I’ve been playing around with Adobe Flex for a few days. Heard about them open sourcing the Flex SDK later this year. Didn’t think much of it, since it was already free. Then I read this from Dana. Maybe Dana has been wearing OSS goggles for a few too many days, but come on.

If you take a second and think about what Adobe wants to do in the market, this move has NOTHING to do with desperation. It has EVERYTHING to do with aspiration. Adobe wants everyone building browser-based rich internet apps to do so with Flex. It’s that simple.

Today, the Flex SDK is free. Free is a great way to attract developers – don’t charge them to learn your stuff. Good is an obvious necessary condition for attracting developers also. This announcement is nothing more than moving to the next level to attract even more developers.

Part of this is because of the proprietary slur against apps that run inside of the Flash player (Flash, Flex & Apollo apps). The alternative to Flex Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) is to use AJAX, and depending on the AJAX toolkit/framework you select, you’re using something that is OSS or proprietary. Here’s a list of some AJAX/RIA vendors. For the most part, you have a much larger selection of open source goodies if you start with AJAX for your RIAs. And your apps don’t need the Flash player to be installed (at the correct version level or above).

As any middleware vendor will tell you, the SDK isn’t where you make money, and that’s not what Adobe intended either. They are going to do that with the Flex Builder and the Flex Data Services product. (I’d guess some version of Flex Builder goes out the door free/OSS in a year).

Adobe is doing the right thing. Getting developers on board with the free (today) and OSS (in June) Flex SDK. When they start writing enterprise applications that need to connect to back-end data, that’s when Adobe will ask for a PO ;-) Arguably, once developers know and are productive with Flex, convincing their managers to write that PO is going to be a whole lot easier.

So, Dana, I’d very much disagree that this is a desperate move.

PS: I wish it were as I’m really not a fan of Flash (from a usability standpoint), but that’s another story :-)

PPS: Surprised that Duane doesn’t have anything to add on his blog.