Back to basics: Why Flex is the best option out there

Back to basics: Why Flex is the best option out there

Summary: In looking back on the year, I realized I hadn't done enough good old fashion ranting. I've gotten into more product reviews and demos and had started assuming that everyone already knew what I knew. But after reading what I've written before, I realized I need to evangelize RIAs more, and not just new technologies like Apollo and WPF/E.


Flex RuneIt's my birthday on Saturday and I've always used that day for my "year in review". It seems more appropriate somehow than New Years (maybe it just means I'm really conceited) . But as a result of something I'm working on for my birthday, I went digging through some of my old blog posts and I realized I've gotten to a point where I assume everyone knows what I'm talking about. When I ran down my list of RIA predictions and said " Flex becomes the primary technology for building Rich Internet Applications." It was because I continue to believe that Flex is the best RIA technology available today. But after going through the blog posts this year I realized I hadn't driven that point home in a long time.

Frankly, this Rich Internet Desktop application stuff has me a bit confused. Everyone loves web applications. The deployment model is ideal, browsing to a web application is something that everyone feels comfortable with and storage on the server means you can access it from anywhere. Sure, Apollo is going to extend that functionality, and I'm excited about it, but if you're building a web application right now, Flex is the ideal option.

I take it as a given that people consider the Flash Platform to be capable of building enterprise applications on, but maybe that's bad of me. With Flash Player 9, the platform took a huge jump. Flash runs faster and more stable than ever before. Now sure; who wants to go into the Flash IDE and build an application? No one. That's why Flex is so powerful. It opens up the Flash Platform to the developer crowd. If you use Flex Builder you're using an IDE based on Eclipse and it has fantastic debugging support. All the tools you need to create rich web applications are at your fingertips. And with the release of the Linux Flash Player, the three major operating systems will see your application in the exact same way with absolutely no code changes.

The reason I don't consider Ajax to be a Rich Internet Application technology is because I've seen what Flex can do. Flash gives you rich interactivity that you just can't get with the browser model. But Flex gives you that interactivity in a robust development environment. It astounds me that people continue to hack away at Ajax applications to make them work on different browsers when getting outside of the browser is so much easier. The Flash Platform gives you more reach and more tools than any other technology out there. It really is the next generation of web applications and Flex has made it easy to jump in and take advantage. Sure WPF/E is coming down the pipeline, and I'm excited about it. I think it's going to be interesting and good for Adobe to have some competition. But right now Flex allows you to build web applications that blow everyone else out of the water. No question.

Topic: Apps

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  • Don't forget about WPF XBAPs

    WPF XBAPs will gain some market too, I guess, maybe not for mainstream apps, but for line of business or intranet/extranet scenarios e.g. requiring 3D interaction.

    btw - "Rich Internet Applications" is a vague term branded by Macromedia, which imho translates best to "rich browser applets".

    beyond the browser, my guess is that in near future every app will be somehow "rich" (have a custom design and a least some kind of animated effects) and more or less connected to the internet, ranging from a simple link to the developer's homepage to smart clients that make heavy use of webservices.

    Apollo looks like being the technology for bringing mashups to the desktop. WPF has more power in the field of classic app development like integrating .NET and local databases.
  • openlaszlo

    Adobe had a bad habit of just stopping development of products, plus the cost aspect is a bit steep for a small medium size business. I'd go with OpenLaszlo ( if I were starting a new project today, but the Flex Builder IDE beats laszlo (you can't have it all).
    • re: openlaszlo


      You wrote about Flex "the cost aspect is a bit steep for a small medium sized business"? Huh? It is free for the SDK and compiler and if you like the IDE that costs $499. That is all you need and comparable in scope (with richer tooling and components) to open Laszlo. Hard to say that is expensive.

      • re: openlaszlo

        Wow. It's been awhile (Flex 1.5) since I've looked at the pricing. My mistake.
      • Seriously....

        ....the "cost" thing is REALLY overdone! It's free, just like OpenLaszlo and Ajax. Want to spring for the additional productivity - throw down the additional $500. Put that in context, if the small / medium sized company has a single developer on a salary of 50k, it's a one time 1% cost, compared to salary.

        Seriously, c'mon, this aspect of the argument is just ridiculous.

  • Ajax=RIA

    "The reason I don't consider Ajax to be a Rich Internet Application technology is
    because I've seen what Flex can do." Please--can you present a more compelling
    argument?! Flex might have more features but Ajax has more penetration at this
    point. They are both RIA technologies. Don't let your passion for Flex taint the facts,
    it's poor journalism.
    • re:Ajax=RIA

      If I know Ryan (I read both his blogs on a regular basis) I think he'll want a second bite at explaining this one. First, I think he's always been fair with all technologies in this space, sometimes too fair (but that's just my opinion).

      I think the general point is that AJAX is essentially a hack of the current browser model - those browsers are certainly NOT "rich". Flash player, however, is a platform that acts in complete independence from the hosting browser (unless you WANT to access the browser DOM, that is, which is always an option).

      In this regard, the Flash platform is "rich", by its very nature, and the Flex language takes advantage of that.

  • LOL

    Yeah, flex 2 was a HUGE change - the basic apps are no longer a server based product - they deploy as standalone SWF's. There is still a server product, that's Flex data services, which is partially free (and partially expensive!).



    Yet another clunky development system.