Why Adobe Won't Kill ColdFusion
I feel that I wasn't really fair to Adobe in an earlier article / blog / whatever in talking about the possible fates of ColdFusion under the likely acquisition of Macromedia by Adobe. Adobe has done a great job with Photoshop in the past by listening to its community and adding new, requested features instead of messing up what is already there. I really expect for them to take the same approach to development of ColdFusion. The reasons are numerous as to why they should keep ColdFusion, none the least of which are the thousands of developers who have invested much time and effort into learning the language, but the primary reasons, I agree have to do with keeping up with Microsoft.
Much of what was added to ColdFusion in version 7 has a lot to do with why Adobe can battle Microsoft on its own turf, probably the biggest has to do with event gateways. With the advent of asynchronous listeners in ColdFusion, the application server can now easily serve mobile devices rich content, as well as potentially listening for system events to make for richer web applications. These possiblities make possible new avenues for revenue for the development of .net like applications that aren't from Microsoft running on users' desktops. It wouldn't be beyond the imagination to imagine an “Office” like client built in Flash and served from ColdFusion to deliver an incredible desktop like experience from a web application. Webmail is another area where these rich type client interfaces could be expressed with great success. Microsoft has been making many missteps lately and it is time that the larger companies made some headway in areas that were previously completely under Microsoft's control. The business and engineering people, as well as the art people at Adobe have to be relishing this opportunity since Microsoft has always had trouble designing clean, functional, and good looking interfaces. Much of this is the reason that Apple is still around.
Macromedia with ColdFusion 6.1 adjusted the application server so that it generates direct bytecode from the CFML written in its pages. In ColdFusion 7 this allows developers to package an application as only its compiled java and sell it with a version of the ColdFusion runtime for deployment on JBoss, Tomcat, JRun, or any other J2EE compliant wrapper. They also moved to a J2EE compliant installer that will create either a .war file or a .ear file that can be deployed into any wrapper, not just JRun. This helps to give ColdFusion a more open feeling, allowing it to be installed on just about any platform that supports Java.
When Macromedia released Breeze, it opened a lot of eyes because it can be configured so many ways and it does so many things. It is useful for collaborative work through its videoconferencing and white board tools, it can be used either as or to supplement a learning management system. It is really an incredible platform, and I know that Adobe wants to push this against Microsoft's new collaborative whatchamacallit.
Adobe likes fat clients, just look at Acrobat Reader. This is one area that I am concerned about. I can see them trying to pack a little CFML runtime into the Flash player to give it the ability, through ColdFusion to connect to databases directly, and give developers the ability to embed CFML in their ActionScript, and use the event gateways to deliver incredibly rich applications to mobile devices that can run in the absence of an application server. The problem with this is that the Flash Runtime could easily get to be over 10 MB if this approach is taken, probably less if you used a subset of CFML's capabilities, but still it will lead to bloat. I don't see any way around Adobe bloating the Flash Runtime, so I hope they at least make it useful bloat and give it the ability to use CFML and ActionScript.
At the end of the day, Adobe is looking to bang with Microsoft, and they haven't had that ability. They were medium sized, and from what I have seen about business, medium sized players are the worst size. You are too big to be gobbled up, yet you are too small to get the serious money the big sized players are vying for. Perhaps Adobe realized this and became anxious to become a big player. If they can close this deal, and hold on to and continue to integrate ColdFusion, Flex, and Breeze server, they will be able to easily hold their own against Microsoft and any other players who would try to test them.