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The Pulpit
Pulpit Comments
June 29, 2007 -- An AIR of Invisibility
Status: [CLOSED]

First one to comment!!!! Cool!

Adobe seems to be getting their act back together after several years of Chizen-ertia. AIR is a crappy name compared to Apollo, though.

Bill | Jun 29, 2007 | 10:52AM

Funny that this is posted on the day of the iPhone's release -- which (according to NYT/Pogue) does not support Flash (nor Java).

It will be interesting to see whether Adobe can keep Flash dominany in the face of really pretty good AJAX-based UIs such as those enabled by Google's Web Toolkit, where the programmer gets many of the advantages of continuing to work in Java but the client just sees JavaScript (tailored to the supported browser) -- no Java runtime required. Hmm... Java+Ajax tools are free and can be used to develop enterprise-scale applications. Flash tools cost hundreds to thousands (if you want the Flex server) and can be used to make really pretty web sites.

Flash may become (even more) ubiquitous, but it will also become a frustrating if Adobe doesn't work out a way to loosen up the licensing. For example, the Opera browser on Nintendo's Wii is restricted to Flash 7 because that's the only available version of Flash to third-party integrators.

Dave Brown | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:08AM

All I want to know is when Flash will be "invisible" on the iPhone (optimized for lower power usage, of course).

Scotty | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:09AM

edits to above...

Flash can certainly do more than really pretty web sites with its recent support for XML and of course Flex. But when you talk about "Flash developers" I would argue that you're often not talking about someone writing the same level of code as when you talk about "Java developers.";

omitted words: "... become a frustrating source of incompatibility if Adobe doesn't...

Dave Brown | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:12AM

The problem with Flash is that it's about to become very visible indeed. Visible, due to its omission on the iPhone 1.0 going on sale today.

David | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:20AM

This may actually make Flash stronger. Other cell phone companies will strive to compete with the iPhone, and turning to Flash may be the best option.

[quote]Funny that this is posted on the day of the iPhone's release -- which (according to NYT/Pogue) does not support Flash (nor Java).

It will be interesting to see whether Adobe can keep Flash dominany in the face of really pretty good AJAX-based UIs such as those enabled by Google's Web Toolkit, where the programmer gets many of the advantages of continuing to work in Java but the client just sees JavaScript (tailored to the supported browser) -- no Java runtime required. Hmm... Java+Ajax tools are free and can be used to develop enterprise-scale applications. Flash tools cost hundreds to thousands (if you want the Flex server) and can be used to make really pretty web sites.

Flash may become (even more) ubiquitous, but it will also become a frustrating if Adobe doesn't work out a way to loosen up the licensing. For example, the Opera browser on Nintendo's Wii is restricted to Flash 7 because that's the only available version of Flash to third-party integrators.[/quote]

Matt Clary | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:21AM

Let's not forget the other "invisible" technology on those same BILLION computers - the web browser. The message of the iPhone is that every computer, handheld or otherwise, will have a full featured browser. By adding SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics, a W3C standard initially lead by an Adobe employee) to Safari and getting Safari/WebKit deployed on Nokia phones, Adobe's invisible technology is being directly challenged by the mobile industry. Let us also remember that the Jeebus phone (née iPhone) for the same reasons does not support Flash.

Furthermore, Adobe's history of poorly implementing PDF on phones is obvious. Perhaps Adobe has changed after the MacroMedia acquisition but I doubt it. Their corporate culture has rarely allowed them to compete in established markets. No, Adobe is going to have a hard fight here.

Andrew | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:25AM

The problem with Flash, Java, etc, as Internet application platforms is that they are not client / server. The data needs to remain on the server where it is always available, and can be professionally managed. Another problem is to use the application system you have to use the propietary language. There is no reason why an internet application system can not be language neutral.

Chris Nystrom | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:26AM

I've been hearing this Flash mantra for years. I personally don't think it will take over the world, especially on mobile devices. From what I've read, it's only on a very few handsets and of course it's not on the iPhone. The problem, it's proprietary and so far somewhat of a resource hog. It may be ideal for terminals, cash registers, kiosks but I think the open standards of the web (AJAX, etc) will prevail. Don't get me wrong, I like Flash but look at what's happening, Google is transcoding YouTube (Flash) to H264 for the iPhone/AppleTV. The Flash days on YouTube could be over.

PXLated | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:27AM

While MS Windows hasn't reached invisibility, at least one Microsoft technology as, the .doc format. People assume you have Word to write or read .doc files. Try submitting your resume to 99% of job postings without at .doc version of your resume. I have, and the response is, "can you forward your resume in MS Word format?" I always use PDF but the industry dictates DOC (lame).

Secondly, I agree that PDF is invisible, but Adobe Acrobat, the software, certainly isn't. On Windows we use Adobe to read PDFs but on the Mac and Linux we mostly don't.

There are better, more integrated PDF readers available for those platforms. So don't expect Adobe to succeed by "sneaking" anything in on their Acrobat platform. If they do it'll only work for unsuspecting Windows users. They'll still have to sell the rest of us on downloading their new features.

Scott | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:28AM

Funny how when you were talking about Flash and all it's possible competitors, Microsoft .NET and ASP 2.0 didn't even rate a mention.

David | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:32AM

Ah yes, the ubiquitous bundling of software. This has become more of an annoyance --at least to me-- lately. I recall that one of the more recent downloads of Adobe Reader ended up wanting to install some things that I wasn't exactly fond of having.

As for Silverlight, I've found that despite my despise for Microsoft, Silverlight has exceeded expectations by a good bit. Especially the fact that they aren't ignoring Mozilla based browsers this time, and "embracing" (I do use the word somewhat euphemistically here) other browsers. I know the reasoning for that is probably a business based decision, however, it is nice to see it happen.

When I first heard about Adobe's takeover of Macromedia, I was horrified. My concern grew that Adobe would turn the developer tools and Flash into a mangled train wreck, which they so far have not, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they don't stick their collective finger into it too much. From the technical standpoint, I am a firm believer that Adobe should have stuck to media manipulation, and let Macromedia stay the course of web design. I would hate to see my Dreamweaver turned into PageMaker or PageMill or whatever Adobe's calling it.

Matt Blecha | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:32AM

And don't forget Adobe's long history of "invisible" technologies was kicked off by PostScript, an early defacto printing standard, the basis for the company when it was founded in the 80s, and the ancestor of PDF. Long ago it became "invisible"...

Brian Calvert | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:33AM

...And of course the only thing that can stop Adobe - much like Microsoft - is its relationship with the endusers. Witness the myriad of problems reported with the latest upgrade of Creative Suite (NONE of which I have experienced, I must add...) from printing woes to the damnable 'activiation'.

But like you Bob, I saw this coming a long way off, which is why I put my Father into a sizable purchase of Adobe stock prior to the Macromedia purchase, thereby retaining favoured son status (BG)....

Robert Anthony Pitera | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:39AM

Here we are on the day the iPhone is introduced, the biggest mobile device introduction in history. It does not support Flash. Might warrant a mention.

