Adobe is emerging to
an enterprise application platform through the backdoor.

Just coming back from Adobe’s Max conference, I’d like to
share a major impression. Adobe is actually maturing to a vendor of software
development tools. Having the roots in creative tools like Photoshop and
Illustrator, their main target group was and continues to be the creative
people working on cool design. However, the product portfolio goes far beyond
this. More and more developers of serious business applications like ERP apps
and custom apps, share the same pain. Their original vendor thought that
business apps have nothing to do with fun.

Forrester explored with several reports the phenomena of
“Tech Populisms” where people adopt IT in a new form of social media and Web
2.0 experience in their private life. This significantly raised the
expectations of UI experience for business applications and is part of the
upcoming Dynamic Business Applications paradigm as a new trend for enterprise
applications at work.

Adobe realizes this increased interest of Java and .Net
developer and appreciates their requests with many new features recently
announced on their annual conference.

The flash programming
model is still different


While most traditional programming environments have a clear
separation of Run time and design time experience, Adobe’s flash development is
a pretty visually driven creative approach, where you can deep dive into code,
but in more a more case you don’t have to any more. This blurs the design time
/ runtime seperation significantly. A creative media asset like an Illustrator
file is handled similarly to an interaction mapping in an business application
user interface. Adobe dedicated even a new product in the creative suite called
Catalyst (former codename Thermo) to codeless interaction design.

Personal creativity is the major differentiator of traditional
users of Adobe’s tools. In contrast productivity drives today’s application
developer’s success. Adobe improved significantly in this area with much better
interoperability between the Adobe tools and the major other IDEs. Even the
long time hidden coldfusion server-side product is ready for its revival with
an IDE in Eclipse and a Java-byte-code based runtime deployment. Adobe talks
about a workflow of creative assets between tools and different developer
roles. Developer with a code driven background would understand this import
message much easier, if the vendor would talk about application life cycle
management (ALM).

Adobe is not there with a full ALM capability, but is moving
with amazing speed under the radar of the major app dev platform vendors. Some
of the exciting new capabilities are for example roundtrip engineering between
interactions “designed” by a graphics focused person (Catalyst) and “coded” by
a traditional flash developer. Further on, unit tests and debugging
capabilities are a “must have” capabilities of real application development and
will be shipped soon.


Gambo, the next generation of flex builder, has even some
PHP support, talks to backend connections created in Visual Studio and will
support data-grids with default interactions not only to coldfusion.
Developer’s big mash-up center today is Eclipse and Adobe is not afraid of
developers who install the Adobe plug-in side by side with other UI paradigms.
They also realize that AJAX RIAs are more appropriate to certain user personas than
flash or AIR and continue to develop AJAX support in Dreamweaver.

Bottom Line

The Macromedia acquisition changed the corporate culture
significantly and is now fully unfold. Adobe is pretty open. Developer can look
in upcoming specs or vote in a public bug base for higher priority on certain
fixes based on their individual benefit.

What it means for
software vendors:

The organic growth will not be enough to win the fight against Microsoft. While
Redmond tries
to be the new challenger in the creative arena, Adobe is now ready for business
applications. They realized that people with a code development background
rather than a creative background are looking at different capabilities of the
development IDE. The announced features will attract more Java and .Net
developer to check this platform out as an alternative or even as their new
home. It is even a new option as an exclusive UI for ERP vendors. As long as
SAP restricts their use of Adobe to some areas like forms management and Business
Object’s BI dashboards but still continue their traditional GUI for the
mainstream, such a move is a strong differentiator for every medium size

Stefan Ried