Flex, WPF/e and the new war for developer hearts and minds

Scoble starts a discussion (Why do a reader only for one publication? (Adobe vs. Microsoft for developers)) and Ryan Stewart picks it up (How Adobe started winning developers)

I think we’ve got some fun coming on and we developers are going to be in the catbird seat as Adobe and Microsoft fight it out for our loyalty.

disclaimer: I worked for Microsoft for 8 years and I’ve been working for Adobe now for 3 years, but not directly on any of the technologies I’m writing about.

C# was first launched when I was at Microsoft and I was pretty skeptical because it seemed such an obvious attack on Java and at the time I wasn’t that interested in Java. Real Developers write in C++.

Then I left Microsoft for a start-up where our chief architect convinced us to write our system in Java, and I learned it, and I found it pretty powerful for some things. My development team was able to build a fairly complex system very quickly with few bugs by taking advantage of the richness of the language and supporting libraries like JUnit. It reminded me of Common Lisp. When you got used to writing in Java: if you needed some functionality, your first impulse was to look for it in the language itself instead of writing it from scratch. Most often it was there.

Then, I left that start-up for another start-up founded by a former softy like myself where we embraced .Net 1.0 ’cause we were using all other MS technologies and we were writing a grid-type app. I liked .Net and C# even more than Java because it was so integrated with the OS (as long as the OS was windows, which it was in our case).

Now, I’ve taken a Flex class and I have to say that I’m really impressed. It really does for RIA what C# and Java did for server-side programming. Also, it is nice to finally have a more programmer-oriented approach for developing SWFs with a real IDE! I think that C# was also really good for rapid application development and prototyping as well, but Flex is much obviously better. As someone who works on both Macs and Windows, I definitely dig that cross-platformness and symmetry.

WPF/e is really interesting, but I haven’t gone into depth with it. Why not? Well, at home I have macs only now, and at work I have my actual job to do (in C++, natch). After looking through the docs and stuff, I can’t really see how you’ll be able to author cross-platform stuff with it since it seems so crippled on other platforms. I have to say that the strategy seems pretty much like “protect the windows platform by making the tools for windows only and the experience crappy on other platforms while still talking up how we are cross-platform.” Kinda similar to the original .Net story.

I’m also concerned that this stuff could get dropped or have less contribution if MS ever does (or doesn’t) win out. (Blackbird, Windows Media Player for Mac, IE before FireFox, etc…)

The one good thing is that the competition will push both Microsoft and Adobe to continue to develop better tools and that makes us developers the absolute winners here.

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