April 26, 2007

Adobe Flex Open Sourced

Adobe announced today that they're open sourcing the Flex SDK (which includes the compiler, debugger, and Flex ActionScript libraries). It shouldn't come as too big a surprise, considering the recent MPL release of their ActionScript 3 VM to the Mozilla Foundation, Tamarin.

The model, as with Postscript, and, quite frankly, Windows, is the "Platform Effect" - monetizing both the runtime (Postscript/Windows/Flash) and providing rich(er) enterprise level authoring tools and functions (Authoring tools, servers, etc.). Releasing the specifications and "core" tools creates the illusion of freedom in tool chain, while actually delivering vendor lock-in - which isn't necessarily a bad thing for developers if (a) there's runtime ubiquity, and (b) the developer's not on the hook for distribution costs.

And getting developer buy-in (lock-in?) creates a "virtuous cycle" of scale for the platform provider... ultimately why API and specification ownership is so critical in the technology business cycle.

Although I think Adobe's Apollo (which is Flex driven) is still slightly off in its execution of product distribution, overall the company is doing a good job driving a giant truck over the ongoing bungling that is WPF (I mean... Silverlight).

And (naturally) this will impact (squeeze out) smaller players like Laszlo, Haxe, and mtasc more than affect the big players...


Anonymous said...

Hi Shree,

Hope all is great with you.

I think this misses on a few points:

We don't monetize the runtime. The Flash Player and Apollo and Adobe Reader are free.

And there is actually no "lock-in". You can use and entirely third party and free tool chain should you choose. And with the SDK open source, we will very rapidly increase the compeitition for such products.

We make money if and only if we provide tools and servers and services that add value. Period. No Lock-In.

The strategy is of course that even if their is more competition and even if entirely free tool chains exist, if we can create a larger market than we can compete effectively to also build a nice business around our commercial products.

-David Mendels

Sree Kotay said...

Hey David,

Good to hear from you :)

Its true on the desktop you don't monetize the runtime directly, but Flash on devices is still a nice (growing) royalty runtime business, as is Flash Communications Server for Streaming video (though you'd know better than I on both scores).

The "lock-in" is real more than strategic (which is usually the opposite of how things work) - by that I mean that, as a practical matter, once you're on (some variant of) the Flash bandwagon, getting off is a total start from scratch re-write; there's no "migration" pattern in the real-world.

(As with Windows applications - hence the comparison. Sure there are exceptions, but as a practical matter, its hard)

And the runtime (features, bugs, performance, etc) is single vendor controlled. That's a big part of its strength and allure (best way to write cross-browser, cross-platform apps, ads, content, etc.), and a big part of its "danger", especially as a "closed" platform. For example, no one can really do effective DRM for flash video... except you.

Even Java VMs are "cleaner" in that regard - you can use Sun's JVM, IBM's, Microsoft's (shudder :)), or even a variety of third party options.

And (thanks primarily to the Mozilla Foundation) that's the case with Browsers as well.

But, in fairness, it really is impressive both the pace of innovation, and breadth of openness with the release of Flex and Tamarin - hard to argue (as I pointed out too :)) that its anything but good for the developer community.

Thanks for the feedback and clarifications!

Anonymous said...

Just for the record, I think we have done a decent job with Flash protection, Having said that Adobe could probalby do it better from a technology standpoint since they control the player but our solution doesn't require streaming so if they did it our way (which is what the content owners want) that would hurt their new found revenue from streaming server licenses and that would be bad for business/shareholders.

Sree Kotay said...

Enscramble is pretty clever for Flash DRM - I wonder (as pretty all much the DRM's are "crackable" in one or another) where the line of acceptability is...