The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

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 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?

Comments on: "Speculation of a Possible Future" (9)

  1. Tom Chiverton said:

    I can’t see Adobe adopting the Railo core. I can see them agreeing to exchange plugin architectures so Railo plugins work on Adobe and vica versa.
    As Flex is free, Builder costs. Adobe CF costs, so maybe Bolt will be free ?


  2. Personally, I think that are already too many flavors of Eclipse floating around and don’t really want another. Why wouldn’t Adobe just get behind Mark Drew and help bring CFEclipse beyond it’s current state?


  3. Craig Kaminsky said:

    Personally, I am torn. I love CFEclipse and have used it nearly daily since 2005 when I switched from Dreamweaver. That said, I really like Flex Builder and what Adobe has done with it. There’s something to be said for the owner/developer of a language creating an IDE for that language. With the pretty radical changes coming in CF9, I don’t know that the CFEclipse group is poised to be ready with an IDE that really takes advantage of all the pending developments in the language and server (ORM, etc.).

    Since Bolt is coming like it or not,I hope Adobe charges for Bolt and changes the model for CF pricing. I’d rather see CFML and the ColdFusion engine/server software make further in-roads because it’s open source or low-cost and, as a developer, pay for an IDE, if it were to sway me from CFEclipse, that is. Finally, it’ll be kind of cool to have a choice in IDEs for CF developers (sorry, just don’t see HomeSite as a viable option, especially since so many of us are on ‘nix systems now).


  4. david buhler said:

    When Bolt comes out, I’ll buy it.

    I think the team behind CFEclipse has done a wonderful job, and there’s clearly blood, sweat and tears, as well as a charitable effort, involved in creating CFEclipse. But FlexBuilder is so lovely and wonderful, that I would find it hard to believe an Adobe produced IDE for CF wouldn’t also be lovely and wonderful.


  5. Justin Carter said:

    Interesting theory Doug 🙂 I think the main thing from stopping that happening is some backwards compatibility stuff that Adobe would have to take care of, such as CF8 (and then CF9) features missing from Railo and anything else that didn’t quite behave the same way in the 2 engines.

    Also I think there is still room for CFEclipse to be installed as a plugin to work *with* Bolt because there are some features that Adobe might not have covered, as Mark Drew said on his blog (dictionary browser, snipex, frameworks browser). Another example is custom dictionaries for custom tag libraries like the one I built for ColdExt – I *hope* Adobe support code insight for custom tags, but at the moment the only detail is “tag” support, not “custom tag” support 😛

    I’m pretty sure they’ll charge for Bolt, I just hope it’s not quite as much as for Flex Builder!


  6. Very interesting theory.

    I really find the Adobe/Railo factor is very intriguing.


  7. Paul Carney said:

    I agree on the “charge for Bolt” and make the CF server pricing much cheaper and reasonable (especially the enterprise edition). If Adobe really wants to get CF as the middleware, then economics says reduce the price so that any reasonable group will buy it.

    Charging for Bolt (like Flex Builder) is still worth the money to many of us, while others can use the free IDEs.


  8. Tom Chiverton said:

    @Paul Carney:
    If halving the price (say) doesn’t result in doubling sales, Adobe won’t do it. That’s the same economic argument used to justify Adobe CF not being free – if it was free, the same people who don’t pay for it now still don’t pay for it, but all the people who did now don’t as well.


  9. Paul Carney said:

    Tom: That argument only holds if profit is the only factor. Even if halving the price for Enterprise only increased sales by 1/2, the profit in the short term will decrease, but there will be more people using the Enterprise version and looking seriously at items like Live Cycle and other options that Adobe will deliver.

    If they want to make CF the powerhouse that it is, then it needs to be in more hands. Otherwise, they are open to competitors coming in with high-powered, Enterprise-level servers with similar capability but at a cheaper cost. I believe that it is in Adobe’s best interest to commit to a long-term market strategy with CF rather than a short-term profitability view.


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