Adobe Systems, facing greater competition from Microsoft, is updating its Flash platform with new tools for building user interfaces for Web and enterprise applications.
At its AdobeMax conference in San Francisco on Monday, Adobe will hand out a technical preview of Flash Catalyst, a new tool that aims to be a workflow system for designers and software developers creating user interfaces. Announced earlier this year under the code name Thermo, Catalyst will be released in beta early in 2009, Adobe said on Monday. It still isn't saying when the final product will ship, however.
Adobe will also give out a preview of the next major release of Flex Builder, its toolset for creating RIAs (rich Internet applications). One goal of the release, code-named Gumbo, is to attract server-side developers who are more familiar with languages like PHP and Cold Fusion. The final product is due in the second half of 2009.
Flex applications run in a browser using Adobe's Flash Player, or on the desktop in its AIR runtime environment. Rivals include Microsoft's Silverlight, VisualStudio, and Windows Presentation Foundation, and Sun Microsystems' JavaFX.
Most Flex development so far has been for the Web, but Adobe is making a push for more enterprise applications that run on the desktop in AIR. On Monday it released Air 1.5, an updated runtime that includes an encrypted database for securing data on the client. SAP will be at the show to announce that developers can use Flash and Flex with SAP's Web Dynpro environment to build better interfaces for SAP applications.
Bridging the gap between developers and designers is a big theme in the new products. With Catalyst, developers will be able to import user interface (UI) elements created by designers in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Fireworks, then convert them into UI components that maintain their original "skin," or look and feel, said David Wadhwani, general manager of Adobe's platform business unit.
Designers will still do most of their work in Adobe's creative products, he said, but will use Catalyst to define how the UI components interact as a users move through an application. The idea is to create an environment where developers and designers can collaborate more easily, instead of having to exchange files via e-mail or sitting together in front of a computer.
Catalyst could be useful addition to the Flash platform, said David Wolf, a vice president with Cynergy Systems, which develops UIs for businesses and ISVs. Getting creative types and software developers together is "like putting a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room," he said. "They just don't get along."