Enough of Flex/Flickr applications already!

Last year each and every AJAX article was mentioning Google maps application. I see a similar pattern with Flex, but this time I’m getting a little bit sick of photo/image viewer applications. Pikeo is a recent addition to the happy FFF-family (Flex-Flash-Flickr). While there is nothing wrong with any of these photo applications, the fact that industry analysts keep using them as good examples of Flex applications gives people the wrong perception that this is what Flash/Flex are for.

Flash enjoys 98% penetration, but if you ask 99% of people who have it installed, they’ll tell you that Flash is for playing animations. The irony is that my own son has been graduated this year majoring in traditional animation, and he uses Flash exactly for creating animations. Lots and lots of people keep thinking that Flash is a tool for creating flashy but annoying intro pages for Web sites.

I personally belong to a tiny group of enterprise developers who are lucky enough to make a living by working on enterprise applications using Flex. But where is the job market for Flex developers? After a year of drumbeat, go to Dice.com. How many job opening do you find for Adobe Flex in your area? Three? Five? A dozen? You know why? Because IT development managers are STILL under impression that Flex/Flash is for creating applications that can keep their family photo-albums in order.

Dear Adobe technical evangelists, please create a serious Web site that would list case studies of BUSINESS applications written in Flex. Let’s evolve from the phase “Flex is Cool” to “Flex is Real”.

Your truly,
Yakov Fain

9 thoughts on “Enough of Flex/Flickr applications already!

  1. Hey there, Yakov,

    I’m about done with the Flickr-Flex applications myself (having built my share), but truth be told they are easy to build and visually stunning. That goes a long way to getting people to see the framework’s capabilities. It is Flex’s ability to access services so easily that makes these applications a common first target for beginners, and for people with which to get their feet wet. The moment you go to store data however, as you well know, the game changes entirely.

    That game change requires a lot more development time, planning, analysis, implementation and so on. It becomes very difficult to stop beating the drum long enough to put something like that together. Then when you do stop beating the drum, along comes somebody else with their drum saying how Flash is 99% evil. That makes delivering the kinds of example of which you mention a pretty difficult balancing act. From an internal perspective, I think we’re making progress, and I think you’ll see more business-centered Flex applications from Adobe, it’s partners and it’s customers.

    A problem we’ve always had with business applications is that they are just that – business oriented. When companies latch onto Flex for a competitive edge, rarely do they want to share what it is that they are doing. That’s like saying “Hey, competitor, here’s how our business is better with Flex, why don’t you come beat us.”

    Don’t get me wrong here however, I’m a *huge* fan of Adobe (at the very least) producing business applications which can be shown as “Flex is Real”. At one point I even proposed a light business plan on how we might achieve beating this new type of drum with a minimal effort/investment. One thing is for sure that you’re dead on in that we need to evolve. I welcome any discussion around how we might accomplish this transition.

  2. Kevin,

    I know about NDAs and all that. But still, publishing case studies is casually done by other software vendors. For example, Java Case Studies
    People openly present their case studies at conferences.

    I know, it’s not easy to get into corporate world, but Flickr applications do not help here. Adobe professional services folks should actively recruit their clients to speak at conferences and ask permissions for publishing their case studies and success stories. When I recommend Flex to my enterprise clients, they ask me “Who else is using it?” Should tell them to check a photo-viewer application promising that working with some serious data is as easy as displaying images? It does not work this way.
    I also like Adobe, wish them success…and will always speak up as soon as I see a “bug” in some of Adobe’s processes :)

  3. I agree that NDA is the one of the magor reasons indivdual developers can not post their work online. Given that, it is impossible to expect that such applications will apear in public view on their own. Unfortunately it produces 2 negative results.
    1. As Yakov mentioned, there is high uncertainty about Flex ability to become enterprise tool. Risk to CREATE new (however cool ) technology is considered to be too high by project managers – inlike the last century projects today keep technical personel away from decision making process.
    2. I am interviewing people for Flex positions on daily basis – only to find that at best they have spent 99% of their time on the previous projects doing tasks that could of been avoided/copied from good sample business application – featuring design, communications and coding techniques.

    I believe that sample application (80/20 rule) for fictionary business (not featuring shopping cart) would help developers a lot. Posting it in recorded/live demos by Flex evangelists will show commitment from Adobe to the enterprise side.

    Anatole Tartakovsky

    PS. In the past year I got requests to build about 10 photo album applications and about 5 video sharing services. I do have few of them on my desk now. While it is definetly fun and easy to do, I do think the innovation in this field is very much done – the same way as an ability to produce vanity Web pages 10 years ago. Next few years will be phone / VoIP craze and then may be we will get close to speech recognition.
    However, I would rather work on APPLICATION that makes innovative use of the Flash/Flex abilities – distance learning / schooling and other long overdue apps – then making another pure vanity/entertainment portal or enterprise applications I am dealing with now.

  4. Yakov, your right!

    We had the same discussion with Enrique Duvos and Waldo Smeets in Europe. In external communication from Adobe but also from the eco system there is a relative high emphasis on consumer oriented apps as they are more visible and public accessible.

    Enterprise corporations however are using Flex for internal dashboard apps so these applications are – hidden- within the enterprise architecture and connected to enterprise applications like Sap and Oracle. Several banks in Europe are using Flex for configuration apps and client relation dashboards, but who knows… E Trade Germany is using Flex..Think about the hundreds of clients using Sap´s Visual Composer using Flex…Flex is exactly creating this – enterprise value -for enterprise customers and partners.

    What we can say and see about Enterprise Rich Internet Applications in Europe we publish on http://www.emearia.eu

  5. Yakov,

    I believe situation will change shortly. If even big companies like SAP bet on Flex as UI technology, then smaller players will follow.
    Google for [SAP Flex Muse] and you’ll find out that SAP has serious plans for Flex and they consider Flex real.

    P.S. Muse is a code name for next SAP front-end

  6. Valery,

    SAP, Yahoo, Google are fine but I care more about such industry verticals as Financial, Telecommunications, Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing… They make a software tool mainstream.

    I’m sure hundreds of people around the world after seeing a photo-viewer will scream in joy, “Yo, man, it’s sooo cool!”. So? DOes it make Adobe Flex more popular? Not really. Adobe has to target desision makers who do not scream, but quietly calculate return on investment into Flex vs. AJAX vs. Java Swing vs. Visual Basic vs. Cobol…

  7. Edgar, this emearia Web site is great start! Asia beat the USA in mobile industry, Europe beats us in RIA. I’m seriously considering relocation to Europe! Adobe should learn from this site, make give it more official status and add a new content on the regular basis.

  8. A little late to the game here…but I think any application built with Flex is good for Flex. True, the Flickr apps are a dime a dozen. But, there is good stuff too. Honestly, my company would never have stumbled upon Flex if it hadn’t been for what some small developers were doing it. We are actually using Flex 2 to build a creative design application where you can combine photos, drawn/imported maps, and comments to build virtual tours. http://www.mapwing.com is where you can find it, and Flex is what made it possible!

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