Adobe pushes one tech – developers want another


I was browsing a discussion on linkedin today where someone was describing the merits of Adobe Air but lamented that it was “uncool”. The idea that Air is “uncool” is so right on the money, in a technical sense, in its space, it’s a powerhouse (still with room for improvement). In light of the recent uproar from Adobe Air developers sparked by a seemingly innocuous press release by Adobe describing PhoneGap as their leading cross platform development tool (check out the comments) it made me think about why this is.

To take a step back a bit, I have a feeling the biggest problem for Air in a macro sense is the fact that the web industry including Google, FaceBook et al. is invested in indexing and semanticising HTML. And it’s the web industry with a content focus that seems to have attracted Adobe with it’s seemingly newly re-invigorated pivot toward marketing at Adobe Summit (perhaps they’ve had enough of uncool developers).

In my experience as a Director developer and now a Flash / Air developer I’ve found myself swimming against the current of industry enthusiasm on more than one occasion and eventually having to join them in order to continue a comfortable career. In terms of development I would not go past Adobe Air due to the AS3 language which is Object Oriented and strongly typed and now has GPU access along with a truly amazing raft of APIs, great tooling, debugging and profiling. In short for me it’s a dream.

However business decisions lead marketing decisions which create hype in the public mind space. If they catch on then they lead the entry level developers and educational institutions towards them. Once employers pick up on the hype it’s fait accompli as developers need to learn what people are hiring for. It’s a cycle that feeds off itself that is generally controlled by the marketing message regardless of the merits.

The sad news for Adobe Air is that the technology is vastly more capable and developer friendly than the product which Adobe has decided to market; which is PhoneGap. Unless they make some grand gesture of renewed commitment and motivation to push Air it’ll all be downhill from here.

I hope the future holds something else but it’s at a point now where this is seeming unlikely. The only hope is that the decision makers at the coal face reject the solutions being pushed when it becomes evident that there’s a better, more capable technology that has a huge community of experienced developers using it; Adobe Air (nee Flash).

One thing for sure is that JavaScript as a language is such a huge step backward from AS3 that if Adobe Air becomes no longer viable I’d be avoiding the PhoneGap approach and looking for something that has good reach and all the same language/development features of AS3.

Well we love adobe air here as evidenced by some of the mobile apps and games we’ve developed with this amazing powerhouse of a technology.


  • Hear hear.

    You have hit the nail on the head. Javascript is such a significant step backwards for making apps, with its hodgepodge of a thousand frameworks and lack of object oriented programming , it is unlikely serious game/app developers will use it on large projects.

    Developers are increasingly being exposed to other alternatives such as HAXE ( which can output to Flash, C++ , Javascript , you name it ) or Unity ( hugely powerful tech specifically for gaming, a space Adobe seems to be pushing AIR/Flash into half heartedly) . These same developers will/have been abandon Adobe tools in droves and it’s a shame because AIR remains the best tool for the job in most cases.

    Adobe has three options here:

    1) Wilfully ignore AIR out of existance – developers will still use it until such time as a game-changing bug isn’t fixed ( this is my biggest fear with the tech ) and get out of the app space
    2 ) Sell or opensource Actoinscript/Flash – in the hands of the right buyer it could quickly be the powerhouse it once was – perception is everything
    3) Actually put time into MARKETING the damn thing. Bring back the evangelists. Promote. Add proper features, built in tools for game makers ala Unity. Tweak the engine. Then charge a yearly fee. I know many developers would gladly pay for the tool.

    I fear option one is their preferred course, but you never know. Technology is a strange thing, who would have thought javascript would be the preferred language for online games/apps in 2014.

    PhoneGap, more like Stopgap!

  • similar post – on how adobe is trying to port starling away and feathers to JS

    “Starling feathers and Away3D is working on a js version – but they agree that WebGL is needed for this to work in practice – my feeling is that Adobe disagrees on that…
    Daniel Sperl from Starling said – “WebGL coming to mobile Safari – is the critical turning point” – by this he is suggesting that js for now is not optimal for games in the mobile browser – this is a feeling that Rob from Away3D shares … so as I see it, Adobe haven’t even got the right support from their own supported frameworks…”

    “but Adobes focus went in the JS direction – so first Adobe wanted Flash to become a robust game engine – and then they shifted their focus to JS – so they pissed of the game development community to please whom ?
    – Adobe has a huge community of game-developers whom they are trying hard to dump on the Unity platform… do they even see the facts?

    So who IS actually killing Flash ?”

  • What I would love to see is AIR devs moving en masse to haxe/OpenFL and help make this tech as easy as developing with AIR… Just last week I saw a newbie intro, I stop reading at something like “here’s how easy it is to begin…(btw I left out the hard part)…” *Sigh*

    I’ve learn coding with flash and out of this world I feel kinda lost. Yes I’m lazy but I will do what’s necessary if I need; the point is I never felt limited by AS3/AIR so it’s really a shame that I must learn a way harder and complex manner of doing logic / graphics. Basically I’m more a creative, not a fully trained programmer, AIR is the right tool for me and probably many more devs !

    Now I’m still waiting the ultimate newbie transition guide from AS3 to haxe, not forgetting all the *hard* parts (new language concepts/setup/compilation). I’m hoping critics for Adobe not being concerned with their community would put as much energy in creating/improving alternatives, unless I’m mistaken about the capabilities of Haxe/OpenFL, and there’s no real alternative, as versatile and powerful ?

  • Hey Guys, I am quite happy to see ppl are still expressing their interest in Flex and ActionScript3+ , they are the best developing tools ever for web and way better than Javascript

  • Many developers feel that coding has to be complex, otherwise it’s not a credible computer language. They feel this way because it’s a way of protecting their domain. If it’s easy than it will allow more people to start competing.

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