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Adobe: It's About the User Experience, Even in the Enterprise

Big announcements coming out of the annual Adobe MAX conference, underway this week in L.A. Lots of talk about the "multiscreen revolution," of course, and how to get your apps and your content to work across PCs, smart phones, tablets and TVs. Adobe is touting its Flash platform as well as HTML5 for Web sites, digital publishing, online video, gaming and even enterprise apps.

The list of announcements at this event is a long one. The company is extending its AIR runtime into this new cross-screen world. AIR 2.5 now supports smart phones and tablets built on Android, iOS, and BlackBerry Tablet OS, as well as desktop OSes. Samsung says that it's going to be the first television manufacturer to ship Adobe AIR in its SmartTV devices; RIM, Motorola, Acer, HTC, Samsung and others handset makers are planning to ship AIR on smart phones starting this year and in early 2011. The company is launching a new service, dubbed Adobe InMarket, which aims to allow developers to easily distribute and sell their applications on app stores across different device types from Acer, Intel and others.

There's also an upcoming digital publishing suite built on Adobe's Creative Suite and InDesign CS5, which the company is pitching to major magazine publishers as the digital publishing tool they need to move from dead-tree tech to the tablet.

But it's the unveiling of version 2.5 of Adobe's LiveCycle Enterprise Suite that should wiggle the antennae of enterprise developers. LiveCycle ES2.5 is designed to provide "a standard toolset and methodology for design, modeling and development of user-centric enterprise RIAs," the company says in its press release. This release adds process management, data capture and content services to mobile devices, enhances the framework for building enterprise RIAs, andd lets developers to embed real-time social components into their apps -- things like chat, voice, video, screen and application-sharing features.

What strikes me about this year's event is the confidence at Adobe that the enterprise truly understands the importance of the user experience (UX), both for its customers and its employees. It has sort of become a given.

"All of these releases springboard from a set of conversations that we've been having with our customers," Adobe's UX guy, Ben Watson, told me last week during a conference preview call. "Those conversations led us not only to uncover and productize repeatable solutions that are built on top of our enterprise platform, but to help our enterprise customers to bring user experience to the forefront of their application development and delivery mandate."

Somewhere in all the marketing-speak, Watson is making an important point: Adobe's enterprise customers are making the UX a priority, not just for their customers, but for their employees.

"We've seen an incredible explosion in the focus on the user experience," Watson said. "It seems that the social and general consumer Web sites have led people to be increasingly frustrated with complex and unnecessarily sophisticated interfaces that are plunked on top of enterprise systems. I think everybody is coming together and recognizing that sticking people with legacy enterprise software with a clumsy and awkward interface is counterproductive."

Watson argues that user-centric design -- the end-to-end focus on the user experience -- ultimately can unlock the ROI in the legacy systems by making them easier to use, but can also serve as a kind of insurance on new systems, making sure that they're more quickly adopted with less training, used by happier employees, and ultimately by more satisfied customers.

Adobe MAX 2010 runs through Wednesday, October 27.

Posted by John K. Waters on October 25, 2010