This post is in response to Grant Skinners post on a thriving commercial ecosystem for the Flash Platform. For those who are just getting caught up with the conversation, it all began with Adobe labs releasing Squiggly, a spelling library for Flash apps which may compete directly with Grant’s own Spelling Plus Library which prompted quite a few people (including Grant himself) to talk about how Adobe may be competing with developers who build on their platform. This conversation isn’t new, quite a few people said the same thing when Adobe came out with Photoshop.com which competed with services like Picnik. As Adobe starts eying the services market with apps like Share, Buzzword, etc, developers may (justifiably) feel that it may be a matter of time before Adobe competes with them should their product seem lucrative. Considering they own the platform, ie the Flash Player, they may very well put features in that give them the advantage. For example, Adobe Connect already leverages the screen sharing capability that gets enabled on the Flash Player with the Connect plugin (yes a plugin for the browser plugin), something that non-adobe developers cannot access.
Can Adobe navigate these waters carefully enough to not alienate its developers remains to be seen, but this post is more regarding Grant’s follow up post on what Adobe can do to create a vibrant commercial ecosystem for the Flash Platform.
Actually there is a slight difference in the title of Grant’s post: “How Can Adobe Encourage a Commercial Ecosystem?” and what he writes about: “… lack the high-quality, well-supported, production-ready components that a commercial marketplace can provide.” While both are in similar vein, I feel a thriving commercial ecosystem on the Flash Platform doesnt have to be based around production ready components. There will be a few, like SPL that make a decent amount of money but those are going to be the exception and not the rule.
Adam Lehman, ColdFusion Product Manager made the point on one of the comments on that post which I most agree with: The Free Open Source marketplace which is pretty thriving on the Flash Platform does tend to kill the commercial component marketplace.
A Commercial Ecosystem on the Flash Platform is different from a commercial ecosystem on the Flash Platform based around commercial components. Grant’s own SPL is only viable till an open source version came out that may even be half as good as the SPL. The Flash developer community has become used to the Open Source way: find something out there that fills your need, if not and you find a fledgeling open source project that may have those ambitions, see if you can contribute, else build it yourself. My personal opinion is that the market for commercial components is pretty small no matter what Adobe does, and I dont think too many people miss it (except maybe a few folk coming from the Microsoft side of the world who are used to paying for components they use).
Flash Platform’s own commercial ecosystem would/should probably be around full products, embeddable widgets, AIR applications, Flash lite/mobile AIR apps etc. The best thing Adobe could do is keep powering the platform even more, add more capabilities to the runtimes, create distribution and monetization channels for the developers and make sure the developers dont feel threatened. And the developer services products on Adobe devnet seems to be a step in the right direction.