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Monday, February 25, 2008

Adobe AIR launches

Adobe Systems on Monday is set to finally release Adobe Integrated Environment software, which is on the leading edge of a movement to make Web applications act more like traditional desktop applications.

At the company's Engage event in San Francisco on rich Internet application design, executives will announce the availability of AIR 1.0, a free download for Windows and Macintosh.

The wall between the web and your computer continues to crumble with today’s launch of Adobe AIR, a runtime environment that allows you to deploy Internet applications on the desktop. AIR has already been available in public testing mode for several months, but the official launch should lead to greater usage — and, if we’re lucky, a flood of innovative web/desktop hybrids.

AIR offers a “best of both worlds” approach, says Michele Turner, an Adobe vice president of product management and marketing. Web developers can use the technologies they’re used to, such as HTML and Ajax, and the applications can be built quickly and accessed remotely. But, like a desktop program, AIR apps can also read and write local files, as well as work with other applications on your computer.

AIR’s official launch puts it ahead of competitors JavaFX and Mozilla Prism, which are still in development or public testing. (Many think of Microsoft Silverlight as a competitor, but that’s a misconception, Turner says, because it’s a browser plug-in, not a desktop environment.)

Adobe is also releasing Adobe Flex 3, a tool for building Flash applications. Like AIR, Flex is already available in public testing mode. Components of the Flex software developer kit were already open source, but the release means the Flex SDK is now completely open.

A number of big financial players will use Adobe AIR to keep customers up-to-date about site news and account status, including as eBay, Deutsche Bank and NASDAQ. Cable TV children’s channel Nickelodeon has created a video jigsaw puzzle application, and The New York Times is using AIR to build the desktop component of ShifD, which will allow Times readers to move newspaper content back-and-forth between their computers and their mobile devices.

Start-ups are already making use of AIR too. For example, Unknown Vector used AIR to build its desktop video player (our coverage), and Acesis, which launched at last month’s DEMO, a medical records software, based parts of its medical records software in AIR (our coverage).

Adobe today announced the availability of its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) cross-operating system for taking rich Internet applications (RIA) to the desktop.

Adobe also released Flex 3, an open-source development tool set aimed at helping developers build RIAs.

AIR is a runtime environment for building RIAs in Adobe Flash, HTML and AJAX. The product includes the Safari WebKit browser engine, SQLite local database functionality, and APIs that support desktop features such as native drag and drop and network awareness.

Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. and the American Cancer Society are among several organizations running beta versions of AIR to bridge the gap between the Web and the desktop. Both said they turned to the technology because it doesn't require that developers learn new skills.

"AIR takes the capabilities of Flex and Flash and extends that to the desktop," said David Wadhwani, general manager and vice president of Adobe's platform business unit. "With the release of AIR, we've expanded our developer base to the millions of AJAX and HTML developers of the world."

Wadhwani added that FedEx Corp. has developed an AIR application to track packages in real time on the desktop, and Deutsche Bank AG is using AIR to provide alerts about financial transactions.

In addition, business intelligence software vendor Business Objects SA has been working with Adobe to develop reports on transactional data that run in AIR and can be e-mailed to multiple users who can then access live feeds from those reports to do an analysis, he said.

Adobe also released Flex Builder 3, its commercial Eclipse-based plug-in for developing RIAs. Flex Builder 3 integrates with Adobe's Creative Suite 3 set of tools to make it easier for designers and developers to work together, Adobe said. It will be available in two versions: The standard edition is $249, while the professional version costs $699.

Finally, Adobe also made available its BlazeDS open-source tool that promises to help developers boost the data transfer capabilities and performance of RIAs. BlazeDS is made up of components from Adobe's LiveCycle Data Services suite.

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