Flex or Flash?

By Shashank Tiwari
December 16, 2008 | Comments: 3

The recent re-emphasis by Adobe on the "Flash" brand is scary!

The world of web development involves two types of people -- developers and designers. Each of these sets is distinct from the other. Very rarely are there people who truly have both the traits.

Traditionally, designers used the Flash platform to build fancy and high quality animations, interactive advertisements, vector graphics and video displays. Then came Flex. Flex was a new face of Flash that appealed to a developer. Flex had a strong clear message that overpowered the developer's fear in the "timeline" driven idiom. To some, it was and still is, metaphorically speaking, Flash forked -- new brand, new declarative XML based syntax and an object oriented language (AS3) under it all, leading to a distinct new identity from the designer's favorite timeline of animations and video. For a Flex developer, Flash was relegated to a run-time and given the status of a platform, like most other virtual machines enjoy. Flex developers realized soon after they built their first couple of applications that Flex was Flash under the hood. They knew that they had to learn bits of the player idiosyncrasies to build real world applications and they also realized that after all Flash was always a great choice for rich applications, its just that they had never bothered to dig into it! In all, though, they were and are happy "Flex developers".

Now things are changing, or are they?

To take our conversation forward from here, let's deviate at this point. Let's not talk about Flex or Flash anymore but instead talk about a somewhat analogous situation. In doing so we may still discuss what we set out to do.

There was once a great burger place that had some of the finest meat between its bread slices. However, the steak eaters never cared for this place. Then the owners realized the potential of attracting steak eaters and so setup a new outlet right next door. Called this new place a steak house, setup the right interiors, stacked up a rack of wine to go with the steak and got their servers to wear cowboy hats. It got a good name among steak eaters. After all, the meat was good remember! The kitchen was shared by these two outlets, the burger joint and the steak house. Most didn't realize it though, specially when walking into this new steak place. If they did find out after eating a couple of times at this new outlet, they weren't that affected. They were already bought in.

Therefore, both the burger joint and the steak house flourished till now, attracting people from both these worlds and the few who belonged to both.

Recently, though the owners of these outlets have decided to break the wall that separates the two and extend the front facade and the board to cover both places. They have decided to go with their good old brand of a burger joint.

Wondering what the steak eaters are now going to do? Are they going to be unaffected? Does the company not want them anymore? Will the steak eaters' friends walk in when they land at this address of the steak house but find a burger joint board welcoming them? Somebody explain! It's scary!

(Flex or Flash? was also published on my website -- www.shanky.org)


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3 Comments

As a developer myself, I'd have appreciated more technical/statistical information supporting the thesis of your post.
Yet the steak bit kind of got me hungry.

I was an insider until very recently and can confirm that the re-emphasis on the Flash branding will have no impact on product development and strategic direction. Nothing, in that regard, has changed. The rebranding is an effort to tell a more cohesive story that helps people to better understand Adobe's "platform" - and Flash is one of the strongest brands in the industry so it makes sense to use it as a more generic name for the entire platform of tools, frameworks, servers, and runtimes. Flex as a brand is now positioned as the development framework that sits atop the Flash runtimes. Makes much more sense to me.

Expect the Flash authoring tool to get a slightly modified name that will better make sense of how it fits into the entire platform. I wouldn't expect anything dramatic, but simply calling it "Flash" is a bit confusing when looking at the entire platform.

Great analogy. xD

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