Ben | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:47AM

I'm surprised you didn't mention flash video--video sites and flash video seem to be more responsible for flash's resurgence than anything. It seemed to me it was on its way out in favor of Ajax-style schemes otherwise.

partdavid | Jun 29, 2007 | 11:54AM

Mr Pitera makes the comment above that the iPhone does not support Flash. External support of Flash is not the point. The point is that the interface itself can be written in Flash, and I would place a sizable bet that the iPhone interface is in fact written in Flash.


On a seperate note, Adobe will probably soon learn that it is very very difficult to make big money selling tools the the embedded market. You have to support an enormous number of hardware platforms, and the number of developers is tiny. Tools make their money from the number of developers. RTOS and GUI toolkit vendors in the embedded market currently make tiny money, because they generally can not sell a licence per final unit shipped, and so only make one fee per project. This is where Adobe will need to find a novel business model if they want to score.

Niall Murphy | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:04PM

My guess is Flash support was either not arriving on time to launch because of some developmental issues (and it will come as an upgrade), or there is some political issues involved between Apple and Adobe. Certainly, not having Flash is a big minus for the iPhone web browser.

Snafu | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:06PM

Invisible!! I opted 'yes' to upgrade my Adobe Reader to version 8. Now my IE browser won't open the pdf files I used to be able to download from the library. Since it's a free application I don't have any support options except to read the Knowledge base articles that don't address my problem. I don't have days to sort out the problem, my thesis deadline is looming!

Johnny E. | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:17PM

"We tried everything, but we couldn't get Acrobat small enough to work on a cell phone. You can do a Flash interface that's a fraction of the file size."

So Adobe themselves couldn't do it, but a ISV could definitely do it (see: FoxIt). That says a lot about the state of Adobe right now...

How many people are avoiding Acrobat and using other readers (like foxit) instead because of the huge amount of bloat? How many avoid PDF completely because of this reason?(See any tech-site that always puts a huge warning beside any PDF files because of the crippling effect Acrobat, I mean "Adobe Reader" causes...) The same for PhotoShop, a lot of people are sticking with older versions because of the huge amounts of bloat in the new versions.

Java and friends are working on speeding up and slimming down their web-technologies, Adobe appears to be going in the opposite direction. I only hope the Macromedia team they acquired can keep Flash quick and nimble over the long-haul.

intangible | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:18PM

Some more ranting: What's up with the huge-influx of Jesus-Phone followers here? Egads, by the fervor, you'd think ET had landed and brought us the cure for all diseases.

intangible | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:22PM

You missed an important step between Flash and AIR: Adobe's Flex toolkit. This is where raw XML and ActionScript is combined to make Flash files. The compiler has been open-sourced and a decent visual IDE (built on top of the ubiquitous Eclipse) is already out there.

Remember how Microsoft maintained control over the desktop application world? By owning the APIs. With Flex, Adobe's API extends across Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as mobile platforms. But Flex produces only web-based apps. That's where AIR comes in: it lets you leverage the same API and toolchain to create cross-platform desktop apps as well. Isn't it ironic that Flash has gone from being a browser plug-in to AIR where the browser (WebKit) is a plug-in inside itself (like the flea that ate the dog).

That's why Microsoft came out with Silverlight. To head off the threat of the universal application API being owned by somebody else. But this time they can't FUD it out of existence. They're faced with well-known technology, a development environment, and deep pockets. Think about it: every time someone wants to watch YouTube, put a widget on their MySpace page, or send an animated e-card, Adobe gets another platform install.

A key part of the latest Flash plugin is that ActionScript went from being a poor stepchild of Flash to a full-fledged VM (which has also been open-sourced). You download Flash to watch YouTube -- you get the VM as well. Pretty soon, you'll get the AIR runtime slipstreamed in. Now why would you need the Java JRE or .NET?

Flash already allowed you to store a modest amount of data on the desktop. Adobe recently announced that it would work with Google Gears. This lets you run SQLite databases (via Gears) on the desktop and sync the data up to the cloud without having to worry about the nitty-gritty. This isn't a perfect solution since it involves users downloading and installing another runtime. But now you have Google helping push things out as well which means it'll be bundled in the next Google toolbar, desktop, apps, etc.

Adobe will get to mobile in good time, but for once you may have underestimated the depth and breadth of ambition here :-) You're right, though, about the invisibility.

As a developer I'm not sure I want to trade one lock-in technology with another. But we're all suckers for the siren song of 'One Source Across All Platforms...'

RF | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:24PM

Uh, Flash is invisible? If only it were so. Sure, if you're running Windows on X86, it might be. But there are other platforms out there, many unsupported or badly supported by Flash. When does my Firefox/Linux browser crash? When it runs flash. (Not all the time, but enough to be annoying, and make me leery of enabling it.) No source, no hope for a fix.

VMole | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:41PM

Another thing Adobe has done well has been to integrate the Macromedia technologies with Adobe's. What Adobe understands is that it's not about technology by itself - it's about the user experience.

Not only the developer's experience, but hte markets, the designers, the product managers, the project managers, and ultimately... the end user.

And that's where we are today with the Adobe CS3 suite, where there's a smooth flow from one application to another. Photoshop/Illustrator->Fireworks/Dreamweaver->Flash->Flex/Coldfusion/LiveCycle Data Services

So they have the full suite from designer, developer, to servers.

Sith Sigma | Jun 29, 2007 | 12:51PM

The next step for Adobe, while relatively small in the grand revenue sense, is to acquire the only piece of the "arts technology" pie that they don't own.

Dolby Systems, Inc.

They're just up the road too! Then, given enough time/money/staffing, maybe we'll see "Microsoft B" noise reduction for cassette tapes.

But seriously, the worst thing that can happen to Adobe has already started to happen ... Microsoft's (seemingly) new use of computer science cranial matter to drive product innovation (instead of the marketing department's photocopiers). Witness Singularity, Photosynth, etc.

JR | Jun 29, 2007 | 1:08PM

I agree that Adobe is in a powerful position. I have often thought that Adobe is missing the mark by NOT having a "Browser". If Adobe had their own browser, they would be in the position to own s substantial portion of the Internet. They are already own the tools for viewing content, but that's not enough - strategically speaking - to ensure absolute success. I think of my parents who look at a web page and are confused by the mess they see. Imagine if a web site "appeared" as a book, with page numbers and chapters down the right side, with an index and all... easy navigation throughout the web site. Think how simple and powerful that would be! You can't do that until you own a browser, where you have absolute control of both the content creation and the viewer. With Apple releasing Safari for Windows why not Adobe? Even better would be if Apple bought Adobe.

Sandy Milne | Jun 29, 2007 | 1:16PM

While I support your basic premise (Flash as API competitor), I think you have some facts wrong.

You peg Flash + Acrobat as "60 megs of Adobe code on a billion machines". In fact, the Flash Player (v8, which is where Adobe reports 90% market penetration) is an extremely streamlined 1 meg download... and we have a pretty good idea what's in there.

Adobe (and previously, Macromedia) have been demoing Flash Lite integration in cell phones since 2003. I've played with the runtime -- it's an incredible piece of engineering. But I've yet to see anyone in North America fire up a single piece of content using it. They simply don't have the handset penetration (although they say Asia is a different story, most of those handsets are running previous versions without the scripting support).

