Adobe’s rapid product cycles, a dream or a nightmare?

Imagine this. You wake up in the middle of the night. Heart pounding. Excited. Anxious. You just had a dream that you were hit with three separate emails. 3 products that you live and die by are all changing over into new versions. Flash Player is going from version 9 to 10. Flash IDE is going from version CS3 to CS4. Flex Builder is going from 3 to 4. And it’s all happening at the same time.

As a Flash AND Flex developer, you must survive. But in order to do so, you need to learn all the differences, new features, new possibilities and new APIs. And you’ve got to learn all of them right away.

You start reading emails. You start digging into Flash Player 10 and find out there’s a lot of new and amazing stuff there. Folks are already ahead of the pack, having built very cool things with stuff like Pixel Bender and a new voice codec. You start getting ideas on how your apps, future and present, may be re-coded to take advantage of such new features.

Flash CS4 looks amazing. So much for the designer in you to explore. But again, you are throttled with new ideas, thoughts on how to change existing and new apps you want to build. YOU ARE SERIOUSLY IMPRESSED with all the new stuff. So much to take in. Do you book it? Or rely on blog posts and prerelease forums and early developer articles and previews from Adobe folks at conferences. So much to take in.

And finally, a new Flex Builder. You feel you are JUST getting up to speed with Flex 3, and now Flex 4 (Gumbo or Gumby) threatens to change some key things you just came to realize about Flex.

You consider finally gravitating to one product over the other. Maybe shift your career and approach to be more Flash-centric over Flex. But wait, not everything you do is animation or widgets. There are some pretty killer enterprise apps still prominent in your active portfolio. You can’t walk away from Flex. Not now, not ever.

You are much more vested now in Adobe technology than you were in 2004, the last time so many new, key products were coming at you from then Macromedia. But there is no doubt something very profound is going on here. Adobe has stepped on the gas pedal pretty hard now. They didn’t have a hint of competition back then. They weren’t as big or powerful. Is it them expecting a lot from you? Or is it you asking for all these changes, even when you didn’t realize? Good for them if it’s the latter, but that doesn’t ease your confusion.

You realize so many folks, especially the Flash IDE users that don’t care about Flex, or the Flex developers who don’t pay attention to Flash IDE, are in heaven. For them, it is surely a dream. But for a certain few, that rare minority of developer that attends both 360Flex and Flashforward (in the same week no less), it may be a nightmare.

You arrive at work the morning following the dream. Before downloading anything or reading further, you look at your office wall. All you pretty and glossy class diagrams and framework posters will be coming down soon. You are being replaced by the rapid product cycle this year at Adobe. And just when you think you are coming to grips with everything, someone whispers in your ear, “get ready for AIR 2.0”.

For some a nightmare, but for most, I’m sure, a dream.



Robert Gatti

Interesting perspective on what I think many developer go through. Honestly, I think the thing that separates poor, mediocre, good, and exceptional developers is how well you can adapt to the changes. I’m not talking about even being able to utilize new technology right away but to cope with the rate that things will continue to change.

My personal mentality is this. Say you start learning some skill, a programming language like Java and you start at version 4. Now it’s a big thing to try to understand how to program, I’m not saying understand Java specifically but how to program in general. You study, try ideas and slowly gain an understanding of how to program, at the same time you gain a more fine tuned knowledge of Java as a language and tool. All of a sudden version 5 comes out and there are physical semantic additions to the language. Blogs fly and talk of how to do x with y applying new tool/concept z are rampant. Do you need to fret? No, your programs still work, your knowledge on how to program is still relevant, there’s just more tools available now. When version 6 is released it’s the same thing. Even if you never learned how to harness those new tools the knowledge of how to solve a problem is still sound. If a client asks you can you solve a problem you still can answer. Maybe the solution isn’t 150% optimized but as time goes on new features will become second hand and an real-world applicable use will be more valuable than simply attempting to resolve existing problems that already have sound solutions.


Definitely a dream for me. No problem whatsoever. As soon as I’ve learnt how to use the new features of one release, I’m already looking to the next one.

The change from AS2 to AS3 was the best update ever from Adobe. By the time AS3 came out, I was absolutely bursting for it. AS2 was a hack of a nightmare, now buried in a coffin six feet under. Bye bye AS2. Now hopefully, at long last, AS4 will bring Actionscript fully into the real world.

My strategy with new versions is to carry on as before and learn and integrate new things as and when I need them. So far, that has been possible with the change from Flash 8, to CS3, to CS4 and from Flex Builder 2 to 3. It’s not as if we are forced to use new features immediately.

Particularly because I use this stuff every day, having new versions brings new life. I don’t care if all the versions come at the same time and I certainly wouldn’t mind if they came twice as often.

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