With upgrades to its Flash Builder, Flex, and AIR application development technologies Monday, Adobe Systems is taking a decidedly mobile bent.
Adobe will introduce preview releases of the next versions of its Flash Builder development environment, the Flex development framework, and Flash Catalyst design tool. Expanding the reach of these products to new form factors, particularly Flex and Flash Builder, is Adobe's intent. The three tools are used for building applications that run in the Flash Player or Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR). Additionally, version 2.5 of AIR, which backs mobile devices, will be released this week and is considered a lynchpin of Adobe's multiscreen efforts.
"The point of these releases [of Flex, Flash Builder, and Flash Catalyst] is to be able to build apps for multiple screens, including Web, desktop, mobile, and set-top box TVs," said Dave Gruber, group product manager for creative and interactive solutions at Adobe.
"We're going to deliver a common development framework, that's Flex and a common software development environment, that's Flash Builder, that allows developers to create apps that run across all these difference environments. The benefit is that it saves developers time and allows them to get applications to market faster," said Gruber.
Without these tools, developers must write separate applications for the different form factors and learn different languages and use different tools, he said.
For mobile development, Flex will support Google Android, Research in Motion BlackBerry, and Apple iOS, which runs on devices like the iPhone. Although iOS does not support Flash, developers can take the Flash application and, via the Packager tool, compile a native code application to work on iOS.
The Flash Builder preview will add mobile development tooling, including a design view environment for mobile applications. "Not only can you design mobile applications, but you also can debug, preview, and profile applications on connected devices," said Gruber.
Developers using Flex and Flash can build such applications as self-service systems or applications that work with business-to-business and business-to-consumer apps.
General releases of the Flash Builder and Flex SDK upgrades are planned for 2011.
Mobile "is a huge focus right now for Adobe," said analyst Melissa Webster of IDC. With the recent release of Flash Player 10.1, Adobe seeks to get the player on everything except iOS, where it is prohibited, Webster said. Flash Player is presently only available on Android; WebOS is due to add Flash support when it ships in the coming weeks, and Research in Motion says it will support Flash Player on the BlackBerry soon. Windows Phone 7 does not presently support Flash Player, but Microsoft says that support may be added in the future.
"Accelerating Flash Player 10.1 adoption is a big area for them," Webster said.
Key to Adobe's efforts is AIR 2.5, which enables the use of a common framework and tooling to run applications across multiple devices. "Without AIR, that wouldn't be possible," Gruber said. Enabling Flash applications to run outside of a browser, AIR adds support for smartphones and tablets based on Android, iOS, and BlackBerry Tablet OS. It also works with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux desktops.
Also, Adobe will introduce a pre-release of its Flash Catalyst design tool with bidirectional capabilities for moving items between Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder.
"Previously, you could only move projects from Catalyst to Flash Builder," Gruber said.
In the LiveCycle space, Adobe will launch LiveCycle Enterprise Suite 2.5. LiveCycle features development tools and servers for building applications that connect back-end systems to Flash and mobile clients. Users can access enterprise systems, such as SAP and Oracle ERP or transaction systems.
Also accommodating multiple screens, version 2.5 expands support for mobile devices, enabling device users to capture data, fill in a form, and append information. Previously, users only could have a task assigned to them.
"Now, you can browse content, you can initiate tasks and requests," said Sydney Sloan, director of Adobe LiveCycle product and solution marketing. "You can capture data."
Adobe also is announcing its next generation of "Solution Accelerators" for LiveCycle, featuring repeatable solution templates plus the LiveCycle suite. Previously, these were open source, but now they are productized and fully supported by Adobe.
Solution Accelerators being released include: Correspondence Management, for personalized communications; Interactive Statements, for building communications via secure PDF; and Managed Review & Solution Approval, for content review processes.
LIveCycle solutions typically start in price at $50,000 and above. Version 2.5 is available Monday.
Adobe also is introducing its Adobe InMarket Service to help developers link up with application stores. Initially, only application stores from Intel, Samsung, and Acer will be supported, rather than more prominent stores from companies like Google and Apple.
"We don't have agreements with the other app stores yet," Gruber said. ""We expect to [have] 10 more app stores in place by 2011."
Adobe is making these announcements at the Adobe Max conference in Los Angeles.