I’ve started to see some general questions and fielded a few emails from people asking about why the big push around PhoneGap on the Adobe side. In general, everyone knows the basic answer: we acquired Nitobi (the company behind PhoneGap), so now as Adobe evangelists, it makes a lot of sense for us to know it and be able to talk about it. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that. Christophe has a demo app (with source code) up, Greg has a couple of really good posts on it (especially this one that talks about how PhoneGap affects Flex evangelism). So at a general level, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise, but for me it’s quite a bit deeper than that and I wanted to provide a bit of context.
My desire to learn PhoneGap (and by extension get a lot better at HTML/JS) comes from two places. One, if you aren’t learning new technology, you’re not adapting as a developer. Two, as I’ve been looking around and trying to get my head around PhoneGap/HTML, I’ve found some rougher edges. Since I work at a tools company, I want to know where those edges are so that as Adobe builds out tools for this technology stack, I can provide good feedback to the product teams.
I’ll say this a thousand times: I think AIR and Flex are the best way to build cross-platform mobile applications. I think they’re arguably the best way to build mobile apps in general for specific types of apps. And with AIR 3.0, AIR has never been more powerful. Stage3D is coming, we have native extensions and captive runtime so as a developer you can really blur the line between your AIR app and native functionality. But as great as I think native extensions are for our developer community, I’m not personally that excited by spending a lot of time writing them. I love the web. What got me so excited about RIAs back in the day was that you could build desktop-like apps with web technologies. I fully believe that Flash is part of the web, and I always will. Java and Objective C are decidedly not web technologies. And I’m not really that interested in spending a bunch of time learning Java/Objective C code. I don’t think that many AIR developers will have to roll their own native extensions, but it is one of the cool new parts of the platform, so a lot of the Adobe evangelists will be spending time getting up to speed on how to build them. That just doesn’t get me excited. Same goes for Stage3D. The stuff you can do with 3D in Flash Player is mind-blowing. I’m just not a 3D developer or a game developer. Luckily the Flash Platform is evolving beyond that as well. The stuff coming up with concurrency and potential enhancements to ActionScript both fall into what I’d call the “web world” and I’m excited to dive into those and get to know them as they get closer.
Which brings me to the second reason I’m planning to dedicate a ton of time to the PhoneGap stack. There are quite a few areas where the workflow is downright broken. My recent foray into on-device debugging is one example. Some of that is just that I don’t know enough, but there are also some real gaps in tooling, services, etc. We’ve got some smart people at Adobe who know the JS/HTML world pretty well. But we can always have more and if we want to provide value to developers in the space, that’s going to require knowing where the gaps are, knowing where to spend our time, and what kind of solutions will be helpful. I want to be able to provide that feedback and the best way to do that is to really know it. The hope is that I’ll be able to contribute in a small way to what Adobe will contribute to the open web ecosystem for developers.
So for me this particular foray goes beyond just learning PhoneGap to get up to speed. I think it’s a really cool time to be an Adobe evangelist and I came away from MAX a lot more invigorated than I’ve felt in a long time. Part of that is the Flash side (this session on the roadmap was excellent). But a big part of that was definitely that I think Adobe is going to make a positive impact in the HTML/JS space. The Nitobi guys are all insanely talented and I think that with them we’ve got a vision for mobile apps rooted in web technologies. I’m ready to contribute to that vision.
Update: And Ray pointed out he’s got a ton of stuff up as well.