Adobe touts early customer adoption of AIR

Adobe touts early customer adoption of AIR

Adobe's rich applications development technology hits the market

Adobe has made available the first full release of its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), and revealed early adopter customers who are building both business and consumer applications using the technology.

AIR 1.0 is now available as a free technology, Adobe chief technology officer, Kevin Lynch, said. He said hundreds of thousands of developers have downloaded the software development kit (SDK) for AIR during the beta process, which began in June. Some of the first applications built using AIR also will be available Monday, and Adobe plans to highlight these releases with customers at an event in San Francisco.

AIR is Adobe's technology aimed at bringing the same functionality of rich Internet applications (RIAs) built using technologies such as Adobe Flash and Flex Builder to the desktop. AIR acts as a wrapper for RIAs, allowing those applications to run locally in the Flash Player.

Adobe also is releasing the latest version of its developer framework for RIAs, Flex 3, on Monday, along with a new technology, Adobe BlazeDS. The latter is a data-services layer that helps send information between back-end IT infrastructure-like application servers and front-end applications more quickly and efficiently. Flex 3 and BlazeDS are open source and available for free.

Adobe hopes AIR will expand its reach beyond the Internet into business and desktop applications, where competitor Microsoft plays prominently. Meanwhile, Microsoft is gunning for Adobe's position as the leading provider of RIA tools with its browser-based technology Silverlight and its Expression graphic- and Web-design toolset.

In fact, if Microsoft's bid to purchase Yahoo is successful, it would likely displace the use of Flash on many of Yahoo's Web sites and services, helping Microsoft proliferate the use of Silverlight more quickly.

Lynch, who just last month was promoted to his CTO position at Adobe, said that it's taken 10 years for Flash to reach 99 per cent adoption among Web users, so he is not overly concerned with what might happen to Flash if the Microsoft-Yahoo deal goes through.

"It's not an easy task to get that kind of distribution," he said, adding that Adobe would even welcome more competition in the RIA market. "It keeps all of our teams on their toes," Lynch said.

Indeed, Adobe, particularly with the acquisition of Macromedia in 2005, has been successful at building a comprehensive set of tools that developers use primarily to deliver multimedia and high-impact, customer-facing websites and Web-based applications. Barring Microsoft, the company really has no major rival in this space.

But with AIR and related free offerings, the company also is hoping to drive adoption of its for-fee developer, design and server software in the business and enterprise market.

Some of the customers announced Monday show some momentum toward that goal. For example, BusinessObjects, the business-intelligence software provider recently acquired by SAP, is using AIR for a new product called BI Widgets. The technology allows users to search, organize and access BI content in back-end systems and databases from the desktop.

Web-based CRM (customer relationship management) provider also is using AIR to deliver applications built using its hosted developer environment to the desktop, vice-president of platform marketing for, Adam Gross, said. The company is launching a new product called Toolkit for Adobe AIR that allows developers to extend applications built using to the desktop.

"In theory, one could build [technology to bridge that gap] themselves, but it would be an enormous amount of work," Gross said. "AIR makes it a lot easier."

Another enterprise customer, Deutsche Bank, is using AIR for a new Internet service for its business customers called db-direct, which provides instant desktop alerts about account activity to corporate clients and financial institutions.

AIR also is giving Internet companies new ways to reach consumers, Lynch said. Companies going live on Monday with consumer-facing applications that leverage AIR include eBay and AOL.

EBay, working with consulting firm EffectiveUI, is one of the earliest adopters of AIR. The company will release the first full production version of eBay Desktop, a version of its auction site that can run on the desktop without being connected to the Internet or accessed through a browser. By leveraging AIR, eBay Desktop can automatically update user information whenever the user is connected to the Internet.

And AOL on Monday will launch an AIR-based application called Top 100 Music Videos, which allows users to search for and view music videos from AOL Music even when they are offline.

Other companies scheduled to show off how they're using AIR at Adobe's event include The New York Times Company and The Nasdaq Stock Market.

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