Putting a Flash player on a chip doesn't solve the DRM issue either: the content still has to be sent over an open network to a device controlled by it's owner, and the inevitable cracks in whatever DRM scheme they implement will certainly appear.

I also doubt the number of Flash developers is anywhere near the number of Java developers. There may be a large population of designers and coders familiar with the Flash Builder program, but having worked for a company that builds games in Flash I can assure you that competent Flash developers are difficult to find, and Flex/AIR developers are practically nonexistant. The ones that are out there are being rapidly snapped up by the likes of Yahoo. Flex may change this, but Flash has always been viewed as a "toy language" by CS purists, despite ActionScript 2.0 being a very Java-like language, and quite nice to work with. The cost of a Flash development environment is also quite prohibitive.

At the end of the day, MS, Adobe and Sun are scrambling to recreate web software in their own image, and I think the market will resist that. I can go to practically any modern website and see AJAX elements, but Flex Apps are rare. I actually can't name one off the top of my head, although possibly they are more numerous in the intranet/enterprise environments. I personally will put my money on open standards like HTML and Javascript for the long term.

ben | Jun 29, 2007 | 1:30PM

My favorite Firefox Add-on is Flashblock.

Foxit Reader opens PDF's faster than Acrobat.

RJanicek | Jun 29, 2007 | 1:51PM

I am supporting Microsoft. I think the .net concept of use whatever language you choose is what was needed. Programmers have been in control of the end user experience since the beginning of computers. The incorporation of dynamics languages such as Python and Ruby, as well as application specific dynamic languages, may allow the semi-sophisticated end user to modify the user interface himself (possibly through the use of a command line box). The user can then save this code for himself or give it to others. This can work both in the browser and on the desktop. Silverlight 1.1, which supports these languages, will be 4mb, possibly small enough for many devices. With the possible exception of the recent open Java, no one else seems to have this approach.

David Jensen | Jun 29, 2007 | 1:55PM

I think Cringely is really discounting the iniquitousness of .NET programmers and the impact WPF, WPFe (Silverlight) - and the rest of .NET 3.0 and 3.5 - will have on that ENORMOUS developer base.

He's forgetting that Flash, though "invisible," is still a specialized programming field, unlike the multiple "mesh" languages of the .NET framework (VB, C#). These developers are not interested in learning Flash, and will flock to WPF/WPFe IN DROVES.

Cringely also fails to mention that, though ubiquitous, Flash is still the BAIN OF WEBSURFERS everywhere - plenty of USERS HATE IT: it dramatically slows down access to websites with it's (sometimes multiple!) load-progress bars; designers also often feel the need to design "creative" non-standard interfaces that are difficult to navigate; the standard back-forward browser navigation scheme is effectively disabled; and you can't use the DAMN RIGHT-CLICK BUTTON!

Another gaping hole in this prediction is the fact that Microsoft has already VIRTUALLY MONOPOLIZED the Smartphone market. iPhone aside - Blackberrys will be extinct in less than a decade (mark it on your calendars), and Symbian will be mostly relegated to Europe and Asia. I would be VERY surprised if there's not an upcoming point-release for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 that includes Silverlight. Now if MY PREDICION is true, every Windows Mobile user will be running WPFe/Silverlight in a matter of months. It would be VERY difficult for Adobe to be able to deploy Flash Mobile with such ease.

Don't ever count out Microsoft. Cringely of all people should know this. They may be a slow-moving locomotive, but they are moving a lot quieter these days, and once you notice that big machine has some momentum, it could be TOO LATE. That would be Adobe, tied up on the metaphorical train tracks.

Point aside, I agree - Sun is toast. But Cringely - sorry buddy, you got it wrong this time.

Will | Jun 29, 2007 | 2:10PM

I think Cringely is really discounting the iniquitousness of .NET programmers and the impact WPF, WPFe (Silverlight) - and the rest of .NET 3.0 and 3.5 - will have on that ENORMOUS developer base.

He's forgetting that Flash, though "invisible," is still a specialized programming field, unlike the multiple "mesh" languages of the .NET framework (VB, C#). These developers are not interested in learning Flash, and will flock to WPF/WPFe IN DROVES.

Cringely also fails to mention that, though ubiquitous, Flash is still the BAIN OF WEBSURFERS everywhere - plenty of USERS HATE IT: it dramatically slows down access to websites with it's (sometimes multiple!) load-progress bars; designers also often feel the need to design "creative" non-standard interfaces that are difficult to navigate; the standard back-forward browser navigation scheme is effectively disabled; and you can't use the DAMN RIGHT-CLICK BUTTON!

Another gaping hole in this prediction is the fact that Microsoft has already VIRTUALLY MONOPOLIZED the Smartphone market. iPhone aside - Blackberrys will be extinct in less than a decade (mark it on your calendars), and Symbian will be mostly relegated to Europe and Asia. I would be VERY surprised if there's not an upcoming point-release for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 that includes Silverlight. Now if MY PREDICION is true, every Windows Mobile user will be running WPFe/Silverlight in a matter of months. It would be VERY difficult for Adobe to be able to deploy Flash Mobile with such ease.

Don't ever count out Microsoft. Cringely of all people should know this. They may be a slow-moving locomotive, but they are moving a lot quieter these days, and once that big machine has some momentum, it might be TOO LATE. (That would be Adobe, tied up on the metaphorical train tracks)

Point aside, I agree - Sun is toast.

Will Thompson | Jun 29, 2007 | 2:17PM

Will Thompson says "Symbian will be mostly relegated to Europe and Asia"... so the majority of the world will be Symbian based oh silly american person!

Malcolm Powell | Jun 29, 2007 | 2:39PM

My oh my, Will is a shill for Microsoft. .NET is dead. Nobody wants that proprietary technology locked into a desktop OS (yeah, Windows), which is why Java/J2EE (which works on OS's for both on the desktop and server - i.e. *nix) continues to dominate and grow. Don't be surprised if Microsoft changes the name of .NET to make it sound something new. Remember, it used to be COM, then DCOM, then DNA, currently .NET, what next? Java has always been Java.

Microsoft monopolizing the smartphone market is a joke. They are a niche player while Java-enabled phones, and other platforms are growing.

scotte | Jun 29, 2007 | 2:54PM

I'm afraid something must have gotten lost in translation with Al Mandel's quote (a genious though he may be). Mark Weiser, The Father of Ubiquitous computing, actually opened his seminal paper The Computer for the 21st Century with the words "The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it." He defined ubicomp as computing that effectively disappears into the environment by becoming so... ubiquitous.

Don Norman gives an example in his book The Invisible Computer. Early last century, Sears Roebuck tried selling The Home Motor to which one could attach any number of funky peripherials to create a sowing machine, a kitchen appliance or a fan. These days, there are electric motors in so many things that we don't even realize it. Electric motors have become ubiquitous (googling about the subject, i find that Norman must have read this article by David Kline in a Wired from 1996 first) -- and effectively invisible.

Robin Laurén | Jun 29, 2007 | 3:10PM

hmmm... so Flash is big and invisible... then how important is it that the iPhone does not allow Flash ?

