deter the early adopters. With the exception of apps like Yahoo! Maps, practically no one deployed any front-facing Flex apps.
Flex 2 has ushered in a world of difference for Adobe’s ‘complimenting framework to Flash’. Initially, though, it was slow going for its adoption. Ryan Stewart reported, upon the release of Flex 2, that seemingly nobody noticed. But things sure have changed. With Ted Patrick driving the adoption of Flex to amazing heights, there seems to be countless apps out there and many more rolling out. What’s more is I am hearing that many companies, frustrated with the lack of Flex talent, are converting ‘willing’ C++ and Java developers to work with Flex. This further leverages, in my mind, what the single best move Adobe did with Flex 2 was: releasing FlexBuilder 2 on Eclipse!
Once again, though, I feel that the ‘greatness’ of Flex has come at a price to Flash. I am anxiously awaiting Adobe’s new flows and integration concepts, which hopefully continue to position and sustain Flash as a valuable tool in application design and development. While Flex has deservingly been crowned as the king sh*t application for Apollo development, we still need Flash very badly for turning out sleek and custom UI assets.
And you may argue all you want, but I still think that super-talented artists that can do AMAZING THINGS in Flash will always be even harder to find than any Flex developer could be. So, please don’t throw Flash under the Flex bus. Viva la Flex, but long live Flash as well! Don’t let Flash authoring become a lost art, otherwise, all our Flex applicaitons may wind up looking the same.