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Adobe Releases Flex 2.0 Beta

Adobe today released the beta version of Flex 2.0, the latest software from Adobe Labs. The release follows the Alpha test release in earlier January.

Aimed at developers of Internet content, the beta version of Flex includes Flash Player 8.5 client, Flex Framework 2.0, as well as Flex Builder 2.0, Flex Enterprise Services 2.0 and Flex Charting Components.

"The biggest new item is the public debut of Flex Enterprise Services," Jeff Whatcott, senior director of product marketing in Adobe's Enterprise and Developer Unit, told internetnews.com.

Enterprise Services allows developers to "spend their time building functionality, not plumbing," he said.

Also new with the beta release is integration with Mercury QuickTest Professional, allowing developers to test Flex applications.

"Adobe is committed to delivering the tools and servers that application developers need to deliver engaging rich Internet applications, from interactive product configurators to mission critical business applications," said David Mendels, senior vice president of the Enterprise and Developer Business Unit at Adobe, in a statement.

Yahoo Maps, whose goal is regaining market share lost to Google Maps and Microsoft's Virtual Earth, is a prime example of Flex, according to Whatcott.

Other high-profile examples of Flex include Kodak's Easy Share Gallery, Harley-Davidson's online motorcycle customization and Sherwin-Williams' color visualizer.

The final version of Flex will be available the first half of 2006, according to Whatcott. To speed use of the application suite, Adobe is offering the developer's kit (SDK) and a limited version of Flex Server Enterprise free. Flex Builder will cost $1,000 per user.

Adobe hopes to create an atmosphere enabling its graphics software to reach 1 million developers and 98 percent of computers worldwide, according to the company executive.

Flex, internally, is "AJAX on steroids," said Whatcott. The Flex design package supports JavaScript, XML and Soap, he said.

Microsoft, hoping to gain a stronger foothold in the graphics community, unveiled on Jan. 24 a "community technology preview" of its Expression Interactive Designer, for its future Windows Vista operating system.

Flex is "Microsoft Vista on a diet," said Whatcott.

In January, the graphics design company unveiled Adobe Labs as a way to gain more feedback from users.

"An open development process through Adobe Labs allows us to get more feedback in less time, resulting in a higher quality product," Whatcott said. Releasing test versions of Adobe software also "jumpstarts the adoption of the technology," he said.