How can Flash (Pro?) development be dead if CS6 is to be announced shortly and there are already previews available of some of the features?
Here is the official Adobe roadmap for the Flash runtimes:
I'm more concerned with development tools than with the runtimes, and that's why I cited Flash Professional. All of my output in Flash is targeted to the desktop and I'm not particularly worried about the availability of Flash Player on the desktop.
To date I still haven't seen a preview of Flash Professional CS6, although I see lots of signs that there will be one. In fact, I'm pretty excited that Photoshop can finally stroke a vector line. The missing link would be a version of Flash that could import the PSD file and preserve that stroked line. It's a feature I could use and it could save my group a few steps between Photoshop and Flash.
I'd like to be able to describe a roadmap for Flash to my employer as well as to a few casual content developers. What tools should we be training on? I find it hard to figure this out for myself, let alone explain it to someone else. What's the relationship between Flash Professional, Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder, Flex, Air, Edge, etc?
And, yes, I've seen the whitepaper, and I've read several of Mike Chamber's blog posts. It's certainly obvious that Flash Pro development isn't going to stop dead in it's tracks
I sat in Flash Pro programming via the free FlashDevelop externally. I've been using Flash since before it even supported scripting at all and even when it did it was just a tellTarget mess. The evolution is that people want more sophisticated content and also are very interested in content that is search engine optimization (SEO) friendly.
The problem continues with rendered content. Anything in the way of a truely sexy animation requires rendering (Stage3D, Canvas or Video) and the content of which is not SEO friendly. HTML5 doesn't necessarily fix this via canvas just because it can do some very similar things to Flash.
If SEO is important to you, and I think it is to everyone, the content needs to be created in such a way that the technologies used do not impair that effort. Adobe realizes people can do with Canvas what only recently Flash could do. However the gigantic codebase that is already written for Flash is hard to compete with (plugins, Stage3D frameworks, etc). So the transition will be very slow as you said. 5 years would be conservative.
Adobe is simply gearing itself around what it knows to be true. Devices are the future of computing. They play on a 10+ year timeline, not just the next 365 days. Quad core tablets powered by windows 8,9,10, Android and iOS will be so useful, dock with a full keyboard and eventually replace most peoples general usage of the web. That leaves them to analyze that market. Unfortunately Apple (hates) blames Flash for taking down their beloved OS so much that they banned it outright. They also spent a lot of money trying to keep Adobe from allowing people to compile projects made in their apps into ARM code, hoping to cling onto their "you must buy a mac to produce iOS app" dream.
Well that's all gone. Now you can (like I do) produce apps on Windows.
Here's the point. HTML5 isn't approved, continues to evolve and isn't particularly strong enough to be considered a contender when it comes to device app development compared to AIR. AIR has adobe native extensions (ANE) which allow you to tap directly into the device and use the non-visual codebase. That's far beyond anything HTML5 (e.g. Phonegap) app development provides.
What does that mean? They're circling their wagons around being the best technology to develop a single code base that is re-usable and deployable to the most targets with the least amount of recoding. Code your app once and deploy it to Windows, iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android Tablets, Android Phones, Blackberry Tablets, Mac OSX and the Web. All with the same code.
So they're smelling the future. No longer do we NEED flash installed to play a video because it removed the codec barrier. No longer do we NEED flash to perform complex animation. But in the future when budgets won't allow for programming the same app in a multitude of languages, Adobe will be there with a unified way to create multi-target apps from a single codebase with the least recoding.
To answer you, Flash Pro has taken on more of a "designer" application role these days. Serious flash coders are using Flash Builder Premium with the profiler for devices to make sure their apps are solid. Flash Pro has become something of a "photoshop" to the multimedia world. You assemble your complex interfaces in Flash Pro, then Export a SWC that you can use in a real programming environment, such as Flash Builder or eclipse with FDT. I would take a spin on a Flash Builder 4.6 Premium trial and take a look at the mobile optimized (spark) components. You can do everything you can do in Flash Pro in Flash Builder but you can do it better, all via code. However Flash Pro saves you time if you want to build a complex interface or animation using the timeline. Albeit timeline animations, unless done correctly, often are a LOT less optimized than code animations and perform considerably slower on devices.
So I'd focus on Flash Builder. I don't think Adobe is putting up the white flag on Flash at all. They're just mobilizing toward AIR.
Thanks for the nudge about Flash Builder 4.6. I'll update 4.5 when I get a little free time.
One of the problems with even talking about Flash is that it's a lot of things to a lot of people. For some it's an animation tool, for others it's a browser plugin, some people think "Movie Player", others still think of it as a tool to create a spiffy website. Some people work mainly in code, others mainly on the timeline and stage.
In our case we do a lot of rudimentary interactive animations for training use. We have a couple of practising generalists who edit video, shoot photos, clean and prep in Photoshop, draw layouts and callouts in Fireworks, and assemble and code (a little) in Flash. I'm probably the most familiar with Actionscript but even then it's v2.0. And for my colleagues I just need to set up understandable workflows that don't burden them with steep learning curves.
It'd be great to be able to point to something on the web that gives a really basic sense of what the tools do and what they're for.
The best thing you can do is think modular. I lived in AS2 a lot longer than I should have. AS3 is so much better I couldn't even begin to explain.
Regardless you can come up with a "code based" friendly interface that, most importantly, reads external files. Your job would be reading in some XML which would tell you how to populate the interface. You then can let them edit the XML inserting different media (pictures, videos, audio) and text and your main job is to build a "shell" that just displays what they say. Keep it abstract.
This is what I do with all of my clients. I keep it external so when they call me and ask if I can change some text or a picture or add a nav item I have them open the XML file and they're shocked they can do it themselves without having to pay me to do it. They're also happy. I even created a XML CMS editor that makes it easy for them to edit the XML in a GUI if they're afraid to edit XML.
I think this would help your approach. Design and code the interface to be very abstract. Educate them on how to populate the XML file. Have your interface read the XML file and dynamically populate itself with the contents. Then you only need to create it once, the workflow is the same every time and the more you use it the easier it gets.