Adobe releases developer updates to help AIR take flight

Adobe releases developer technologies as part of its plan to promote AIR among developers.

Adobe Systems this week released updates for key developer technologies to a newly revamped developer site called Adobe Developer Connection, part of a larger strategy to promote its vision for taking rich Internet applications to the desktop through its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR).

Beta 2 of AIR is now available on the site, as are Beta 2 of Flex 3, and updates to extensions that link AIR to Adobe's Web development and design tools Dreamweaver and Flash. The extensions let developers take applications built using Dreamweaver and Flash and port them directly to the desktop using AIR.

AIR is a runtime program that allows developers to create cross-platform desktop applications with the same technologies they use for building Web-based applications, such as HTML, AJAX and Flash. At the Adobe MAX 2007 user conference in Chicago Monday, executives confirmed AIR's importance to the company's long-term strategy. However, they declined to comment when AIR -- which is due out in full release in the first quarter of 2008 -- and related applications would begin to affect the company's bottom line.

Adobe is turning into a major competitor for Microsoft, and Adobe is betting on AIR to bring its success with Web development to the desktop. More and more, developers and computer users are demanding a better user experience on the desktop and the Web, and Adobe hopes it can leverage its strength in providing tools like Dreamweaver, Flash and more recently Flex -- which attempts to bridge the gap between designers and coders -- to win the hearts of desktop developers.

"When I speak to many of the customers we're trying to excite about what we're doing," said Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, "they understand the need for engaging applications."

Chizen also confirmed that although Adobe must cooperate with Microsoft to provide its technologies for desktops running Windows, there is no love lost between the vendors. "When I think of the word Microsoft I have a hard time thinking of the word 'partner' in the same sentence," he said.

Collaboration tools for information workers and hosted services are two other markets in which Adobe is boosting its investments, and AIR joins Adobe's Web technologies as platforms that can facilitate this strategy, executives said. They gave attendees a sneak peek at some hosted services the company plans to discuss further in a keynote Tuesday.

One project, code-named Cocomo, will open up Adobe Connect so developers can create their own hosted services for screensharing, white-boarding and other video-conferencing functions that are available through Connect, said Shantanu Narayen, president and COO of Adobe. The company also released a document creation and collaboration service, Share, in beta form to the Web Monday. Share is a complement to a Web-based, word-processing service called Buzzword it will acquire through its planned purchase of startup Virtual Ubiquity.

Adobe also plans to create online services out of key parts of all of its desktop offerings, such as Adobe Acrobat, Narayen said. This will put Adobe in not only Microsoft's way, but also will pit them against Google, which also offers online word-processing services.

While online advertising is a key part of Microsoft's and Google's hosted services plan, Chizen stopped short of divulging whether Adobe plans to use online advertising to fund its services.

"There will be lots of different business models," he said. "A lot will depend on what the application is, who the consumer is, if they're OK with advertising. We've got a lot of experiments already going on."

However, Adobe's Narayen did acknowledge that advertising will support the delivery of content on Adobe Media Player, so it's likely this model will extend to other offerings. Adobe released Adobe Media Player, its first entrant for media playback on the desktop, in beta form to its Adobe Labs site on Monday.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

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