Adobe delivers tools to enrich e-commerce

Adobe delivers tools to enrich e-commerce

Flex 3 and AIR officially launch today

Adobe will today add further weight to its claim to be the leader in rich internet applications (RIAs), with two major technology releases: the official launch of the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) environment and the latest version of its Flex development framework.

Adobe believes RIAs will increasingly appeal to companies as they look to provide visitors to their web sites with a more engaging experience. The vendor said RIAs could be used on e-commerce web sites to increase conversions and customer loyalty, or in enterprise environments to improve user productivity, for example.

Flex 3 is used by developers to write web applications in areas such as product configuration and data visualisation. Many of the new features in this release, such as integration with Creative Studio 3, enhancements to the design view and a visual CSS editor, are designed to foster greater collaboration between designer and developer, said Adobe’s platform evangelist Andrew Shorten.

Graeme Harker, user interface development lead at Betfair, which used Flex in the development of its site, argued that the platform enables the development of richer user interfaces and gives the online betting exchange the ability to choose from a wider pool of designers.

“It’s also a great choice because of the ubiquity of Flash on users’ desktops,” Harker added.

AIR, which has been available in beta since last June, is designed to let developers use existing technologies including Ajax and Flex to build and deploy RIAs on the desktop. This will give firms the ability to create a much richer branded experience, as there are no browser panes around content, and also allow access to data both online and offline, according to Adobe’s Shorten.

Garth Ralstone of loyalty program provider the Loyalty Management Group said his firm has used Flex 3 and AIR to build its new Self Serve retail analysis reporting system for client Sainsbury’s. “We wanted to simplify the user interface to provide actionable insight into [statistics from] 25 million to 40 million basket items a day,” he explained. “We needed engaging applications to incentivise our users to take data-based decisions rather than gut-feel decisions.”

Another early adopter, eBay, will today launch an AIR-based desktop version of its online marketplace.

James Governor of analyst firm Red Monk said the combination of Flex and AIR “creates interesting opportunities”. However, he cautioned that Adobe needs to play a role in promoting best practice for developers, so that they avoid a repeat of the late-1990s when a lot of sub-standard Flash apps were written.