Peter | Jun 29, 2007 | 4:04PM

I've been working on an adaptive user interface built in Flash for the last eight months. It's got to be just about the worst programming experience of my life.

ActionScript is a baby compared to java or .Net. Its slow, has a chronically limited set of classes, the tools are limited and there is very little in the way of third party extensions. It's only got the penetration it has because no-one else could be bothered with the space.

Now the grown-ups are taking an interest it will have to improve very rapidly, or it will become niche very rapidly.

I have achieved better results in a few days with WPF than after months with Flash.

I'm sure there will be hordes of Flash developers happy to shout me down. I'm equally sure that most will have come from a designer background and so have no idea of the power of a real development environment. Microsoft will get huge penetration with Silverlight simply because most desktops are still Windows, however much the geeks don't like it. As soon as it is released it will be on the majority of those desktops through Windows Update.

Ian Chamberlain | Jun 29, 2007 | 4:32PM

I've been working on an adaptive user interface built in Flash for the last eight months. It's got to be just about the worst programming experience of my life.

ActionScript is a baby compared to java or .Net. Its slow, has a chronically limited set of classes, the tools are limited and there is very little in the way of third party extensions. It's only got the penetration it has because no-one else could be bothered with the space.

Now the grown-ups are taking an interest it will have to improve very rapidly, or it will become niche very rapidly.

I have achieved better results in a few days with WPF than after months with Flash.

I'm sure there will be hordes of Flash developers happy to shout me down. I'm equally sure that most will have come from a designer background and so have no idea of the power of a real development environment. Microsoft will get huge penetration with Silverlight simply because most desktops are still Windows, however much the geeks don't like it. As soon as it is released it will be on the majority of those desktops through Windows Update.

Ian Chamberlain | Jun 29, 2007 | 4:32PM

Like most people, I refuse to install Flash on my computer. When I hit a website that says "Flash requied," that's a great sign -- the developers who produced that website want ot piss in users' faces, so I immediately leave.
Flash is really wonderful. It's an idiot detector. If I encounter flash in any website or any web app, it tells the developer was an idiot. That's good to know because it prevents me from wasting times with absurd download times for the flash garbage and endless version incompatabilities.
As for pdf being "ubiquitous"... What planet are you living on? PDF format is an annoyance. 9 times out of 10 I get tired of waiting for the huge bloated PDF download and just choose the Google "HTML version" option.
Both PDF and Flash are worthless useless annoyances, avoided by most computer users. ASP has a much smaller following than Flash or PDF format, yet I encounter websites run on asp far more often than the loathsome flash or PDF formats when surfing the web.

mclaren | Jun 29, 2007 | 4:48PM

Java vs Flex vs .NET was something I had to think about while deciding which platform to develop in for a series of enterprise applications.


Java:
Java used to have an automatic answer of NO when it came up because of so many bad experiences with the platform. Sun moving towards open source caused me to have another look. I found it ran on just about anything, the GUI toolkits, in my opinion, are not ugly anymore and the ( now free ) enterprise tools take allot of pain out of deploying. The IDEs are mature. The only downside is that the Java runtime is still slow.

Flex:
Pretty almost beautiful GUI tools. Easy to deploy with the final executable being small. Nice IDE and I found mxml easy to work with. The big show stopper was when I asked the question "Can I write a flex app to run on a pocket pc based handheld and Will it run on x86-64 Linux?". I don't like the answer of "when we get it done", I have deliverables with deadlines, so should the vendors I rely on. Flash suddenly became very visible indeed.

.Net:
I have developed using Visual Studio. It can be annoying in a typical Microsoft way but it is a productive environment to use. The big problem for me is that practically .Net is cross platform, as long as you use Windows. Trying to do a seamless blend of Linux and Windows deployments is a nightmare. Mono is always way behind in implementing what can be dragged and dropped onto a form in Visual Studio today.

The Winner:
Java won when I downloaded everything for free, fired up NetBeans under Linux compiled an application, ran it, fired up NetBeans in Windows, compiled the same application ran it. Copied the application compiled on Linux to Windows, ran it. Everything looked consistent acted consistently and just worked. My mobile phone uses Java, the company handhelds can run it. For me, Java just came back from the dead.

I sincerely hope I have an excuse to use Flex sometime in the future. It is just so damned pretty not to mention small, fast and easy to deploy. But Adobe still has some work to do on consistent platform support. If they freely open source Flash, maybe the FOSS community will help them a little ;-)

Stookie | Jun 29, 2007 | 5:31PM

The LG Prada phone which has the iPhone-like interface is flash driven. By that I mean it's UI is flash based which makes it very sexy. On the technical side it provides for fast development and deployment and super small foot print. I think people who write off flash are basing their decision on their PC experience with some so-so website. In embed devices flash already has a strong lead.
The market for graphically rich applications will be down to Flash/Flex/AIR and silverlight in the end.

I'm not writing ajax et al off, their place is downloadable web applications. The iPhone will really have a huge impact in this space, not because of numbers shipped but the whole user experience. The support of google will give the whole safari based application more momemtum and I'm positive will see it in other devices - nokia, palm, etc.

zoran | Jun 29, 2007 | 5:35PM

The iPhone not having Flash doesn't mean that Apple thinks Flash is irrelevent. In fact it indicates that Apple fully understands just how powerful Flash is, and therefore how powerful Adobe could be, and wants to head it off if at all possible.

And no, the iPhone interface isn't flash. Apple has it's own GUI framework that works very nicely thank you very much, and they want to be in charge of it on the iPhone and nobody else.

Simon Hibbs | Jun 29, 2007 | 5:44PM

I disagree that pdf is invisible. I grind my teeth everytime I have to use a pdf document. Its just a proprietary duplication of html that I for one could happily live without.

Byron Como | Jun 29, 2007 | 6:00PM

Biggest difference between Adobe and Microsoft:



Adobe "gets" designers and what they want. Their tools empower its users to create whatever they want. Flash, for all its programming oddities, is flexible enough to fit to the designers mind and give it to them in a way most designers can understand. Flex and MXML is a tool for more serious flash development and its a good tool & a good start.



Microsoft "gets" developers and provides them with a tool that they want.



Now, I'm a designer and I work for a software/hardware company with lots of MS developers who are jumping on the WPF bandwagon and think with these tools they are now designers. Scary ... and the results so far are scarier. Apparently when you mix a developer with a design tool, you just end up with glossy buttons and an over-use of gradients and bevels. So I've started to use MS Expression Blend and even Expression Designer. MS doesn't "get" designers. Their design tools are horrible. .Net 3.0 and WPF will only make developers think they are designers and will still get unusable, horribly designed interfaces designed from the developers perspective on what users need. I'm hoping to fix that where I work by trying to integrate user-centered design into the current workflow, but unless MS can improve their designer tools, its a lost cause.

John | Jun 29, 2007 | 6:08PM

Bob,
"An apparent FLASH 'segment interconnect' problem now exists at noted web sites, so much for product functionality."
(Could this be another example of 'Redmond Rash'?)
Expect SOA to greatly assist in software 'invisibility' going forward.

