Linux Developers Take Flex Builder for a Spin

Adobe this week released its Flex Builder for Linux in alpha mode at the sold-out Adobe Max show in Chicago.

“Judging by the applause in the auditorium when they announced it during the ‘Sneak Peeks’ session at Max, Adobe made a lot of developers happy campers,” said Forrester analyst Jeffrey S. Hammond, who tracks application development.

Still, the launch does not provide Linux developers with the whole nine yards of Flex 3. “It’s on a parallel path with Flex 3,” David Gruber, Adobe group product manager for Flex, told LinuxInsider.

The alpha version carries a number of the rich features of Adobe’s Flex 3 framework for creating Internet applications, but not all, Gruber said. Missing from the Linux alpha plug-in include such features as Adobe integrated runtime (AIR) support, ColdFusion Extensions to Flex Builder, and design and states views.

Posted for Download

“We wanted to get an early release out fast so that developers can give us their feedback,” Gruber said.

The alpha version is posted for download on the company’s Adobe Labs site.

The success generated by the public alpha may not just reveal the importance of playing to a Linux audience. The alpha launch also reveals Adobe’s strategic ploy in providing a sandbox for developers before product launch times.

Opening Up Labs

“We previously were tight-lipped about releasing a lot of details before a product was introduced,” Gruber said.

Adobe changed that direction when Adobe Labs was started two years ago.

Adobe Labs leverages the collaboration process with posted wikis, discussion threads and toolkits. Some of the technologies in the pipeline become products; others that don’t are hosted in Labs just the same as a community resource.

“Feedback that early adopters provide is a pretty good barometer on how much more work needs to be done to get a product like Flex Builder ready to ship,” Forrester’s Hammond told LinuxInsider.

An early level of engagement also muscles out competition.

“Making the alpha available to eventual users freezes the market, in other words, it makes it less likely that users will adopt competitor solutions or alternative tools in the interim,” Hammond added.

Quality Factor

The move is likely to engender real growth for Flex, said Nat Brown, CTO of iLike, a social music discovery service.

“My sense is that more open source programmers will start building with Flex on Linux since this means there is a very low-cost quality GUI and framework for doing so, which lets them deliver Flash code across the various platforms and browsers,” Brown said.

“The Flex system comes with command-line tools which appeal to this crowd as well,” Brown said.

Developers transfixed on the Adobe Labs site aren’t the only one applauding the move.

Open source Eclipse devotees represented by a large constituency of vendors, research institutions, and individual developers, are also throwing out the welcome mat to Adobe’s launch. Flex Builder carries an Eclipse-based integrated developer environment (IDE).

“This is great news for Eclipse,” Ian Skerrett, director of marketing, Eclipse Foundation, told LinuxInsider. “It is an excellent example of the Eclipse platform being used to deploy a cross-platform product on Windows and Linux.”

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