The Uptake of Flex

Like it or not, Adobe’s Flex platform is going to gain significant steam with developers over the next 12 months. That may sound obvious, but of course it can’t be, since I only realized it myself just recently. Many of you currently into Flex think it’s already everywhere, but it’s not. Flex developers are still few and far between. And many of them are rummaging around looking for their first real project.

I expect that most of the best new Flex developers are not going to come from a Flash background, they’re going to be dragged kicking and screaming from some other environment involving AJAX and Rails or Django. It’s the “kicking and screaming” part that’s going to delay the broader adoption of Flex. This is admittedly an uneducated hunch, but I’d wager that any sort of consistent corporate adoption of Flex will take at least 18-24 months. Tariq Ahmed’s post on the results of his Flex survey seems to offer some validation. His conclusions are interesting. And yes, why would I, a moderately advanced developer already comfortable and productive using something like Rails, be motivated to switch? As Tariq says, I’d go from “expert to newbie” for no immediately compelling reason. Add this bit…

“Flex is an interesting uptake experience. As a newbie, it’s amazing. With a few lines of code you can make these wonderful interfaces, but it doesn’t take much for a beginner to hit the massive 2 mile high brick wall if intermediacy.”

…and you’ve got some formidable speed bumps.

That said, Flex is coming and there’s nothing you can do about it. My interest in Flex really hit critical mass when reading about Apollo. Contrary to popular thought, every application known to man shouldn’t be moving all the way into the browser. I’m beginning to loath web apps. They continue to improve, but without really good OS integration (cross-app drag and drop, file system access, services) they’ll never have everything I need. With any luck Apollo will give us some of this. We’re already beginning to use Flex at Fusionary, and I doubt that will be slowing down any time soon. Should be fun, but I hate being a newbie again.