WRW | Jun 29, 2007 | 6:13PM

One more reason why I think Adobe will have better succes with Flash than Microsoft with WPF --> the user community. Flat out, the flash designers and developers work together to make each other better by sharing insight, methodologies, and more importantly code. As a community, they figure out what is lacking, they build it and then, instead of hording it, they share it. When Flash didn't have a RegEx engine, the community built one (Flash has regex now). When Flash didn't have a good implementation of Xpath, the community built it. Easing equations? yep - thx Robert Penner. 3d? papervision3d was born. and so on and so on and this continues with Flex and now Adobe AIR. I think only PHP is better when it comes to sharing among the users.

John | Jun 29, 2007 | 6:24PM

As an engineer who uses Autocad on a daily basis, I would LOVE for Adobe to takeover Autodesk. Autodesk software is generally a confusing mess of bits and pieces thrown together into something they call a user interface. Everything is inconsistent, sometimes doesn't work, and has thousands and thousands of undocumented options. You'd think software that costs thousands of dollars per copy would be a little bit better. I guess that's what you get from a monopoly (Autocad).

On the other hand, the Adobe software I've used is generally well-organized, consistent, and easy to use (I know there are exceptions). I've been ranting for years that I wish Autodesk would design user interfaces like Adobe and/or Apple. My wife would appreciate it because I wouldn't come home from work quite as angry about Autocad.

61north | Jun 29, 2007 | 7:00PM

I agree with your premise that mobile devices are the next target development platform for forward-thinking software companies, but Java is *already* on over a billion mobile devices in the world whereas Flash--or any Adobe-owned tool for that matter--is nowhere close to that amount.

If Adobe were really serious about gaining quick adoption in the mobile space to try to catch up to Java, you would think they would have at least tried to convince Steve Jobs to put Flash on the new iPhone, but they didn't or couldn't (of course Steve doesn't like Java either, mostly because he's not aware of how much better it's gotten).

If the idea is for the iPhone to stay mostly closed-source and push functionality out to the web space hosted by Google--as you surmised last week--Google's public API is based on Java, not any tool that Adobe has at the moment. Yet another general market advantage for Java over Flash.

In addition, not only is Java on over a billion mobile devices, it's also massively penetrated in the embedded space (DVD players, TVs, cars, etc.) that you are thinking Flash might do. Chalk up another market advantage for Java over Flash.

And I'm surprised at the claim that there are as many Flash developers as Java developers in the world. I'd love to see the numbers to support it.

I'm not against Flash and I think it's good for what it does and I agree that it beat Java applets into the ground back in the 90's, but it just seems that the hill to climb for Adobe against Java in the mobile and embedded space might just be too steep at this stage of the game.

I agree that Sun doesn't need JavaFX to be a success for the company to survive relative to Adobe needing Flash to succeed (JavaFX needs a better name, for starters), but why the consistent anti-Sun/anti-Java sentiment? Thanks for reading.

Rene U. | Jun 29, 2007 | 7:30PM

Someone above said "PDF and Flash are worthless".



For web sites, and from a user perspective, I totally agree.


However, PDF is valuable in an office environment for a several reasons.

1) PDFs are portable between platforms, for sending documents.

2) Most people who read a PDF won't have the software to alter your file - a good security feature. (PDF writing software that is much cheaper than the expensive "full Acrobat" version is readily available, and includes all the bells and whistles, including security.

3) You can search within Reader for text in either the open file or any other PDF in any folder.

4) PDFs are very often smaller than the native document that made them - Word docs for example.

5) PDF offers very sophisticated form filling and data gathering features, that can interact with databases. (although it is expensive and very proprietary)

6) All of the above contribute to a "less paper" environment.

7) You can get free PDF writers that produce searchable, selectable text. I made the excellent CutePDF standard in my company.


Flash is of no use to me. As someone above said - it's a good reason to leave a web site immediately.

Stu | Jun 29, 2007 | 8:04PM

As an IT Manager trying to deploy "future-proofed" platforms (I did say trying :), we lean towards the more open platforms - ie open standards, with a preference towards open source.


Java & Java Script (AJAX) are open, Flash is not (although Flex is). Even pdf is now open standard.


Herein lies our problem - if we deployed websites or services reliant on proprietary platforms how can we:


a/ guarantee that the end user can always access the site/service (eg we used to have problems accessing obtaining flash support for our Linux desktop fleet)?


and
b/ avoid contributing to the creation of yet another tech monopoly who can change the rules of the game at any time (eg lisc terms and supported platforms)?

Bill R. | Jun 29, 2007 | 9:21PM

One little fly in the ointment - iPhone does not support Flash - it pushes AJAX. Perhaps the Mozilla guys shouldn't be so hard on Apple about Safari for Windows. If the iPhone does as well as many think it will, Flash will seem unnecessary in the U.S. Adobe may have lost the window of opportunity. YouTube is switching over to H.264 from Flash specifically to support the iPhone (and more) - that's a major loss for Adobe.


This article seems to have been timed most inauspiciously. If it had been written before the iPhone was announced, it would not have seemed to have such a large blind spot.


NOTE: The comments form says BR and P tags aren't necessary, but the "comment preview" contradicts that - it ignores regular line returns. Which is wrong - the message "not necessary" or the preview?

Daniel A. Shockley | Jun 30, 2007 | 1:07AM

Flash may be well-understood, but having used it to create some animations in the past, it has a huge downside in that it is profoundly difficult to use. The only reason why it succeeds at all is that it has been the only way to do vector-based graphics / animation on web pages for ten years now.

I don't know if Adobe has fixed any of the other issues with Flash, such as the black hole scripting model, where the scripting runs (slowly) inside the Flash engine, rather than exposing objects to the Web page JavaScript like Silverlight and SVG.

Then there was Macromedia Flash animation creation program, saddled with non-intuitive interfaces, utterly user-hostile. Selecting objects, creating tweens was all orders of magnitude more complex than necessary. It would have been so great if Macromedia had subcontracted with Corel to build a decent interface for this.

But now they are in Adobe hands, which has some of it own problems with interface design, too -- just look at Photoshop or Illustrator on how they make things unnecessarily difficult with bad interface metaphors and hiding functionality with keyboard shortcuts.

So I don't think they will get it right either. People will use it, but they will be find the bad interfaces frustrating.

On top of all of this the binary flash format is hostile to web page searching, although for the purpose in this article it could keep file sizes smaller.

Microsoft Silverlight is a much more comprehensive animation / web graphics solution. The most important thing is that is scriptable using Javascript, has an extremely sophisticated muliple timeline-based and timeline independent animation metaphor.

It is also extremely fast to render very complex graphical effects. I have built a few things in Silverlight that I would have never had the patience to do in Flash, so it looks extremely promising.

I also like the impressive elegance to the Silverlight solution. It borrows heavily from SVG, but unlike SVG, it actaully runs quickly and the Silverlight betas already run far more reliably than SVG currently does.

So don't count Microsoft out. I have a feeling that they can take this to places where Adobe can't go. If a more compact method is needed for cellphones, I wouldn't put it past them coming up with way to compile Silverlight into compact binaries targeted at very specific devices, especially those running on deriviatives of Windows.


