Adobe Takes Flex SDK Open Source
In a major salvo that ups the stakes in the emerging battle for mindshare among
developers and architects building rich Internet applications (RIAs), Adobe said
it is releasing its Flex SDK into the open-source community.
The move comes less than two weeks after Microsoft unveiled Silverlight, formerly
known as Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere, or WPF/E. Silverlight is
the company's cross-platform browser plug-in for rich media that some have dubbed
a "Flash Killer."
The timing of Adobe's announcement comes just days before Microsoft's MIX07
conference in Las Vegas, where Microsoft is expected to reveal extensive details
about Silverlight-based development over the course of three days.
Adobe said in a statement that the open source Flex SDK and documentation will
be available under the Mozilla Public License. The company intends to release
all components of the Flex SDK required to develop Flex apps, a list that includes
Java source code for the ActionScript and MXML compilers, the ActionScript debugger
and ActionScript libraries. However, Adobe said its Eclipse-based IDE, Flex
Builder, doesn’t factor into the open-source release.
Adobe's Flash enjoys a market penetration often pegged in the 90-plus percent
range, but Microsoft has a massive user base in place through its browser and
operating system, which it can leverage to distribute and foster Silverlight.
Therefore, every move by both camps counts, suggested Forrester Research Analyst
"As both Apollo and Silverlight emerge as RIA development platforms, wooing
the open-source community gives Adobe a potential advantage in the race toward
ubiquity, an advantage they will need to counter the continued market share
leadership of IE and Microsoft’s desktop OS," Hammond wrote in an
Hammond put Thursday's news in context against Adobe's decision last year to
give the source code for the ActionScript Virtual Machine to the Mozilla Foundation
as part of an open-source project known as Tamarin. (Developers already working
on Tamarin-based projects will be able to use the open-source Flex SDK for compiling
and debugging, Adobe said.)
Hammond says now Flex and Tamarin are positioned to become "the Mozilla
language and framework of choice for cross-platform RIA development that includes
Burton Group research director Peter O'Kelly calls Adobe's move "a subtly
significant strategic shift .... It’s likely to make Flex a viable choice
in some important domains in which developers otherwise would have gone with
an open-source alternative (e.g., OpenLaszlo)," he wrote in an e-mail to
Redmond Developer News. "Overall, it's likely to accelerate what’s
already impressive momentum for Flex."
One difference between the Flex SDK announcement and Tamarin is the fact Adobe
says it plans to sponsor and host the Flex project infrastructure. The Flex
SDK will also remain available under a commercial license, and the two versions
will be as similar as possible, according to Adobe.
Thursday's announcement is only the latest in a series of moves by Adobe to
foster development around its RIA technologies. The company in March released
an alpha of "Apollo," a cross-platform runtime capable of building
and deploying RIAs on the desktop.
Apollo will let users work with Internet apps without launching a browser.
If content is changed or added offline, it can be synced back up with the app
once a user goes online.
The company has said users eventually will be able to drag and drop files and
assets into Apollo apps. Future versions of Apollo will support Linux and work
with mobile technologies, as well as include more support for AJAX, according