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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Adobe Rolls Out Air 1.0

Adobe Systems on Monday formally released Adobe AIR, Flex 3 and BlazeDS technologies for enabling the rapid development of rich Internet applications (RIAs).

With these technologies, developers can create applications that run online or offline and across any platform.

AIR was developed under the codename of "Apollo." Its main competition for building RIAs isJavaFX from Sun Microsystems and Silverlight from Microsoft.

However, Adrian Ludwig, group product manager for Adobe AIR, noted some differences.

"Silverlight isn't on the desktop. It's more of a competitor to Flash. The key to AIR is coming from the Web to the desktop. Compared to JavaFX, we delivered something. We're out there. JavaFX is not," he told

Indeed, the ability to develop a Web-based application and then use that exact same code to create a desktop application—no rewrite necessary—is a key selling point on AIR.
It's designed to be cross-platform, as Java is, requiring a just-in-time compiler on those different platforms. The tradeoff is a minor performance hit but it's not noticeable, said Ludwid.

Adobe's RIA technologies include tools, frameworks, servers, services and runtimes for building applications quickly without requiring a lot of programming skill. They use all the latest Web technologies, many of which have come from Adobe, like Flash, Flex and PDF as well as HTML and AJAX.

Flex is a free, open-source framework for building RIAs. Adobe Flex Builder 3 is focused mostly on adding new features for developers as opposed to user-oriented features. This includes an enhanced debugger, memory and usage profiling and integration with Adobe's creativity suites, such as Photoshop.

Making the framework open source is designed to appeal to developers. "It allows developers to be confident they can develop on it," said Ludwig. "They can go into the framework and make modifications to it, customize it to their environment."

"It's no longer a proprietary Adobe framework," he added. "It's about embracing developers outside of Adobe who want to make it better, for their use or the greater good of all of us."

BlazeDS is an accompanying technology for Flex that is a data services layer to relay information between clients and back-end services. Like Flex, it's open source and available for download from Adobe.

Ludwig said Adobe, with this release, has added a remoting protocol so clients can call services and applications on the server.

Adobe launched AIR, Flex and BlazeDS on Monday at its Engage event in San Francisco, a show designed to showcase Internet application development. A number of firms announced AIR-based applications, including AOL, The New York Times Co. and NASDAQ. made a little news of its own, announcing the new Toolkit for Adobe AIR and Flex, which would allow for developing RIAs on's platform. Developers will have direct access to the Web services API to create applications in AIR's rapid application development language while having the power of a serverside application.

For Robert Blatt, vice president and general manager of AOL's personal media division, AIR had three things the other RIA technologies didn't have. "First is the cross-platform nature of it and the ability to build an app you could deploy in browsers and a desktop. While other technologies can do that if you try real hard, with AIR it just works so that reduces our development time," he told

Secondly, he said, is the ubiquity of Adobe's technology. "Their technology is already on the consumer's desktop and they don't have to download any more technology to get it to work. The last thing is they are doing a fantastic job erasing the boundaries of online and offline, and for my application that's absolutely essential," he said.

Turning an application loose on a desktop could be a risky proposition, as many security experts have raised concerns regarding Web 2.0's permissive nature, but Blatt has confidence in AIR. "There are valid concerns but I feel Adobe has done a nice job of limiting the capability and informing the consumer so that they don't download stuff to stuff to their computer they don't want," he said.

The new online/offline platform from Adobe serves as a stepping stone for Web 2.0 applications to migrate to the desktop.

Delivering on its promise to merge online and offline content with the project once code-named “Apollo,” Adobe released the first version of the newly renamed Air on Monday, a technology designed to bring both worlds together. Adobe Air effectively allows previously online-only services to offer dedicated applications that can work with or without an Internet connection.

For instance, one of the first Adobe Air offerings, EBay Desktop, allows users to manage and sort through auctions using a more powerful interface than the one available online. It enables features such as instant updates on auction changes and live feeds of interesting auctions as they appear that were not previously possible with the version of eBay constrained to a browser window. Another application, Buzzword, serves as a word processor that seamlessly allows users to save content online or off. The Monday launch brought Air-driven programs from a host of other companies, including Nasdaq, Nickelodeon, and AOL.

Like Adobe’s older standard for online application development, the ubiquitous Flash, Air is totally free to download. Unlike Flash, the Air software developer’s kit is also free, allowing amateur developers to dabble in Adobe’s software environment without paying and likely expanding the library of available applications. Both the Air client and Air SDK can be found at Adobe’s Air download page, while a list of available applications is also available through Adobe.

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