I'm contemplating writing some software for use on phones, pads, etc. I've never done this before, and largely have only decades-old experience with FORTRAN based on an engineering background. If I want to start a software company focused in software for electrical engineering (and other areas), would FLEX be a good choice?
My questions are myriad, and include the following:
1. Can I sell software produced using the free version of FLEX?
Yes. Flex is the framework and is opensource.
2. Can I package code compiled on a PC with FLEX as a "wrapper" for the compiled code to permit access?
Not quite sure what you're asking here. If you're asking can you call native code like C++, might check out native runtime capabilities. Might also check out HaXe, though it's not as mature as Flex, in my opinion.
3. Is the code I develop in FLEX running on the phone (requiring an installation package for the phone in addition to the software), or on the server, where the web site is located at which the code is "accessed"?
There are all sorts of permutations but compiled Flex apps would be running on the device. When it comes to phones and tablets, you're probably looking at AIR for mobile. Lots of stuff out there on the Googles about AIR for mobile.
4. Have there been liability/patent issues relative to the code in FLEX?
Not to my knowledge.
5. Can FLEX code run on a PC desktop, on an I-PAD or I-POD, and on telephones?
To some degree. The dream of Flex was to build once and deploy everywhere. I'd Google a bit about AIR on mobile devices. That, along with AIR on the desktop, is probably ideal for real apps, rather than browser-based apps.
6. Can FLEX code do other odd things, like play MIDI music and draw images?
I don't know the answer for mobile. As long as you're deploying to a Flash-based app, you can do a lot of things. When it comes to deploying across platforms, I imagine that will be platform dependent and certainly not the focus of Flex, imho.
7. Is FLEX the best choice for the first web applications produced by a start-up company, or is there another free option for web based development that is better?
It's probably still the best for rich internet apps, if you really have some heavy lifting to do on the client side. If it's lighter weight, you should also check out HTML and JS, maybe with JQuery and other tools out there that are compliant with the most recent browsers (only).
8. Will I spend too much time providing support for clients due to bugs in the free version of FLEX on certain platforms?
The free version of the framework is what we all use. It's the tooling that we pay for, Flash Builder or FDT or IntelliJ
9. What should I be asking about FLEX that simply isn't occurring to me because I lack the necessary experience in software development?
Adobe recently donated Flex to the Apache Foundation. You probably should be asking those in the know if the commiters for that project are energetic and passionate enough to keep Flex moving forward, without commercial ownership. Several people from Adobe will still be contributing to the codebase for Flex but it's going to be a new era with Flex totally relying upon contributors. It could be fantastic because there are some very smart people who have been wanting to have a hand in the roadmap for Flex for a long time. It may not be fantastic; time will tell.