Curl moves to take on Adobe Air in offline RIA business

'Nitro' runtime lets lets high-performance, secure, corporate rich-Internet apps run offline

Curl next week plans to unveil a beta version of a runtime tool that it said will help large organizations extend Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) to run on the desktop.

The new runtime software, called "Nitro," provides the high performance, rich graphics and enterprise security constraints that enterprises need to run RIAs on the desktop, according to Curl. The company claims that 300 mostly Japanese large organizations -- products enterprise customers? -- use its year-old Curl RIA development platform.

Curl is the latest vendor looking to garner part of the expanding offline RIA business, where users extend the rich User Interface and fast loading times of RIAs onto the desktop. Other offerings include Google's Google Gears technology, Mozilla's Prism software and the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) from Adobe Systems.

Curl executives claim that Adobe's AIR, which shipped in February, is better suited for business-to-consumer applications, while Nitro is fitted for the enterprise because it can handle very large data sets and strictly cordons off non-certified desktop RIAs from corporate networks.

"Curl Nitro has a strong security model," noted Richard Monson-Haefel vice president of developer relations at Curl. "Nitro is constrained to a sandbox, but yet it can still have local storage."

In addition, Monson-Haefel said that because Nitro runs native applications written in the Curl programming language, it offers stronger performance than AIR. Nitro has successfully run data sets up to 100,000 records in tests, a performance level that would allow organizations to perform more complex data visualization. The Curl language is 10 years old and was developed at MIT specifically for RIA development.

Richard Treadway, Curl's vice president of product strategy, added that the default security model in Curl allows browser applets and desktop applets to run only in a secure sandbox area. Applications require approval by a valid certificate authority, which takes the process of granting privileges out of the hands of users, he added.

"The end user doesn't have to make a decision about granting an application full privileges on the desktop, which could lead to bad things the user hasn't even thought of," Treadway said. "We require that they be signed by a valid certificate authority, and that gives them some legitimacy. It doesn't ensure that the code isn't malicious, but it makes sure you know exactly who the code came from."

Administrators can override the certification process, he added.

Nitro also uses the open source SQLite SQL engine so that enterprises can build applications with local SQL databases. The Web-enabled Nitro applications that run stand-alone on the desktop can run offline and update when they are connected again.

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Heather Havenstein

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