Is it just an oversight? Or a warning of things to come?
ColdFusion has transitioned from Allaire to Macromedia to Adobe, and each time it’s moved to a new company it’s become less and less strategic to that company’s goals, and a much smaller segment of that company’s overall market.
At Allaire ColdFusion was king. Macromedia, however, was seemingly more interested in selling copies of Dreamweaver and in ensuring the Flash became the ubiquitous RIA cross-browser cross-platform standard.
Adobe has similar designs for Flash, plus it’s heavily involved in promoting Acrobat, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Lightroom, and in general maintaining its lead as the platform of choice for designers, graphic artists, and photographers.
ColdFusion has also been caught in the triple crossfire between free and open-source solutions like PHP, Python, and sexy little languages like Ruby; Microsoft’s .NET platform (also free); and high-end enterprise-class solutions like IBM’s WebSphere and BEA’s WebLogic.
Younger developers tend to lean towards open-source offerings because its philosophical underpinnings are more in line with their own, and because, quite frankly, they tend to be either broke, cheap, or both. Even if they used a free development version of CF, as their logic goes, they’d still need to pony up when it became time to deploy a CF-based solution, either by buying a full copy of CF or finding a CF-based hosting solution, which typically is both harder to find and more expensive than, say, a PHP-based one.
Older developers and management tends to see Microsoft’s .NET platform as a “standard” and the safe choice, much like the old “You can’t go wrong by buying IBM” mantra. Big corporations see full-scale Java/J2EE solutions as mandatory when designing large, complex, mission-critical systems and architechures.
Further, some F/OSS solutions are pursuing the same design strategies as ColdFusion. Witness JRuby, a implementation of the popular Ruby language aimed at putting it and Ruby-on-Rails on top of a Java base, with the same type of support for interacting with and defining java classes from within Ruby.
Another potential tell-tail lies in the book market. Over the weekend, on a whim, I looked for ColdFusion books at a local Barnes and Noble store. Which had… none. There was a plethora of books on Java, PHP, C#, and other languages. About dozen titles each on Flash and Dreamweaver. But nothing on ColdFusion. The Border’s store down the street did them one better, literally, in that it had one copy of Ben’s ColdFusion Application Programming on the shelf, with pretty much the same distribution as B&N in relation to the other titles.
Not good. All in all, I see three possibilities going forward with ColdFusion:
1) Adobe, with the release of Scorpio, unleases a major advertising campaign promoting ColdFusion and its best-of-class benefits in an Apollo/Flash world. Likelyhood: 20%
2) Adobe open-sources ColdFusion, allowing it compete on an equal footing with the existing F/OSS and Microsoft solutions. Likelyhood: 10%
3) Like the elves, it diminishes, and eventually sails off into the west. Likelyhood: … well, you do the math.