Version 4.5 of both the Flex framework and the Flash Builder IDE is due out May 11 and the outlook is very exciting. As announced some time ago, the focus in Flex 4.5 is on developing for mobile apps. This means a new wave of components optimized for mobile platforms. That alone might sound “kind of cool”, but this release is much, much bigger than that.
Instead of using Flex to write Flash content that runs in a Web browser in a mobile device (i.e., non-Apple devices), thanks to Adobe AIR 2.6, you’ll be able to write true mobile apps in Flex. When the first release comes out in May, you’ll be able to create apps for the Google Android platform (the largest platform, in terms of sales of mobile devices today). In June, an update to Flash Builder and Flex are expected that will add support for iOS (iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad) devices and the Blackberry Tablet OS. To summarize:
If you know Flex today (or in three months), you’ll be able to create mobile applications that run on all major mobile platforms in no time at all!
This could not come at a better time for me. I have a couple of mobile app ideas that I want to develop and was planning on learning how to do so later this year (yes, yes, I’m totally on the cutting edge of the mobile app craze, eh?). I was still hemming and hawing over whether to pursue the iOS route, which would be natural for me (I primarily use Macs and am comfortable with the C family of languages), or go the Google Android route, which would be harder (Java is the default language there), but technically has a broader market. And now, thanks to Flex 4.5 and Adobe AIR, I won’t have to choose between them.
To see the development process, and the output, in action, check out this sneak peek video at Adobe. It’s a very impressive concept and, as far as I know, the only “write once, run everywhere” development solution for mobile apps. This, of course, is the promise of Adobe AIR itself, which allows you to write one application that can run on multiple operating systems (I still seem to be a bigger fan of AIR than the world at large).
That’s the big news, Flash Builder 4.5 and Flex 4.5 also add performance improvements, new Spark components (in particular, finally creating a Spark version of the Datagrid), and multiple ActionScript coding tools. See this article at Adobe Developer Connection for more on what’s new in Flash Builder 4.5. There’s also this pretty good article on mobile development using Flex and Flash Builder.