IMHO comparing the merits of Flex and Laszlo are relevant.  They work in the
same space to solve the same problem with the same technology.

On the otherhand, while AJAX(J)(F) solutions work in the same space they
require a different mix of technology including a significantly different
view technology; Flash requires the proprietary Flash player (VM) while AJAX
uses the browser's own script engine.

So the comparison between Flex/Laszlo and AJAX is not quite apples to
apples; more a discussion about fruit in general.

One consideration at this level of generalization is if you already have a
web application which platform is easier to integrate, Flex/Laszlo or AJAX.
In my experience it has always been easier to integrate AJAX and AJAX is far
less intrusive and creates less dependencies than Flex/Laszlo.

If you are starting at ground zero then the discussion may be different but
in my experience it would still depend on exactly what you were doing.

The curve for AJAX can be low and will depend on your expectations or what
you are willing to trade off.  The curve will be higher as your
expectations/specifications become more sophisticated not only because your
Javascript skills will need to improve but also because you will need to
master DOM and CSS to fully realize your interface.  Use of Open Source
Libraries like Dojo or Scriptaculous can help provide GUI widgets ranging
from functional to just fun (BTW OpenLaszlo now ships with Dojo and can
output components directly to DHTML).

The skillset for Flex/Laszlo is not unlike that for mastering Swing/SWT.  To
make the most of it especially from an integration standpoint you need to
know Java and be able to learn the components provided for by the
Flex/Laszlo platform.  Curiously though, to get the most from the client
side you are going to need ActionScript which is ECMA-262 aka Javascript.

In otherwords to some extent you are going to learn Javascript to get the
most from either technology.

So what does the matrix look like?
In terms of reusable components Flex/Laszlo are ahead of AJAX although
libraries like Dojo and Scriptaculous not to mention the whole OO revolution
in Javascript (GWT and Yahoo) is quickly closing this gap.  One thing to
consider it that Flex is not open source so if you find a bug or need
customization your options are limited.  This is why I prefer Laszlo.

For those that need multimedia Flash is a great client for streaming media
and vector animation.  BUT Flex/Laszlo does not include a streaming media
server and the Flash Media Server is an expensive addition.  You don't need
FMS for streaming media to the client but Adobe/Macromedia likes you to
think you do.  What's more the .flv files (Flash audio/video) are a
proprietary format.  IMO you can get the same functionality with better
quality using the Apple QuickTime Streaming Server or its open source
equivalent Darwin Streaming Server (I also think you will see more about QT
server strategy from Apple when it comes out with its home media center in

I will say that if you have tried programming with JMF, Flex/Laszlo appear
to be a no brainer.

In almost all cases there is an alternative in AJAX for each one of the
technologies provided by Flex/Flash, except one; server-to-client

Server-to-client communication is the ability for the server to initiate
communication to the client.  In reality it works by having an open port
between the Flash client and Flex server which can be used by either party
to send and receive asynchronously.  A web browser on the other hand uses
HTTP which is a request-receive protocol and once the information has been
received the line of communication is closed.

Why is asynchronous server-to-client protocol so important.  Because it is
the basis for collaborative environments where the server can provide a
shared environment to multiple remote clients (i.e. Chat, live online
learning environments, product demonstrations, JUG meetings...;) where all
clients can participate equally.

At this time AJAX uses HTTP 1.0 persistent connections and/or polling
schemes informally known as Comet but nothing as robust as the RTMP/AMF
protocol found in Flash.

Providing collaborative environments from Flex is possible but to get all
the bells and whistles at the level of comfort you are accustomed to if you
are a Flex client you will purchase a Breeze license (mucho $$).

I do not deny that Flex is powerful platform and if you are going to build
collaborative environments it is even more compelling.

One final note is both AJAX and Flex ability to do mashups or access remote
APIs via XML-RPC and REST.  If you were going to build a webapp which needed
a Google map or YouTube video you should be able to do it in both (although
I haven't tried a Google map in Flash).  This is the next frontier.

my $0.02


Remote APIs:

Flex Beta 2.0 vs. Laszlo :

Some of the Flex/Laszlo are old but nothing recent has been written.  

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