Geoffrey Swenson | Jun 30, 2007 | 1:37AM

As the original product manager for Adobe Reader for non-PC devices, I take issue with whoever stated: "We tried everything, but we couldn't get Acrobat small enough to work on a cell phone. You can do a Flash interface that's a fraction of the file size."

This is clearly wrong. NTT DoCoMo has been shipping an Adobe Reader on their series iMode & FOMA phones since at least June/July 2006 (maybe even since June/July 2005). The Nokia 9000 Series Communicator had Adobe Reader back in 2003, and the current Nokia E61/series of devices has Adobe Reader. Not to even mentioned Adobe Reader for Palm OS and Pocket PC back in 2002 - 2003 (which still runs on Palm Treo's and Pocket PC / SmartPhone Edition)

The Apple iPhone supports PDF, though Apple's own implementation.

However, I do agree that Flash is more suitable for phone User Interfaces, as noted in the LG Prada as an example.

John | Jun 30, 2007 | 2:43AM

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123 | Jun 30, 2007 | 4:18AM

The comment preview is broken - does not respect line breaks.

123 | Jun 30, 2007 | 4:20AM

Adobe is having a hard time right now porting Flash Player to Linux. And they outright say that it will be a much harder problem to port it to a non-i386 processor. All "non-PC flash players" are crippled. As a developer myself I can tell that Flash is NOT done right. It's an example of bad software that was designed by artists for artists. The only reason it attained ubiquity is, yes, as usual, bundling with Windows.

Alex | Jun 30, 2007 | 4:27AM

It's too late to go after Autodesk. CAD for the masses is already available in the form of Google Sketchup. It may not be a full formed CAD system but it has all the functionality that a non-professional user needs for drafting in an intuitive package that takes hours to learn rather than weeks or months.

bpd | Jun 30, 2007 | 10:05AM

Here's a twist... JavaScript will be the next big thing AKA the next big language (NBL).

Let's see...

There's that J in AJAX.

It's how you drive a GWT app.

ActionScript.

It's the ONLY language with truly ubiquitous browser support. The ONLY language you can use to manipulate the DOM (Safari included.)

Version 2.0 is coming!

The thoughts are not original:
1) http://developer.mozilla.org/presentations/xtech2006/javascript/

2) http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2007/02/next-big-language.html

Cheers to the future...

D.B. Dweeb | Jun 30, 2007 | 11:16AM

Yeah, right. Flash penetration is so big only because of Windows. And next step that Microsoft will take? Drop it out, turn it off and include Silverlight everywhere. After next SP, it will be on every computer in the world and penetration will be no less than Flash.

What's next? Bob keeps forgetting one major force: developers. How many there are C# developers compared to Flash developers? And I mean not just painters and people who read Flash for Dummies, but real developers? How many there are users for Visual Studio? How easy is to learn C# and Silverlight vs. learning Flash with its weird timescale?

We've seen it too many times, too often to think about different outcome. And even if the first two versions of product XYZ are pure crap, Microsoft makes it through. And I have to say, Silverlight is NOT a crap. It's brilliant. And developers would LOVE it.

Anyway. I got the sense that Bob is failing more often recently that before? Don't you think he become a little bit obsessed and blinded???

Andrew | Jun 30, 2007 | 3:28PM

Another thought: Bob, why do you think that it will be easier for Adobe to make Flash OS and convince cellphone makers to use it? Vs. Microsoft taking it's Windows Mobile 6 and Silverlight (which is essensially, Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere aka .NET Compact Edition) and make it work? Now, after looking into *this* kind of perspective, you still have your money with Adobe???

Andrew | Jun 30, 2007 | 3:36PM

Adobe Flex 2 is quite easy to learn for somebody with experience in OOP and the apps are identical across platforms. Haven't tried .NET though.

Tomas Sancio | Jun 30, 2007 | 9:09PM

Sorry, but I disagree with a number of points here. DRAM is largely invisible. PDF and Zip are not. I still upgrade versions of those programs, they aren't necessarily installed by default, and I still use the UI they provide directly.

Flash does *not* solve the problem of inexperienced UI developers and bad usability. Actually most of the bad web interfaces I see have a flash component. Flash is notorious for its misuse in interface design. This may be due to who develops it and how easy it is to develop. It may also be associated with lack of pre-defined widgets and restrictions on how to lay out pages properly.

Adobe has done well with PDF, but dynamic interfaces can be produced in many different languages/tools. I agree that programming is still too hard and that simpler interfaces for doing it would be wise for adobe to offer. Hopefully they will offer guidance on usable interface design as part of their products.

Jeff Axup | Jul 01, 2007 | 12:52AM

Cool article. Nice to see someone recognising the powerfull position adobe is in with flash/flex/air/pdf. Silverlight can swivle on it for all i care and who is java again? SWF is the sherif in Riaville. haha

"lack of pre-defined widgets and restrictions on how to lay out pages properly."!!!!
I'm sorry but Shut up! I would be outraged if adobe took away my freedom to make anything i wanted and restricted me to only making layouts the way they wanted me too.

dominic | Jul 01, 2007 | 1:42AM

.pdf has become a mess. ever have an officefull of people run the auto-"upgrade" and spend hours saying yes to pointless dialogs, end up with all sorts of spam-ware like the photo organizer, and at least half-dozen shortcuts on their desks that are pointless?

if you ask me, adobe is breaking their "seth godin type permission marketing contract" with everybody that downloads "reader". if they started doing that with flash, they will really have problems.

has anybody else noticed how ugly and non-functional the default interface is for reader v.8? what where they thinking?

this is in many ways a troubled company...who must bear the costs of continuing to care about postscript even tho it is so widely cloned it's ridiculous. i can't recall the last time i saw a REAL postcript running anywhere...*nix, HP, or LexMark printers.

final cut has destroyed video where it matters.

adobe BETTER have something up it's sleeve.

LarMan | Jul 01, 2007 | 12:17PM

the only reason John W. bought flash was for he had the same idea 10 years ago and didn't follow it until success (aka Version 3.0). Whenever ADBE will get more successful than MSFT in software business the latter will buyout the former and form the then legendary "micado"-cartel ;-)

-tms

Thomas Hahn | Jul 01, 2007 | 4:05PM

Adobe is a screwed up, bloated company with the same crap software problems Microsoft, Intuit, and Symantec has.

I have a client who does video and film conversion using Adobe products. Adobe Premiere, Encore, and the rest are burdened with a stupid "license management" utility that dumps spurious "services" on the PC which are detected as spyware by antispyware tools. The products themselves crash regularly. Trying to find out WHY they crashed is virtually impossible as they conflict with practically every known software on Windows. The only real solution is uninstall and reinstall.

Adobe has screwed up everything they've touched, including PDF as others here have noted.

They will screw Flash up too. Wait and see.

And I don't even like Flash in the first place.

Richard Steven Hack | Jul 01, 2007 | 5:03PM

I have to agree. PDF is a good idea, but the PDF viewer has become too annoying. And so, like RealPlayer, it is no longer part of the software set I install on new PCs. I use Foxit reader instead.



Flash on the other hand I'm very impressed with. It really has fulfilled the promise that Java on the client made originally. Pretty amazing, considering that programmability of flash was originally an afterthought.



