Salesforce.com is offering Force.com as an online platform where developers familiar with the Salesforce.com database environment can build applications that resemble Salesforce.com's CRM in application style. It provides a limited number of tools there, such as Apex, a Java-like business logic language, and VisualForce for building HTML-based end user interfaces.
As of Monday that platform gets additional tooling, Adobe Flash Builder for Force.com. In effect, all the capabilities of the Flash Player will be available as components for user interfaces in the Force.com environment. Applications built there will run on Salesforce.com servers in Salesforce.com data centers -- in other words, in the Salesforce.com-branded cloud. They can be linked in that environment to Salesforce.com CRM and other applications and make use of Salesforce.com database services.
"This will make it fast and easy to build these kinds of rich Internet applications, and rich CRM extensions," said Eric Stahl, senior director of Force.com. It will also be easier to build non-Salesforce oriented applications as well.
For example, developers may use Adobe Flash Builder for Force.com to build drag-and-drop features into their user interface, something that's not possible when restricted to HTML code. Flash Builder will include Adobe's Flex user interface components, already familiar to many Web application developers as a prevalent rich user interface building tools.
Buttons that react when clicked on by a user, pull down menus, all the tricks of the graphical user interface will start to be built into custom cloud applications, which has previously been more fixed and static, predicted Dave Gruber, group product marketing manager for the Flash Platform business unit.
Flash Builder for Force.com can make use of sophisticated graphics, charts and visualizations, for use in custom decision support systems and other applications. In addition, what are typically many steps in a cloud application as one HTML page replaces another, can become single page concentrations of multiple steps, speeding the user interaction, he added.
The combination of Adobe user interface tools and the Force.com platform brings a more formidable competitor to the fore shortly before Microsoft is scheduled to launch its own Azure cloud platform, loaded with rich user interface tools and interactive features.
Adobe has been competing effectively with Microsoft from its nearly ubiquitous Flash platform in building Web applications to run under Windows. By teaming up with Salesforce.com, Flash gains greater entre to cloud computing as well. Microsoft is set to launch Azure Nov. 16 in Los Angeles at Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference.
The developer preview version of Flash Builder for Force.com is available Monday. The generally available version is expected in the first half of 2010.
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