Since Adobe announced Bolt there has been a lot of speculation about whether this spells the end for CFEclipse and whether or not Adobe will charge actual money for Bolt and, if Adobe does charge for Bolt, how that will impact the platform overall.
I was thinking about this, and the other various developers pine for in ColdFusion and came up with a hypothetical future that we all may enjoy. First, I ask you to bring into your mind some common platforms. For example, PHP, the Flash platform and the .NET platform. Now ask yourself, what is their profit model? All of the aforementioned ostensibly are provided free of charge. However, their organizations sell IDE products such as Zend Studio, Flex Builder, and Visual Studio.net as the best available tool for creating applications in their respective languages, though for each there are free alternative IDEs.
Additionally, there are both official and third party extensions which can be purchased to provide capabilities that are not built into the platform or are difficult to implement. Charting is a common example of a non-free extension. To this point we’ve established that some other platforms give the “core” language (or whatever) away for free. You can purchase an IDE to make development easier and you can purchase extensions which are not included in the core language. That’s the most common profit model.
So, first off, clearly there will still be demand for CFEclipse. Especially if Adobe chooses to charge for Bolt. Now, let’s take this another step and consider what it might mean if Adobe charges for Bolt. As a part of this thought experiment I’d like you to consider Railo, the highly regarded open source CFML engine from JBoss. I was at the Scotch on the Rocks conference when it was announced that Railo was being purchased by JBoss/Redhat. Over the following three days I watched Adobe’s reaction to the news and sat in on many conversations between the public, various Adobe representatives (who were not speaking in an official capacity), and the folks from Railo.
During these conversations a few themes arose. Specifically, ColdFusion’s architecture is not very robust compared to the interface-based architecture for Railo. Further, the Railo team made it clear that they have no interest in competing with Adobe on the RIA feature set.
Based on this there was a lot of talk about the possibility that maybe someday Adobe might adopt the Railo “core” and build many of the RIA features of ColdFusion features such as PDF generation, Flex integration, etc, on top of Railo. Now, if you look at Kristen Schofield’s CF Evangelism Kit you will see a roadmap on page 5. This includes a description of “Link”, which I assume to be the future codename for ColdFusion 10. One of the bullet point descriptions is a “Pluggable Architecture”. Could that not be built on top of Railo?
To continue down this road of pure speculation and theory, would that not put Adobe in a good place to sell the IDE, allow JBoss/Railo to offer the free, open source, “core” CFML engine and to also sell a custom version of CF built on top of the Railo engine which provides many of the RIA features we’ve come to depend on? I love this idea because we all get what we all want: Developers get the option of having a completely free and open source ColdFusion development stack or purchasing an IDE and advanced services. Adobe still gets to make money by selling the IDE as well as advanced closed source services for creating RIA applications. We all win!
An interesting possibility, no? So maybe before we all condemning Adobe for possibly charging for Bolt we should wait and see what’s really in store for us?