Review: Adobe Delivers Web 2.0 Sizzle, But Can it Serve Up Enterprise App Steak - InformationWeek

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Review: Adobe Delivers Web 2.0 Sizzle, But Can it Serve Up Enterprise App Steak

Adobe's portfolio can help you add Web 2.0 style rich graphics, interactivity and multimedia functionality, but does it offer the data-connectivity and beefy support enterprise developers need to do their jobs? Here's a closer look at the matrix of capabilities.

It's not easy for IT shops to get on top of tools for developing Rich Internet Applications (RIAs). Developers are often excited about the wiz-bang features, but managers may be skeptical — with good reason. The market is confusing; almost every tool vendor is hawking one approach or another. Not many of them are ready for the enterprise.

This review looks at a matrix of products from one of the RIA leaders, Adobe, long known for its powerhouse creative software (Photoshop, Illustrator and so on) but less well known for its software development tools. This lack of recognition should change. Adobe is in a special position with its broad and multidimensional approach to developing Rich Internet Apps. Still, it's fair to ask, "How well does Adobe address the needs of the enterprise?"

Talk About an Ecosystem

For the most part, Rich Internet Applications are built for the Web, and "rich" implies a high(er) level of graphical user interfaces, interactivity and use of multimedia. RIAs are about presentation and user-oriented software, not about hardware drivers, server-side apps or back-end data management. This is an important distinction because Adobe brings to the table an overwhelming background in graphics and multimedia, but not so much in the way of back-end software development experience.

The nexus of RIA development is in three Adobe products, Flash, Flex and AIR, and they are part of an ecosystem of increasingly integrated Adobe creative products. Some of the products provide content, such as Acrobat for document formatting and collaboration, Photoshop for image manipulation, and Illustrator for drawing. Other products, such as Dreamweaver and Fireworks, are for Web site production and management. Yet other products, such as Bridge and Version Cue, provide integration services.

Together under the umbrella moniker of Adobe Creative Suite 3, there are some 18 products that provide a unique content supply system and Web site framework for applications developed in Flash, Flex, or AIR. No other software company has this much depth on the creative side, although Microsoft is mounting a challenge with its Expression Studio and the Silverlight engine.

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