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Interview: James Ward discusses Flex and AIR

by Ryan Slobojan on May 21, 2008 |

In this interview from QCon San Francisco 2007, James Ward discusses Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), Flex and AIR, how Flex helps in the development of RIAs, the changes in ActionScript 3, the Tamarin engine, desktop and offline capabilities, Flex Builder, the Flex developer community, LiveCycle Data Services, the AMF protocol, RIA development trends, and the Flex component model.

Watch James Ward discusses Flex and AIR (29 minutes).

From the interview:

Building Flex applications, the core of the Flex tooling is the Flex SDK. That's a free SDK, it's open source with Flex 3, so that is the core tooling and it provides the compiler, the debugger, all the components that you need to build your application and you can use any editor you want to build your applications and run the compiler. There's ANT compile tasks, there's a command-line compiler, all those sorts of things to actually allow you to compile your application into the bytecode. So that's the core, is a free open-source product called the Flex SDK and then on top of that there is the Flex Builder IDE which is a plugin to Eclipse. And that plugin to Eclipse allows you to more easily build your Flex applications. So it's using that same Flex SDK, but now you have things like code hinting, debugging, design viewer; you can just drag and drop your components onto a canvas to build your user interface. It also provides some great integration with designers; most designers are using Adobe tools, so you can actually take assets that those designers provide you and integrate their designs and their assets into your Flex application or Flex Builder, facilitate some of that. And you can do that without Flex Builder, but just not as efficiently.

On the Flex developer community:

There is a broad range. You can get everyone from the Flash designer that got into some ActionScript coding and started building some stuff with Flex, to the other end of the spectrum -- the hardcore Java developer that's learned Flex and has started building UIs with Flex. So there is a wide spectrum. Right now the place where I'm seeing the most momentum is in the business application space, so it's pretty much becoming the de facto standard for Rich Internet Applications in the business application space, Flex is. We see companies now, like SAP has been a longtime Flex customer, Salesforce.com, NASDAQ, Oracle, just about any large company you can think of is using Flex for their business applications today and that's a trend that's continuing to grow and so we're seeing a lot of momentum there, we're seeing a lot of Java developers pick up Flex and start building their UIs with it, and still of course using Java on the backend. That's of course one of the options you can use. You can build Flex on top of any backend, but the enterprise space, the business application space is pretty much primarily using Java on the backend and Flex on the front-end now, for their Rich Internet Applications.

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Interview a little dated by Andrew Pym

The interview is a little dated now that Adobe have launched Flex 3 and also AIR
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Reasonably high level discussion. Useful as an introduction to the platform.

Excellent interview by Teodor Baciu

This interview provides good information about the purpose of Flex and AIR. For me as a Java developer considering to use Flex as UI for my next web application this presentation was really useful.

There is a mention of the Adobe Livecycle Data Services, the framework provided by Adobe for communicating with remote data services. The interview was done apparently before tools that support the AMF communication protocol were open sourced and became BlazeDS. More info about BlazeDS can be found at: opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/blazeds/BlazeDS

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