That said, I can't live without an adblock rule to by default block all flash content. There's just too much distracting blinky advertising that uses it.

Matthias wandel | Jul 01, 2007 | 6:39PM

I often wonder if the executives in the companies that the Pulpit discusses are sitting around at this time of the week saying "you know what? That's an idea, we should do that"

Ben | Jul 01, 2007 | 7:00PM

AFAIK, Flash can not be indexed by a search engine. I think that's a BIG problem for anyone who wants to make money from the "Web 2.0" sites that spring up around the net.

From a developer's perspective, Flash is just as painful as AJAX development given the difficulties of ActionScript, the Flash development language.
And AJAX has things like the GWT that can allow AJAX development within Java.

Sites can be a lot less bytes in AJAX than in Flash, and we have seen many cool xhtml+css websites that can really be improved using AJAX.

Silverlight may be a more attractive option to developers than Flash as can be typed and likely has better functionality for presenting and interacting with data, not to mention being able to use C# in a half-decent debugging environment. It also has potential for being indexable by search engines - although that requires embedding content in the XAML - not something that seems to have much traction in the current releases.

JavaFX just seems to be the same old Java with, like you say, some problems fixed.
I think Java has a bit of trouble being judged by it's performance on Pentiums and 33.6 modems rather than in the modern computing environment. The essential technology in Flex and Silverlight has been available in Java applets for ages. Surely if applets were really viable, their problems would have been better addressed before now. I'm not sure why Adobe and MS think the situation has changed.

In the mobile area, there is still the mystery of Safari and the iPhone development SDK. I'm pretty sure Apple has said that iPhone web apps will have access to touch-screen and iPhone specific goodness. This seems to imply that there will be an iPhone API. When you consider that iTunes has the graphical layer from OSX, which may also exist in Safari, I start to wonder what we might see from that front.

I also think that if somebody were to make a light-weight ActiveX control for IE that made technologies like E4X available to developers on that platform, we might see some real developer goodness there (beyond the already rich SDKs and features available).

You also have to wonder about Adobe and MS's credentials as makers of development environments - not exactly stirling, to say the least (as others have mentioned).

Finally, what is Flash actually used for? Ads and video? If you're into gaming, it is used for promotional sites and flash-based games. That's just my perspective.

The only reason I have Flash installed is for the sake of YouTube. And isn't YouTube moving to H.264, rather than flash movies? Makes you wonder.

Seth | Jul 01, 2007 | 9:54PM

Flash, AIR, Silverlight...yada yada

I've been using Adobe products since Illustrator 88 and Postscript level 1.
I just installed CS3 and it now consumes well over 2GB of disk with apps I've never even heard of. They've even stopped giving you custom install selections. What the hell is Device Central and LiveCycle Designer, anyway, and why as a graphic designer should I care? You've got to install all or nothing, baby. I also discovered a couple of new services. Flexnet and Bonjour. I learned how to shut off Bonjour, but haven't figured out what Flexnet is. Macrovision encryption? All I know is, if it ain't running, no apps will start.
Thanks for all the unexpected bloatware Adobe. My fond memories of you are fading fast.

James | Jul 02, 2007 | 2:08AM

If history repeats, it will be none of those technologies. Somehow an upstart or a dismissed older technology with a junkyard dog developer community has a way of being the front rider in the power curl. It is possibly because all of the a-listers are trying to force each other out of the same position while under intense scrutiny and the winner surfs in under the radar to get into the curl at exactly the right moment.

Two things hold back the development of the web as a more entertaining medium (and entertainment is what this is about, not better buttons):

1. The luddite position of the Jakob Nielsen School of It Must Be Mosaic Web Design which insists that any extra animation is a disease in this bandwidth impoverished network. Broadband somehow goes unnoticed here.

2. The laziness of the graphic design community still using techniques to emulate depth in 2D skill acquired in art colleges but now completely surpassed by the 3D real-time skills of the game designers.

The web can be fun. Interaction is essential to learning. I'm not convinced Adobe or Microsoft or Sun actually do get it. Electric Sheep gets it. Anshe Chung (Ailin Graef) gets it. Philip Rosedale gets it. Even IBM is starting to swim after the incoming wave.

There is nothing technically difficult about cross-breeding an ASP.NET culture class to an X3D blogBot. Perhaps that is the history being repeated at a different scale of complexity. Not being technically difficult means no complexity barrier to competition and the investors don't like that and the to-the-metal programmers get no boo from it. So the kids unaware that they need investors or that their status is determined by their mastery of the arcane just do it and another generation takes over.

And so it goes.

len bullard | Jul 02, 2007 | 9:16AM

Just want to correct a few things that Seth may not know.

Actionscript 3 is a pretty damn easy language to right in. It's way easier than Javascript and is cross-browser compatible. I've only played with GWT a little bit, but you can't do nearly the amount of things with it that you can with Flash. Charting and animations for example.

Have you seen the amount of Javascript some sites make you download? The prototype Javascript library itself is 90K (i love it though). With the new version of Flex 3, the swf objects can be as small as 50k once the framework is cached.

And Flash does have static typing, as well as a debugger. They both work quite well.

I'm not saying Flash is the end-all be all of RIA, but it's doing a damn good job. I see no reason to play with Silverlight. Everybody has flash installed. I don't even have Silverlight installed and I do a lot of front-end work. Do you really expect the common person to have it installed?


Jason Holmes | Jul 02, 2007 | 1:04PM

A great benefit can come out of having a standard user interface library. Not only is the "Grandma interface" available but a "Blind", "Deaf","physically disabled" interface is also available. Take a look at the following Website http://myurc.org. This group is trying to use open standards to create accessible universal user interface framework to be use in all electronic devices.

Thomas Yen | Jul 02, 2007 | 2:44PM

Best thing about Flash is it can be blocked with a simple Firefox addin

Mac | Jul 02, 2007 | 10:20PM

The one thing everyone needs is ubiquitousness, and no one truly has it yet. I laugh at the people who think .Net and ASP can compete when they don't run on any non-Windows platforms. Flash is making a good run at it but being ditched by Apple doesn't bode well for the future.

Posted from my iPhone. ;)

jon pugh | Jul 02, 2007 | 10:31PM

I've programmed for 25 years. Have used many languages, including scripting. Multiple platforms. I just took two flash classes. One for the GUI and the other was Actionscript only. I have to say the development platform really sucks, and there are ALOT of side effects to the platform. It is not the panacea you are talking about. It has at least a couple of man-year's worth of work to get it to a professional status. I have programmed in Java and its fine, but also not the greatest. Eclipse is really nice, but if the user doesn't have the JRE you need, it also has to be downloaded and installed. Where Flash shines is that each version is incrementally better and the download is seamless. The JRE requires user input and intervention.
On linux there is a larger amount of user intervention required for the JRE.
Do I like Flash? Oh yeah I do.
I also like Java. I believe their target audiences overlap, but currently I do not believe they overlap by much.
Good article, but completely seen through rose colored glasses.
I look at the Microsoft Silverlight as a platform that will be to woo developers over in order to lock their efforts into the Windows platform. For Flash and Java I can develop for everything. I have a Java game on a cell phone, it was almost too easy to get it setup and running.

