Yesterday, Adobe hosted Engage an invitation only event at which it showcased some of the cool things developers are doing with Flex, Flash and AIR. Robert Scoble was there with his N95 and a Qik account, filming the entire day. Despite it being a closed event, Adobe made no effort to stop him filming. Thanks Robert. It gives the rest of us insights into what was going on. I was interested in what Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com had to say.
Early on, he talked about stored procedures and triggers. Woah! That means underneath all the hype around Salesforce as some sort of revolutionary environment is the reality that it's a good ol' fashioned Oracle database application. That's one of the world's worst kept enterprise 'secrets' but even so, hearing Benioff utter the words was worth tuning into the recording.
Later, Benioff demonstrated and discussed different Salesforce.com applications with Steven Fisher, SVP of Force.com platform. What's interesting is that in showing a field service example from Dolby cinemas, Salesforce.com is now talking about offline applications running on AIR. Others may know better but this is the first time I've seen the company drift away from the 'no software' mantra, suggesting that while there are plenty of occasions when online is appropriate, there are still occasions when an offline application makes more sense.
During the dog and pony show, Benioff announced the company has released Force.com Toolkit for Adobe AIR and Flex freely available at http://developer.force.com/. Benioff was careful to make sure the audience understood that all the business logic and underlying infrastructure is running in the Salesforce.com cloud but that it is only the AIR client that is offline. Even so, this represents a departure from past stated strategy.
During the Q&A with Kevin Lynch, CTO at Adobe, Benioff said the reason behind the move is because: "There is tremendous pressure on CIO's to move to a Web 2.0 environment to give end users the kind of capabilities or applications like you saw (AIR) here. So the real question is how do you do it and how do you do it fast and with no risk." He then went on to talk about how the new technologies are allowing Salesforce.com to move much more quickly than in the past. In doing so, Benioff referenced a new content management system the company is developing that uses tags rather than folders and which he positioned against Documentum.
An interesting aside during the discussion was Benioff's comparison of applications running on AIR and some client requirements to run additional applications or data centers on top of native Salesforce.com. In those environments, Benioff said that high reliability and performance has to 'drop off' but implied that with AIR, this is not the case because the apps can all run in the native Salesforce.com environment.
Finally, Benioff topped off his presentation and discussion by confirming the company has no plans to work with Microsoft Silverlight at this time.