WARNING: mild rant follows.
There is one statistic that Macromedia seems to wish would go away every so often and then it seems to come back and hit them. Microsoft is well aware of this statistic and uses it to great advantage in many ways. Sometimes MS uses it as a way to gain market share. Other times they use it to create demand. Rarely do they disregard it.
Allaire always kept this statistic in the front of their minds, and we loved them for it. Macromedia USUALLY pays attention to it, but you can tell they don't want to and occasionally have to be reminded of it. So, what is the statistic?
98% of all business in the US have less than 100 employees
So when you decide as a company to pursue "Enterprise" software as a model, you've just eliminated all but 2% of your potential market. You concentrate your risk. Your product can be quickly dismissed as a non-option for many businesses without even an evaluation.
Macromedia has done this a few times that I can remember. Once, horribly, with Spectra. Recently with Breeze which they realized and changed course and added per minute pricing (kudos). And most recently with Flex.
I would love to see Flex become a huge success. I think it is the product that corporate America has been dreaming of since the beginning of the internet when our applications became stateless. We're just catching up to the interactivity we had ten years ago across the network.
The problem with Flex right now is that standing up a single production box is quite expensive.
You figure about $6,500 for a solid web server (3.6GHz, 2Gigs memory, dual 72 Gig drives w/ raid 1, Windows SE), 2cpu jrun: 1799, 2cpu enterprise version of cf: 5999, 2cpu version of Flex: 15000. Total: 29,298. A very hard nut to cover for a small business even with some discounting that would be available. Double it to stand up a staging server, triple it to add a development server (although I generally don't do that, workstations work just fine).
In most small and midsized businesses, time and effort is often substituted for cash. This means that many non-large businesses will spend lots of effort trying to roll Flash based apps instead of realizing the benefits of a flex based solution. I think this is unfortunate because the time spent developing the Flash apps is time where the product is not being used and showcasing the Macromedia product line.
With the impending release of Avalon, maybe Macromedia/Adobe will rethink their pricing policy. Since Bruce Chizen says "Microsoft is the competitor, and it's the one that keeps me up at night", Adobe should really adopt some of Microsoft's strategies. In particular, MS almost always has some sort of "Small Business Edition" that provides a migration path to their more capable products as the company grows.
I like the fact that MM has created a non-commercial license that is essentially free. A huge move in the right direction, but it still leaves a gaping hole in the pricing model. I have confidence that MM has something on the drawing board to address this issue. MM is probably one of the best companies around when it comes to listening to their developer community. It's probably the single biggest reason I've been a MM evangelist for so many years. However, I don't have that level of trust with Adobe. It wouldn't surprise me if the powers that be at Adobe scuttle many of MM's plans.
Why the rant about Flex pricing? It's all been discussed before, even before the price went up. Well, because it's now impacting MY decision process. I've been working on a speculative RIA off and on for the last six months. Flash apps are hard. They take a lot of time and can be really flaky. I see Flex as a great solution to my problem, but the price tag makes the decision REALLY hard. Do you pursue a project that you may not be able to monetize because of high startup costs and an unproven business team? At what point do you have enough confidence to put everything on the line? I'm not sure my project instills enough confidence in me to take that risk. In the mean-time, I'm stuck trying to bludgeon developers into using Flash as a development platform. I hope there is another option around the corner.