MajorTom | Jul 02, 2007 | 10:52PM

Adobe Reader: Every version gets bigger and fatter. The interface still sucks. For example, want to make a bookmark so you can quickly refer back to a section? You can't. They confused bookmarks with the table of contents. That's one broken paradigm! The User Interface is the very poorly designed: Anyone who's read Joel Spolsky's book on UI design could rip it to pieces. It's bad. It's really, really bad.

Their 'Security' is a joke and easily cracked. The help for Adobe Reader is a PDF file rather than Winhelp, and is very difficult to look up. Every release, Adobe Reader has got bigger and fatter. It takes half a minute to start up, consumes massive amounts of memory, and Adobe keep cramming stuff into it to the point a nice, safe document format has become a security nightmare. Nothing I've said here is knew: It's all been long known, but Adobe are fat and happy: They don't care.

Does PDF Reader need to be that big? No. Check out Foxit Reader. Pros: Free and a fraction of the size and memory usage. Fast startup. Cons: They copied Adobe's user interface, when they could have innovated and come up with something much better. They should remember: Number #2 never becomes #1 by copying number #1.

So do Adobe have clever little hooks in PDF Reader ? That'd be smart, but as we've seen they're not smart. Adobe were once masters of their craft. Those days are long gone. They've made some smart acquisitions, and that's what kept them alive.

Jace | Jul 02, 2007 | 11:56PM

for the ultimate proof that adobe is winning, go to get.live.com, and see what technology microsoft is using...

ben | Jul 03, 2007 | 7:26AM

flash and cross platform? and more so than java? dear mr cringely, since when does "cross-platform" mean "wintel/mac/linux"? (system requirements for flash)

flash is a (closed source) properiaty technology coming only to platforms adobe arbitrarily decides to support. that is hardly cross platform.

if it is so cross platform, can i get my flash plugin for firefox on openbsd please? thanks a million.

minusf | Jul 03, 2007 | 8:40AM

It is telling that even on the java blogs you'll see flash demos.

But I think things are changing. Within a year I think we'll have an open source flash player finally that is usable (http://www.gnu.org/software/gnash/).

Java is getting better. They are going to have a 'consumer' version of the runtime which loads quicker: http://weblogs.java.net/blog/chet/archive/2007/05/consumer_jre_le.html

Flash on the desktop isn't going to keep flying so high because by next year more and more people's windows xp machines will be getting old and slow, and more and more people will be switching to vista or linux, where flash isn't going to fly quite as high, because as others mentioned Microsoft already has silverlight, and java and gnash are just as good open source alternatives.

Perhaps that is why Adobe is trying to move into the cell phone and embedded device arena, where Microsoft, Sun, and others have already been a good while. Even in that arena, mobile javafx (Sun) or compact .net/silverlight are better options I think.

Doug | Jul 03, 2007 | 12:36PM

ActionScript is slow. And it runs inside of the Flash, so you don't get any of the integrated debugging of javascript inside FireFox or (especially) IE.

I am both a designer AND a developer and I found Flash to be really horrible from the get go, long before they added lipstick like ActionScript. Most of the limitations that made it irritating are still there.

Much has changed at M$ lately and if Silverlight is the only really amazing thing that has come out of the whole Vista effort, it really is good enough. Silverlight is huge. Really.

It is not another lousy file format like WMF (Windows Metafile) or RTF (Rich Text Format). Both of these were verbose, incomprehensible and poorly documented, and totally inelegant for their intended purposes.

Silverlight is so elegant in design that it deserves to succeed. Really.

It puts extremely powerful graphic objects in programmers hands with comprehensible syntax and powerful high-level objects. When it is fully complete, you will see very powerful highly graphical applications written entirely in Silverlight and javascript.

This is NOT postscript (or PDF) with its FORTH-language-based language building graphics from extremely low level objects. This is definitely NOT Flash, with its binary-file-format albatross hangin' over its neck and gawdawful let's reinvent-the-wheel ActionScript programming language.

Geoffrey Swenson | Jul 03, 2007 | 8:04PM

you're absolutely right, cringe. this may be one of the main reasons why java was open-sourced. a license for using flash in embedded devices is in the 'if you have to ask, you don't want to know' range. i think javafx and gpl java are aimed squarely at adobe in that sector, where things have been stagnant for a long time. people want their atms and e-toasters to look flashy (or at least the vendors claim so), and right now they don't really. you need programmers to interface with the artists, and the result is always less than optimal. flash can take the programmer out of the gatekeeper position, allow artists more free range, and most importantly, offer customers more easily customized versions. javafx is definitely going nowhere without an ide as powerful as adobe's. this is a huge, mostly untapped, market where microsoft is not already in charge, and adobe and sun are definitely preparing to duke it out, if you'll pardon the pun.

gouda | Jul 04, 2007 | 2:08AM

@gouda: "javafx is definitely going nowhere without an ide as powerful as adobe's."



.. what do you mean? Java currently has the best IDE there is (IntelliJ IDEA) and Flex Builder is based on Eclipse, which of course is available for Java as well (it's built in Java).

gouda | Jul 04, 2007 | 9:02AM

Great article, Bob. I saw this coming since Adobe purchased Macromedia. I believe that Microsoft for the first time in their history has a serious contender for the 'new platform' fight. I don't believe Adobe will win outright nor Microsoft dominating this fight either despite Silverlight technical strengths. The web is just impossible to reign in for MS. It is yet another meaningful blow to Redmond's tight hold and dominance of the desktop.
And Sun/Java is still toast! The Force isn't with them ...

Brian Nguyen

Brian | Jul 04, 2007 | 8:24PM

Isn't PDF an open standard? IMO adobe reader isn't even the best reader for their own format, foxit reader is (in windows anyway and ppc/windows mobile professional). Thats 30 megs adobe doesn't get. And I guarantee that if they made flash a 30 meg download (it's less than 10) just to integrate extensions for their other software a free alternative will spring up. I mean do you really see Google allowing itself to be hog tied by Adobe?

Craig | Jul 05, 2007 | 2:52AM

Flashblock is a must-have Firefox extension right now. Just sayin...

Bryan H | Jul 06, 2007 | 11:40AM

Kudos for another insightful analysis (Apple attempting to use its market power to nullify Adobe's billion-strong PDF/Flash installations). BUT... does it lose cred in the face of the WSJ's Mossberg report that Apple will in fact add Flash support to iPhone in the form of a routine software update?

Phill Medeleven | Jul 06, 2007 | 11:45AM

There are two things people seem to be missing here. First is that Javascript is a first class citizen in the world of AIR. You can write Javascript/HTML/AJAX AIR apps without ever thinking about ActionScript/Flash. If you really want to do Sockets and some other things it helps to understand that AS3 is providing this behavior, but the api is completely transparent. I missed this initially when Apollo was came out because it seemed to be all about Flash/Flex. The other thing is Tamarin the now open source VM that AS3 & Javascript run on in AIR. Firefox will be adopting Tamarin too. Sure, Adobe could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory but even if they do, it may be too late for Silverlight to really have an impact - it may be Microsoft's OS/2.

meshverse | Jul 09, 2007 | 10:46AM