I do not usually write “controversial” business posts, but I wanted to type out my thoughts after some more information has flowed out from Adobe since last month’s infamous post.
Here are the important new links:
- Flex Summit Q&A with Danny Winokur, Vice President at Adobe
- What would you like to ask Adobe about the Future of Flex?
I was surprised the question that got the most votes was how Adobe could restore confidence in the developer community. To me, that is mostly setting oneself up to receive a lot of marketing spin. It’s like asking the waiter if the special is any good. (Hint: they aren’t going to say it is awful or even meh — at worst you’ll get “good, but not my personal favorite.”)
So let’s get into the video. At the 0:01:25 mark…
“We have decided to restructure the company and to focus the priorities in such a way that we don’t feel like we can run Flex the way that we have before where it is completely resourced and funded by Adobe. And as David has alluded to, where we have an ambition to run it as a standalone business that is actually profitable in its own right. And that is one of the things that is fundamental in guiding the change that we have made in deciding to move the project into Apache and into more of a community development model.”
So we find out that Flex is a money loser for Adobe. And this is not a Google + YouTube or Amazon + Kindle Fire money losing kind of thing. Adobe’s business decision is to make cuts and reduce resources. But is this like a skeleton crew? You know, kind of like that Star Trek episode where only Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard were left to run the Enterprise?
Which brings us to the money question — the one I would have put all 10 of my votes behind. It was asked like this:
“How many Adobe engineers will be working for the benefit of FLEX (SDK, compilers, tooling, runtimes, documentation, evangelism etc) after the transfer to the ASF.”
Better still to ask it more direct, like this:
“How many Adobe employed developers will be working fulltime on the Flex SDK code?”
In the link to the video above at 0:15:45, the general question is answered like this:
“We have, moving forward, on things related to Flex, dozens of people still in the company. I mean we don’t disclose exact numbers, because obviously it fluctuates from time to time as we move people around to assignments inside the company, but there definitely are dozens of people that are still engaged in various aspects of our Flex agenda. So whether that be direct contributions to Apache, whether it be honoring our maintenance and support contracts that are associated with any fixes for the Adobe releases of Flex, our evangelism and support organization, documentation.”
“We are continuing to have dedicated staffing across all of those functions and, like I said, that comes out to dozens of people. Still a significant effort. It is less than what it was before these changes. So the point of what I said before, we did make the decision, as part of this transition, that we did not think we had a viable path forward for Flex as a standalone profitable business within the context of our new strategy.”
“And that is why we have made the changes we have made to actually shift to the Apache and the community development model so that we can ensure that there is a successful path forward for Flex with dedicated resourcing and staffing across all of those functions, albeit at a reduced level from what we had committed internally. And it is our sincere hope that, with the community engagement that we expect to enable through Apache, and hopefully contributions from any of you, that we will be able to ensure a thriving and innovative and lively path forward for Flex within the context of Apache.”
Not going to happen.
I’m sorry, I don’t intentionally want to be negative here, but seriously. Who thinks the Flex SDK will thrive rather than just survive over the next 2-4 years. Aren’t most freelance Flex developers like me — meaning the vast majority of your time is spent coding client’s projects (i.e. billing hours). You are invested in Flex so you dutifully file bug reports (good ones too, where you spend an hour boiling it down and submit a small .fxp that illustrates the problem.) Knowing how others have helped your understanding, you feel the desire to give back, but your quality, code-sharing blog posts are less in number than you thought. And when you do find some extra time, you spend it sharpening your secondary skill-set in the event your primary one gets… oh, never mind.
If the 3rd party Flex component market never took off, why does Adobe think there is a large community willing to spend time (which equals money) doing what Adobe is no longer willing to do — fix and further the hot mess that is the Flex SDK?
Perhaps they think that because the Flex architectural framework space (Swiz, Robotlegs, Parsley, etc.) prospered, the same can hold true for the core framework. I readily admit that I don’t fully understand open source, but I get that developers donate time they could be billing because… ummm, betterment of… oh forget it.
But what’s easily observable is the road littered with abandoned code. I gladly pay for code like Greensock’s Tweening Platform. And though my $100 only buys probably 1 to 1.5 hours of coding time, hopefully there are enough of us that it creates a nice profitable business for Jack. With architectural frameworks, I guess there is the thrill and perhaps the business need (like with Universal Mind, or EffectiveUI)? But is there really a thrill in basically working for Adobe but without the monetary compensation, kind of like when they quit giving Milton a paycheck in Office Space. The Flex 4 SDK was largely about Flash Catalyst and it just got discontinued. Yeah, untangling all of that sounds like fun.
So perhaps the other reason is true then – the business need. I have made the most money in my career specializing in Flex development. Should we all donate 8 weeks a year to keep our favorite SDK around? That’s more than $20k of billable hours. I was content paying Adobe $550 every 12 months for my dot 5 Master Collection upgrade believing they would dedicate the resources. That only buys 5-7 hours of development time, however, and apparently that’s not paying Adobe’s bills.
Adobe is exiting the enterprise framework business and, according to the video, does not plan to reenter it with an HTML solution. Which answers the question of why did Adobe make this announcement about Flex before presenting their alternative.
Developers will still make great money building enterprise apps with the Flex framework. Better devote time to sharpening that secondary skill-set during the countdown, however.