What is the Adobe Enterprise Platform?

I’ve often wondered why it seems so difficult to give an elevator pitch about what Adobe provides in the enterprise space – specifically in regards to . I think it’s less of an issue for Flex. Christophe has refined and posted a very succinct description about how Flex can transform the user experience on the web. However, when it comes to LiveCycle, there still seems to be quite a bit of confusion.  In my opinion, one of the main contributing factors to this confusion is the use of the word “platform”. I’ve heard some people refer to Adobe LiveCycle as a platform, while others define Reader/PDF as a platform. I believe that if you view LiveCycle as a platform, then that would explain why it would be difficult to describe LiveCycle in an elevator pitch. Duane also has an interesting take on this here.    

A software platform is one or more programming interfaces that are used to build an application or solution. If we stop at this simple definition, then LiveCycle is technically a platform… But it’s certainly not that simple.

What is a platform without users?

Just because the software vendor declares their software is a platform, that does not make it so. For software to be truly considered to be a platform, it must be ubiquitous. Why would a developer build an application based on a platform that is not readily available and he or she needs to worry about the runtime being installed? 

A platform needs developers!

If Java only attracted a couple hundred developers, we wouldn’t really call it a platform now would we? A platform needs developers, lots of them. People that build cool and useful things that attract other developers. A critical mass of developers ensures the adoption of the software as a platform.

After considering the above, the platform is in fact Flash Player and Reader. Without these, nothing else matters. As we all know, both Flash and Reader are among the most widely available applications – period. We also know that the number of developers that build application on top of this platform is staggering. Therefore, LiveCycle, Flex and ColdFusion are a collection of tooling and services created by Adobe that enable developers to build robust applications and solutions that can be accessed by the millions of people that own the platform.

So, an elevator pitch for LiveCycle would focus on Reader / PDF as a platform upon which LiveCycle provides three categories of tools and services:   

  • Process Automation: Take advantage of Reader as a ubiquitous rich client to access existing enterprise infrastructures. Everything from simple form-based data collection to fully automated applications.
  • Information Assurance: Given that PDF is the defacto standard for archival as well as paper replacement, enable organizations to reliably secure and control their documents.
  • Document Generation: Countless numbers of PDFs get created each day, not all of them manually. Also, some organizations are required to follow rules on how theirs PDFs must be created.

The decision on what LiveCycle components are required completely depends on what you want to enable Reader to do within your solution. 

Until now, Flash Player and Reader have been separate platforms doing their own thing and doing it well. Kevin Lynch does a great job of explaining the Flash platform here. The same principals apply to Reader and LiveCycle. What I think will blow everyone’s socks off is the when we start using these previously separate platforms as one. The ultra-rich experience of SWF combined with the portability and trustworthiness of PDF will enable organizations to go where they haven’t even imagined possible. Sure, you can build a hybrid application that uses both Flash Player and Reader – however, it’s the power of combining LiveCycle services with Flex and ColdFusion that will alter the way applications will engage it’s users.   

In addition to Apollo, there are some really exciting things that Adobe developers are working on. Stay tuned! 

The future is so bright, we just might have to wear shades :o)

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