Salesforce.com and Adobe Systems on Monday announced Flash Builder for Force.com, an IDE (integrated development environment) for building rich Internet applications deployable through browsers and on desktops.
The Eclipse-based IDE provides more than 100 reusable user interface components, charting and animation capabilities, and an integration with Adobe's LiveCycle Data Services that allows developers to sync data from Salesforce.com's Force.com platform with a client-side data store.
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A developer preview is now available, with a general release scheduled for the first half of next year. Pricing hasn't been finalized but will be licensed on a per-seat basis. Adobe will provide first-line support, said Dave Gruber, group product manager.
The companies are painting the pairing as giving developers "the best of both worlds," and expect three main uses for the tool.
Some Salesforce.com customers will use it to add better visuals to their existing applications. As one example, the companies demonstrated a "revenue heat map" of the U.S. that surfaces data from Salesforce.com through an Adobe front end.
Other companies will build entirely new applications, and another group will use the technology to offline capabilities to their Force.com-based software, they said.
For example, Adobe and Salesforce.com demonstrated one application that allowed pharmaceutical sales representatives to access customer and marketing information while offline and make changes, and then update the changes to Force.com once back online.
The new IDE isn't meant to replace Salesforce.com's existing development tools, said Eric Stahl, senior director of product marketing.
The vendor's Force.com IDE is still used to create custom objects, develop workflow rules, and "all the kind of things that need to happen in the guts of the application," he said.
Developers may also choose to simply embed Flash components into UIs built with Salesforce.com's VisualForce toolset, but in other cases will strip that layer out entirely in favor of Adobe technology, Gruber said.
For years, Salesforce.com has touted Force.com as a full-blown enterprise application development platform. The partnership with Adobe doesn't represent a retreat from such claims, Stahl said.
"When people build applications, they take their project, figure out what technologies they need to bring to bear. Very rarely is it one single product from one single company," he said.
Adobe's emerging rival in the rich Internet application space is Microsoft's Silverlight.
While Silverlight is already "quite viable," it's understandable that Salesforce.com would align itself with Flash, said Michael Coté, an analyst with Redmonk. "Flash is still the leader in this area simply because [Adobe has] been there so long."
However, he added, "you can tell Microsoft is hell-bent on catching up. .... Microsoft will close that gap pretty quickly."