Adobe Delays Flash Builder Upgrade But Advances Its Open Source Effort

While Adobe was gunning to release its Flex 4 and Flash Builder 4 tools by year's end, the company has determined that it will not make that goal.

Adobe said Monday that based on feedback from the beta released last month, a second beta release is in order. That second public beta is scheduled for this fall, noted Matt Chotin, a product manager on the Adobe Flex team in a blog posting

"We've been monitoring feedback, especially around the experience of using the Spark and Halo components together," Chotin noted. "While we know that in general using both models together is possible, we've decided that there are a number of smaller things that we can do (many suggested by you) to make the experience that much better for both new and existing users."

Flash is regarded as the most ubiquitous rich Internet application runtime and development platform environments. But the Flash platform is under increased assault by Microsoft, which two weeks ago released Silverlight 3, has quickly emerged as Flash's largest competitive threat to date.

Given the substantial changes in Flex 4 (see Adobe Revamps Flash Platform), including the complete redesign of the skinning model for controls, adding another beta and delaying the release was a practical move, said Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond. "I say better to get it right if all it means it a quarter slip," Hammond said in an email.

The delay will also allow for the increased penetration of Flash 10, he added, "so that there will be more users out there that can take full advantage of all the newest features."

As for the Open Source Flex SDK, Chotin said the company is planning a meeting in the coming weeks to consider its options.

New Open Source Push

Meanwhile, Adobe today contributed two projects to the open source community. The first is its Open Source Media Framework (OSMF), part of a project code-named Strobe aimed at letting developers build their own media players that are optimized for its Flash platform.

"Strobe is a framework that lets people build media players based on the Flash platform in such a way that they can work with other pieces to be able to monetize cleanly around the platform itself," said Dave McAllister, Adobe's director of standards and open source.

Developers can use OSMF to build media playback functions and video navigation and support for plug-ins from other providers.  It includes an APIs that lets developers build media plug-ins, according to Adobe.

While OSMF includes some key software assets, it does not feature any of the codec technology, McAllister said. "The unique things around the Strobe set is that it really starts enabling a very innovative experience around media," he said. "So people will experiment with these services and as this goes on we expect you will see more and more unique pieces based on the Flash platform crossing from this open source initiative."

OSMF is aligned around Akamai's Open Video Player initiative, an effort to potentially create a standard around media players. Akami will be submitting code and functionality of the OSMF under the open source license. The framework is available for download here.

Adobe's second open source release is the Text Layout Framework ((TLF), aimed at providing Web text layouts beyond the limitation of  HTML and CSS. TLF's capabilities are available now in The New York Times TimesReader 2.0. McAllister described TLF as an extensible version of its ActionScript library that runs atop the Flash 10 player and Adobe AIR 1.5 runtime. The source code is available here

Both releases will make it easier for developers to create customized branded media players and high fidelity text layouts using the Flash player respectively, Forrester's Hammond noted.

"They both make it easier for companies to take advantage of the new capabilities of Flash 10 without having to understand all the nuts and bolts of low level ActionScript calls and functions," Hammond said. "The net effect of the open source software announcement is that it makes the Flash platform that much more attractive because it removes any long term concerns developers might have about relying on this technology and then getting locked into price increases or proprietary technology."

Jay Lyman, an analyst at The 451 Group, said while Adobe has increased its open source efforts of late, it still needs to move faster. "Typically they are responding to calls to open code or APIs or components but it usually takes quite a bit of prompting," Lyman said. "They may have a greater opportunity of getting in front of some of this demand for more open code and more transparency."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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