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InfoQ Homepage News The New Adobe Roadmap for Flash, AIR and Flex

The New Adobe Roadmap for Flash, AIR and Flex

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Adobe has announced details regarding Flash, AIR, Flex and other related products, presenting how they see the future of these technologies. Adobe repurposes Flash for gaming and premium video.

Flash has been used primarily as a multimedia platform providing animation, video and interactivity on a large number of devices being used for advertising, games, and Rich Internet Applications (RIA). The rise of mobile and later developments in HTML5 has prompted Adobe to re-focus Flash, targeting only games and premium video, and stopping developing it for mobile browsers. Adobe created quite a stir among Flash developers when it announced their new plans for Flash and when they donated Flex to the Apache Foundation. Now they have published a lengthy roadmap for Flash, AIR and Flex which we’ll try to distill in this article.

First of all, Adobe warns that the roadmap contains their plans for the following one to two years, and can change over time. Adobe acknowledges the rise of HTML5 which is presumably going to take an important share of Flash’s market: “Increasingly, rich motion graphics will be deployed directly via the browser using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and other modern web technologies.” So, they decided to repurpose Flash for “creating and deploying rich, expressive games with console-quality graphics and deploying premium video,” with a direct impact of Flash’s development: “when prioritizing future development and bug fixes, gaming and premium video use cases will take priority.”

For gaming, Adobe will provide a formalized game developer program, game services and “fully productized support that enables developers to leverage C and C++ code and libraries in their Flash based games.”

For premium video, Adobe intends to bring their “video streaming and content protection technology to more platforms in native formats “, to provide support for owners of premium content, and to collaborate with hardware vendors for better performance.

More APIs of the existing core runtime will be made available in Adobe AIR, but desktop and mobile specific APIs won’t be the primary focus for Adobe: “Developers requiring functionality not available directly via Adobe AIR APIs should consider adding that functionality via the native extensibility API.”

Regarding the Flash browser plug-in, Adobe is working on three versions for this year: 11.2, -including hardware accelerated graphics for iOS and Android via AIR and support for more hardware accelerated graphics cards-, plus Cyril and Dolores, both versions with gaming enhancements.

After that, Adobe plans to refactor the core Flash runtime and rewrite the ActionScript virtual machine “in order to significantly improve script execution performance”, i.e. for better performance and perhaps lower power consumption.

Adobe intends to support Flash and AIR for Mac OS X and works on enabling “Adobe AIR applications to be distributed on the Mac App Store under the new Mac OS X application sandboxing requirements,” expected to be done this semester. Regarding Windows, they are “working closely with Microsoft to finalize details around supported configurations for Flash Player and Adobe AIR on Windows 8,” without specifying what that means considering that IE 10 Metro won’t support plug-ins and Win8 wont’s support Flash on ARM. On Linux, future improvements will be done via Google Chrome which will contain a Pepper-based Flash plug-in that will be included in Chrome on all OSes supported by Google on the desktop. AIR 3 support has been discontinued on Linux.

On the mobile front, Adobe has stopped developing the Flash plug-in for the browser and encourages developers to use AIR in order to deploy native applications on smartphones and tablets.

Regarding Flex, an SDK for building RIA applications running on the Flash runtime and open sourced last year, Adobe intends to “continue to provide a team of full-time Flex SDK engineers to contribute to the Apache project,” as the Flex roadmap mentions. Adobe will contribute to Apache the following components: the core Flex SDK, automation libraries, AIR SDK binaries, documentation, specifications, Spark components -ViewStack, Accordion, DateField, DataChooser, DataGrid-, Falcon - a new ActionScript compiler-, Falcon JS – a prototype of a JavaScript compiler-, Mustella – a testing framework-, BlazeDS – Java-based server-side remoting and web messaging technology. Adobe will not be contributing the AIR for Linux SDK, LCDS, or LCCS, and it is still pondering the contribution of TLF, BlazeDS.NET, Gravity, FXG, Squiggles, and OSMF.

Adobe will continue developing Flash Builder and Professional, but not Flash Catalyst.

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