There has been a lot of talk lately about RIAs in the enterprise which is great to see because one area where a better user experience can make a huge difference is in these big companies. The first article is one in InfoWorld which talks about SAPs recent moves with both Microsoft and Adobe to make their interfaces better. The first part of the news was that SAP and Microsoft will be upgrading Duet, an add in for Microsoft Office that gives Office users a hook into SAPs back end system. SAP is also looking to use Adobe's Flex technology to provide a Flex front end for a lot of SAPs applications. James Governor had the best quote of the article which I think can be applied to a lot of enterprise applications:
"Anything that improves SAP's interfaces, which are hideous and hard to use, is a good thing," said James Governor, an industry analyst with RedMonk.
Enterprise companies like SAP have a lot of power at their disposal. Their software does actually help run the world. But as computing as advanced, and user experience expectations have risen (something RIAs have helped) those companies are finding that their customers demand better, more usable interfaces. A lot of people see a better UI as fluff, but enterprises don't tend to waste money on fluff which I think helps prove the competitive advantage that RIAs provide.
The second post is more of a general news item by BEA who is using Flex as their front end as well. It's cool for Flex but I think the most important aspect is the move by a number of companies in creating better UI front ends. RIAs have always created great experiences but for the most part they've gained traction with the consumer. If you take a look at the benefits RIAs provide however, you'll see that there are some very useful synergies with Software as a Service and a general Service Oriented Architecture strategy.
For the most part RIAs are back end agnostic and are about building better interfaces. With all of the time/energy/money that has gone into creating powerful backends, the investment on the UI side dropped off. But this is a perfect case of the consumer side and the enterprise side coming together for mutual benefit. The fact that BEA and SAP have figured that out is great news for everyone.