Flex 2.0 announced with more affordable pricing

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Macromedia today announced Flex 2, a major new release of its framework for building Web applications with rich, client-side Flash interfaces. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to speak with Macromedia about the details of this upcoming release.

Flex 2 will include Flash Player 8.5, Flex Framework 2, Flex Builder 2, and Flex Enterprise Services 2. Although the updated software will not be ready for release until the first half of 2006, Macromedia plans to release alpha versions later this month, in conjunction with the MAX conference on October 16th.

Flash Player 8.5 will add a new ActionScript Virtual Machine (AVM2), supporting ActionScript 3.0 (AS3) — an updated version of the scripting language that will be compliant with the latest ECMAScript standard, including ECMAScript for XML (E4X). AVM2 will run a great deal faster than the existing AVM, and will support many advanced language features, most notably improved debugging and error reporting.

AVM2 will run alongside the existing AVM, and only Flash movies compiled for AS3 will run on this new VM. The downside of this architecture is that movies and components that use AS3 will not be interoperable with those that use AS2 (e.g. an AS3 movie that loads and displays a nested movie that uses AS2 will not be able to access functions and variables within that movie). For this reason, components compiled for existing versions of Flex will need to be recompiled to work with Flex 2.

Flex Framework 2 will be the upgraded library of classes and user interface components for this new release. It will be updated to take advantage of AS3, with cleaner APIs, and taking full advantage of the new effects introduced in Flash Player 8.

Flex Builder 2, previously code-named Zorn, will be the new IDE for Flex, rewritten from scratch to run on the Eclipse platform. As with the current version of Flex Builder, it will provide a split graphical view (with drag and drop GUI building) and code view (with full code hinting and debugging support). New in this release will be developer productivity features for managing “view states”, discrete modes of operation for Flex components.

While the current version of Flex costs some US$12,000, Flex 2 will cost less than US$1,000 for the basic components described above. Although you’re constrained to communicating with the server via XML data transfer and SOAP Web Services, you can certainly implement anything you can do with AJAX and DHTML, only with a richer GUI. What’s missing from the package is the server-side component of the Flex framework, which has been split into a separate product for Flex 2: Flex Enterprise Services 2.

Flex Enterprise Services 2 will come with the big per-CPU price tag, but will be significantly upgraded from the server-side facilities provided by Flex 1. The main focus of the enhanced package is the transparent availability of server-side resources (such as database records and enterprise services) within Flex applications.

Although the greatly reduced price tag for developers who don’t need the Enterprise Services package is welcome news, Macromedia does not plan to continue offering free non-commercial/non-institutional licenses as they now do with Flex 1. With students and hobbyist users having obtained free licenses and developed applications with Flex 1, they’ll either have to front up for a license to Flex 2, or be left out in the cold. This seems like a very unfortunate move to me, and I hope Macromedia will reconsider.

For more details on Flex 2, check out Macromedia’s introduction for developers.

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  • http://fairsky.us/home Joshua Paine

    Does Flex matter with OpenLaszlo http://www.openlaszlo.org/ around? At least the previous version of Flex didn’t look as good or behave as nicely as OpenLaszlo, and the feature sets seemed pretty comparable. OL 3.1 seems to be coming out any day now. Anyone know what (if anything) makes Flex better?

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Kevin Yank

    Hmm… I had a brief look at OpenLaszlo when it was first released for free, but the user interfaces it generated didn’t impress me as much as Flex. In particular, every Laszlo demo I’ve seen has had fixed pixel dimensions, while Flex can take full advantage of the vector nature of Flash to stretch and fill your browser window.

    With Flex 2 set to include powerful widgets like a WYSIWYG rich text editor, it’s still looking like the technology leader to me. That said, the price tag of OpenLaszlo is hard to argue with.

  • http://www.maxhyatt.com MystaMax

    You mention that you could build everything just like AJAX/DHTML. Thats interesting b/c since these are flash-based RIA’s, doesn’t that mean they are less prone to problems with browsers and things like that? You could build apps for mobile phones as well right? I browsed their site and didnt see anything for the mobile phone.

    Thanks

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  • http://www.tysonkirksey.com skanxalot

    Kevin, OpenLaszlo 3.0 allows for percentage widths, allowing you to fill the whole browser window. It works well for a couple of applications I’ve written.

  • http://www.igeek.info asp_funda

    I agree with Joshua, Flex-1 had failed to impress much, I mean if it had anything impressive, then Chak Ming Fai(server product manager, south asia) failed to show it at MAX 2005, unless ofcourse they weren’t putting on any effort to promote Flex there!!

    Though its to be seen what Flex-2 can offer, I think that it has some serious competition at hand with OpenLaszlo!!

    This seems like a very unfortunate move to me, and I hope Macromedia will reconsider.

    well, in the light of recent events(read Macromedia’s acquisition by Adobe), things have just started to roll. Adobe is one of the most evil companies in the market when product pricing is considered on par with software being sold!! :(

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  • Sid

    OpenLazlo is only open source for development and learning how to code with the Lazlo architecture. After speaking to Lazlo, a fairly typical 2 cpu production license for you application weighs in at a ridiculous $22,500!!! Hence why the likes of Yahoo and other major portal providers are the ones hooking up with them.

    I am not sure if Lazlo are intending to redesign their pricing structure to compete with Flex anytime soon, but it’s definately not open source as we know it… it’s OpenSource so they hook developers into using it, thus making their techology easier to sell.

  • http://fairsky.us/home Joshua Paine

    Sid, where are you getting this stuff? Laszlo used to be pay-for-production use, but they open-sourced the server along with everything else in October 2004. It’s under the CPL, IBM’s license that also covers Eclipse. If you look on laszlo.com now, there’s not even a place to purchase the server. They sell an app or two built on top of OpenLaszlo and a bunch of consulting and tech support services related to using Laszlo, but that’s it. The CPL contains no “screw you if you want to use this for anything important” clause.

  • http://www.igeek.info asp_funda

    I agree with Joshua, I didn’t see any pricing schema either when I was eyeing Laszlo when someone recommended it to me saying that its gone Open & Free!!

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  • bonefry

    In particular, every Laszlo demo I’ve seen has had fixed pixel dimensions, > > while Flex can take full advantage of the vector nature of Flash to stretch and fill your browser window.

    The demos are awfull, but they do not reflect the capabilities of Laszlo quite well, maybe except LaszloEmail.

    But you are not right, Laszlo application *can* fill your browser window. Again, look at the link above

    The big *advantage* of Laszlo is that it is *not* dependant on Flash, and an AJAX version is planned for this year. I also talked to a Laszlo developer that said they will definitly release a version for the upcoming WPF (Avalon).

    OpenLazlo is only open source for development and learning how to code with the Lazlo architecture. After speaking to Lazlo, a fairly typical 2 cpu production license for you application weighs in at a ridiculous $22,500!!! Hence why the likes of Yahoo and other major portal providers are the ones hooking up with them.

    You are just trolling.
    Do you know what open-source means ? How can it be open-source only for development ?

    Just a hint: The source is available, if you want more processors you can always modify the source ;) And although you might not be able, others are :)