Adobe Flex is an open source development framework that was created to help developers build rich user interfaces on top of applications.
“With the announcement today, we’ve extended the Flex Framework and the associated tooling, which is the Flash Builder, to allow developers to build mobile applications,” Dave Gruber group product marketing manager at Adobe told InternetNews.com. “Mobile apps can now be built using one tool, and one codebase to build applications for Android, Blackberry or iOS.”
Flash Builder is built on top of the open source Eclipse IDE platform, though Flash Builder itself is not open source. Gruber explained that Flash Builder is a mature IDE itself for builder rich user interfaces.
Developing for multiple mobile platforms is not the same as developing for multiple browsers or desktop operating systems. It is not possible to write once and have code run everywhere, though Adobe is trying to make it a whole lot easier.
“Using the Flex Framework with Flash Builder enables developers to build one app and then share the code for the app to build for other platform-specific apps,” Gruber said. “This is write once and then share a ton of your code for other platforms.”
The reason why it’s not feasible to write once and then run everywhere mobile is because each mobile platform has its own unique characteristics. Things like form factors, screen resolutions and hard or soft buttons are different from device to device.
“You can share a significant amount of your code from app to app,” Gruber said.
The glue is the Adobe AIR runtime, which Gruber said becomes the translation layer for the mobile apps across the various platforms. Gruber explained that a developer would write an application using Flash Builder, compile the app into a native package format and then AIR takes care of the translation to the specific characteristics of the mobile platform.
“The way that works is AIR as a runtime will already be pre-installed or users will be prompted to download on Android and Blackberry platforms,” Gruber said. “For Apple iOS, we compile the AIR runtime right into the app and it becomes literally a native app.”
Gruber noted that Adobe has managed to optimize the performance of the solution so the final app is fully optimized and runs at the same level of performance as a fully native app.
Going a step further, Adobe is also enabling developers to test their applications with emulators and tools for Android, Blackberry and even Apple’s iOS. Apple’s SDK for iOS runs on only Mac OS X, yet Gruber stressed that a developer could use Flex and Flash Builder 4.5 to build an app for iOS, without the need to be running a Mac.
“We built new launch and debug capabilities that allows you to debug either though an emulator or through the ability to tether the actual mobile device,” Gruber said.
As part of the Flash Builder 4.5 release, Adobe has also partnered with PHP vendor Zend to develop a Flash Builder for PHP applications. Gruber explained that the new PHP edition is a combination of Flash Builder with the Zend Studio PHP IDE. The combination of the two products enables developers to do code inspection into PHP classes as well as integrate PHP code for a Flash Builder project.
“This gives the PHP developer a fast path to mobile and a fast path to providing a rich desktop experience as well,” Gruber said.