Business

Adobe Pushes Flash Platform for Business Apps

Adobe Systems, whose roots are in the media and publishing industries, is pushing deeper into the enterprise by promoting its Flash platform as a way to improve the stodgy user interfaces that come with most business applications.

At its Adobe Max conference in San Francisco this week, the company broadened its partnership with SAP and promoted several other companies on the show floor that are using Flex and FlashPlayer to liven up business software. The idea is to get away from static grey boxes and build more engaging interfaces that improve data visualization and make business software less monotonous to use.

SAP said it would release a library of Flex and Flash components that developers can use within Web Dynpro, SAP's environment for user interface development. It hopes they'll build interactive dashboards and charts for SAP applications, to represent data in more intuitive ways than can be done with HTML and Javascript.

SAP developers will be able to do data binding and pass events between Flex Builder and Web Dynpro without needing to be fluent in Adobe's programming models, according to SAP. They'll need to buy a copy of Flex Builder to get started, which costs US$699 for the Professional edition.

A preview of the components library will be available this week on the SAP Developer Network, with the final production release due in February, said Sanjay Katyal, vice president with SAP's global ecosystem and partner group.

SAP also has its Duet partnership with Microsoft, which provides access to SAP data through Excel and other Office applications. Customers need to decide if they want the Office compatibility that comes with Duet or the custom interfaces that can be built with Adobe's tools but which won't sync with Office, Katyal said.

Salesforce.com was also at the show, encouraging developers to build Flex and Flash front-ends for custom applications built on its Force.com platform. "For the last 20 years, enterprise software has been where innovation has gone to die," said Steve Fisher, an executive vice president with Salesforce.com, urging developers to build more engaging software.

UniversalMind used Flex to build SpatialKey, a reporting and analysis tool that lays data on top of maps to help organizations identify location-based trends. It's being used by several police departments, and UniversalMind is now offering a version to small businesses using Intuit's software-as-a-service platform, which was released earlier this year.

The Intuit Partner Platform includes a hosted database and other infrastructure services, as well as tools for tapping into the data that businesses have stored in their Quickbooks financial software. The idea is to reuse that data for other applications instead of having a separate database for customer relationship management, for example.

The UniversalMind service, called Customer Explorer from SpatialKey, is free with some basic visualization templates, and the company charges to build more sophisticated templates.

Intuit supports Adobe Flex over Microsoft's Silverlight technology because Flex has been around longer and is browser- and platform-independent, said Alex Chriss, business leader for the Intuit Partner Platform. UniversalMind does most of its work in Flex but is starting to see more demand for Silverlight, said President Brett Cortese.

Ilog is also at Adobe Max, showing an update to its Elixir product, a set of Flex add-on components for UI development. Elixir 2.0 will be released in January and adds new UI components for calendaring, Gnatt task charts, OLAP and pivotal charts, and heat maps. The software is sold by Adobe as well as by Ilog.

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