I am flying back home and want to share some thoughts on what has been happening in the last 4 days here in Denver. Obviously, you know about all announcements related to Flex 4.5. The sessions were very well prepared and extremely useful for majority of the developers. A lot of information was provided in more informal sessions. The community was as excited and enthusiastic as ever. And yet I am leaving with a feeling that Adobe’s marketing message is missing the point.
The main message of the conference was: now you can develop great applications for mobile – and with minor tweaks it will work on all MOBILE devices from phones to tablets. I disagree with this message. Concentrating on mobile at the expense of the desktop is a big mistake. Let me explain.
Our company – Farata Systems – have been working on Flex for mobile technologies for about 16 month now – on IoS and Android. At the conference I presented the View-based application for insurance agents that was written with mobile toolkit. Despite the fact that it was written with mobile toolkit, our application does run in browser, desktop and tablet – all from the same source. We run a small fraction of the app on the phone as well, mostly as a remote assistant to the main application. Here we do high-tech tricks like letting the customer to sign with his finger (or a felt pen), swipe his credit card, speed up data entry via voice recognition etc.
Unfortunately, one can not develop desktop View-based applications out of the box. We had to substantially tweak the components and skins. And I think this shortcoming will hurt success of the Flex, if it is not addressed by Adobe for the benefits of all developers.
Here is why I think it is crucial. There are about 100K Honeycomb devices sold. By the time Flex will catch up with IoS – June – the number of sold iPads maybe will reach 3-4 Millions . My estimate is that less then 20% of the users (in case of our application the clientele are independent insurance agents) would have necessary hardware. However, all 100% have access to web on laptops and netbooks, and 80%+ are allowed to run desktop AIR. We, at Farata, can not justify development of multiple versions of the software for desktop(Air), web (Flex Hero) and mobile (Flex Hero Mobile) – and I can not imagine many other companies doing so! Aside of development issues, I can not imagine training and supporting 3 different user experiences (with obviously different UIs).
Not only Adobe has to fill the gap. Developers should adjust as well: as conventional OS-es are becoming gestures based (please see preview of Apples Lion coming this summer) – and very much like tablet ones, developers should not design and develop multiple experiences either. I mean they should abandon legacy UI metaphor and deliver seamless experience across platforms.