Enterprise Apps

Free Adobe Tools Aim to Ease Salesforce.com App Dev

Adobe and Salesforce.com on Monday announced a partnership with Adobe to release the Adobe Flex Toolkit for Apex, a free set of programming tools that combine Adobe’s Flex technology for rich Internet application development with the Salesforce.com Apex platform for building on-demand, hosted applications.

The tools allow access to Apex Web services APIs (application programming interfaces), which can enable developers to quickly create Web applications for their Salesforce.com deployments, both companies said.

The new tool is available now for download at the Apex Developer Network.

Technology Mashup

Developers can make Flex-based applications available on the Salesforce.com AppExchange application directory and deploy them in an on-demand fashion, according to the companies.

The Flex Toolkit for Apex lets “developers create new on-demand business applications that are more capable, easier to use and more compelling than their software-only alternatives,” said Adam Gross, vice president, developer marketing at Salesforce.com.

Independent software vendors (ISVs) and customers can build applications that look like desktop applications but are Web applications, Gross noted.

“They can run on the same Flash technology that’s of course already ubiquitous. It’s really a mashup between the two technologies,” he said, referring to Apex and Flex.

“I think this ups the ante for anyone building customer-facing applications,” Denis Pombriant, principal with the Beagle Research Group, told CRM Buyer.

“Although the on-demand movement has been around for about eight years, the idea of on-demand development and deployment by ISVs is a relatively new phenomenon. I think Salesforce.com was the first killer application for on-demand, but for on-demand to really penetrate enterprise computing, it’s going to have to deliver something more than cost savings for the simple reason that legacy systems will cost a lot to convert or replace,” Pombriant said.

“Adding greater usability through these tools provides a way to make even legacy replacements — as well as new applications for new processes — more appealing and appeal might be the ‘killer app’ for on-demand,” he noted.

The Apex platform’s embedded mashup features allow developers to insert services and content from the Web within the native Salesforce.com user interface. The Flex Toolkit is designed to let developers embed a drag-and-drop, rich media and desktop application look and feel within Apex applications.

Plug and Play Apps

Because these Flex components of Apex applications are based on Web-browser technology, they can be deployed without any additional software or infrastructure, and even packaged and redistributed on the AppExchange, according to Adobe.

“Flex and Apex are a perfect match,” Jeff Whatcott, vice president of product marketing for the Enterprise and Developer Business Unit at Adobe, told CRM Buyer.

The Flex Toolkit for Apex will streamline development work. “We’re entering an era in which developers can deliver truly rich enterprise applications on-demand, across platforms, both in the browser and directly on the desktop using the forthcoming Apollo runtime,” he added.

“We’ve always cared a lot about the user interface but that usually translated into utilitarian values of ease of use, ease of locating items, reduction of key or mouse clicks and the like,” explained Beagle Research’s Pombriant.

“As the definition of a user enlarges — for example, in more robust self-service and e-commerce applications — we are faced with the reality that a larger pool of users will have less consistent computer skills. The applications they use will increasingly need to go the extra mile to serve, entertain and delight the user. This results in a lot of new demands that potentially put a great deal of overhead on the software developer. So, it’s nice to see tools that simplify this work.”

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