Adobe unveils Flex 2.0 beta and Flash Player 8.5 tools

Upgrades coming

Adobe Systems has announced the public beta of its Adobe Flex 2.0 and Adobe Flash Player 8.5 tools. The two have been upgraded so developers can more easily connect rich internet applications to different back-end data sources.

Adobe Flex 2.0 is a group of tools designed to help developers build applications that have the rich content and interactive features of the desktop in applications that can be accessed via a thin client. The tools essentially eliminate the need to refresh a web page every time a user enters or receives new data. Flash Player is the client run-time for these applications.

In addition, Adobe, which added Flex to its offerings after acquiring Macromedia last month, will make its Flex Software Development Kit available for free. The kit includes the tools needed to develop, compile and deploy Flex applications. Adobe’s new Flex Enterprise Services 2.0, designed to integrate front-end internet applications with back-end data sources, will be free to a limited number of concurrent users on a single, non-clustered server.

Jeff Whatcott, Adobe’s senior director of product marketing, says that the new version of Flex includes a set of services called Flex Enterprise Services 2.0, which are designed to help developers build a services-oriented client that can easily connect to multiple back-end data sources such as Java Message Service, Java Objects and RFID streaming data. This will allow web applications developed with Flex to update data such as stock prices on a client at the same time the data is updated on a server, he says.

“When data updates remotely it is automatically updated on the screen. The ideal technology for doing that is going to be Flex [because] it gives you the richness of desktop software, but it gives you the deployment model of the web.”

Whatcott says an expansion of the back-end data sources developers can use with their front-end web applications will give the tool an advantage over vendors such as Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. They both offer tools that use Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, another programming technique used to build rich internet applications. But those tools presume that the back-end data source is already exposed through XML as a web service, he says.

“You have to go do a lot of work to massage the data into the right format,” Whatcott says.

Flex 2.0 will be generally available in the first half of 2006 and will include Flex Builder, an Eclipse-based integrated development environment, which will sell for US$1,000. Enterprise Services will be free of charge for a limited number of concurrent users. It will also be licensed based on a per-CPU, per-project and enterprise-licence basis. Final pricing will be announced when the tools ship.

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