Stop! Before you send me a letter-bomb, read this article first :-)
Update: After hearing about some misunderstandings regarding this post, I want to make sure, that the title “Flash is better than Java” is of course targeted at front-ent software engineering, not backend. Although it’s obvious that noone would ever try to build a web application backend using Flash, I just wanted to make sure that you understand what I am talking about :-)
If I talk to people and tell them that I love to use Flex, most say: “Eewwhh! Flex? Isn’t that… Flash? This animation thingy?”.
That’s what often makes me go nuts.
Don’t get me wrong. The Flash Player itself is shitty. It’s slow, unstable and has some serious issues regarding security. On the other side: The developer-side for Flex-coders is absolutely great and professional. ActionScript3 is an awesome object-oriented programming language and the nice features of MXML, like easy data binding, make it possible to create good-looking applications in no time.
If combined with the AIR runtime environment, which makes it possible to compile Flash applications into installable multi-platform desktop programs, I’d even go so far to say that it’s better than Java (on both, Desktop and Web).
Big IT-companies like IBM or SAP currently run experiments in order to verify if it is possible to replace Java (desktop-)frontends using Flex. This would shorten development time (since using Flex is so easy) and thus reduce costs. On top of that, their customers achieve great-looking and modern graphic user interfaces.
This replacement strategy does totally make sense, because Flex works great with common Java-based SOA architectures. Technically seen, it’s no problem to throw away an existing Java-frontend and replace it with a Flex version by simply connecting it to an existing J2EE backend. The reason: Using RPC techniques like class/object-sharing between Java and Flex over distributed networks is no problem since both languages are so similar regarding their object-oriented philosophy, as well as syntax. If you don’t believe me, read this.
Further, with the new Flex 4 platform, it is possible to improve the workflow between UI-designers and programmers using Flash Builder 4 and Adobe Catalyst. The idea is as follows: Before Flex 4, designers created user-interfaces and sent these to the developers, who then started transforming these drafts into actual programs. Now, if the designer wants any changes to the layout, he needs to ask the the developer to implement these changes. This is not very efficient. With Flex 4 and Catalyst the whole workflow has changed: Designers now create the user-interface using Illustrator. Then, they export their drafts into a *.fxb file using Catalyst, which needs to be sent to the developer, who just has to import this file into the project and can thus focus on the actual application logic instead of bothering with the UI. If the designer now wants any changes to the UI, he simply updates his *.fxb file and the developer re-imports it. Done. Can Java do this? No.
I don’t want to start a flame war, this is just my personal opinion from my experience with both worlds of Java and Flash.