Salesforce.com's deal with Adobe Systems linking Adobe Flash to the Salesforce.com Force.com cloud application platform could help better establish Force.com as an entity separate from the company's core online CRM platform.
The deal involves provision of a unified development environment, Adobe Flash Builder for Force.com, for more easily deploying Flash applications on Force.com. The environment is expected to be used for applications to extend Salesforce.com CRM applications, to build business applications or websites and to build desktop applications that can run outside of a browser.
"We think this will drive a wider [use] of Force.com," said Eric Stahl, director of product marketing at Salesforce.com. The three-year-old Force.com platform currently has 63,000 customers who have built 120,000 applications.
A current user of Force.com agreed. The Adobe endeavor "will widen a lot of eyes around what Force.com can do," said Adam Wiebe, managing partner with Infowelders, which offers a hosted professional services application on Force.com that is not tied to the Salesforce.com CRM application. The company also provides its Infowelders Revenue Heat Map on the Salesforce.com AppExchange online application store. Revenue Heat Map is linked to the Salesforce.com CRM system and visualises past and future revenues.
The Adobe-Salesforce.com arrangement calls for using Flash on the front end of the application and Salesforce.com's Apex programming language on the back end. Developers could access the Force.com database. They also would use Adobe Flash development technologies including MXML and ActionScript.
An Adobe official sees the deal with Salesforce.com as a way to make Force.com more mainstream. Force.com, said Dave Gruber, group manager with the Adobe platform business unit, has been well respected by Salesforce.com users but has had a lack of visibility and a lack of tooling for deploying applications to the cloud.
"This solution provides a very mature tool offering," Gruber said.
"This will open up a new audience for the Force.com [platform]," which would be the Adobe Flex developer base, he said. The Flex framework is part of the Flash platform. Gruber said he sees applications being built ranging from mobile workforce applications to inventory management and supplier and manufacturing related applications.
"The other big use case of this offering will be for the Salesforce.com installed base to add rich data visualisation to their applications and extend those applications with richer workflow," said Gruber.
Force.com is being looked at more than just as a CRM extender, according to Eric Knipp, senior research analyst at Gartner. "Increasingly, companies are looking at Force.com as a way to develop applications that may not be tied to [CRM]," he said. But these companies probably did find out about Force.com through associations with the CRM platform, Knipp said.
The Adobe-Salesforce.com arrangement "presents a client/server style for Internet development," with Flash as the client and Force.com as the server, he said.
"I'm looking forward to seeing how Microsoft reacts," to the arrangement, Knipp said. Unlike Salesforce.com and Adobe, Microsoft has both a cloud platform, with Windows Azure, and a rich Internet platform, Silverlight, under the same roof, said Knipp.
The Adobe-Salesforce.com tie-up makes sense from a developer led business perspective, said analyst James Governor, of Redmonk.
"Salesforce.com is now 10 years old, so while it's a web app, it's very much 1.0," Governor said. "In order to ensure its 2.0 story for Force.com, Salesforce wanted a solid rich internet application development experience. Adobe is a natural partner."
Another analyst, Jeff Kaplan, managing director of Thinkstrategies, did not view the deal as an effort to jumpstart Force.com. "However, it is part of their joint effort to make enterprise applications easier to develop and use," Kaplan said.
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