Adobe AIR set to take flight at Nasdaq, charity

Runtime promises to let companies extend rich Internet applications to desktop

Adobe Systems is expected to release its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) next month, ending the wait of organizations such as Nasdaq Stock Market and American Cancer Society for a way to tap the best attributes of a browser but without the browser -- to take some of their rich Internet applications to the desktop.

The new AIR technology from San Jose-based Adobe is among several emerging products that promise to let companies run Web applications built using Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) tools on desktop systems. AIR is slated to ship next month, according to Adobe.

Nasdaq and the American Cancer Society are among several large organizations eyeing the Adobe runtime as a way to bridge the traditional gap between Web and desktop applications.

Claude Courbois, associate vice president of data product development at Nasdaq, said that he has long been searching for tools to help its analysts and brokerage customers comply with stringent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules much faster.

For example, Courbois noted that traditional development technology can't build a tool that can quickly re-create market conditions to prove to customers that they received the best price available for a stock, as one SEC rule requires.

Today, analysts spend hours using statistical software from SAS Institute Inc. on the desktop to recreate market conditions when necessary. After gaining access to a beta version of the AIR runtime this summer, the New York-based stock exchange swiftly built a single application that can simultaneously access Web and desktop data, Courbois said.

The so-called Nasdaq Market Replay rich Internet application, built using Adobe's Flex development tool set, can provide a replay of a trade -- and associated prices on different markets -- in seconds, Courbois said.

The software runs on the desktop, relieving servers of a good deal of data-intensive processing, he noted. "We saw the ability to process the data halfway on our servers and have it in as small a package as possible. Then when someone requires a replay of the market, we send a small packet of data to desktop," he said.

"The application does the final 10 yards of work to prepare the replay of what was going on at that time. The amount of data it takes to get to this level of detail is beyond what you could do on a normal Web application," he added.

The new Nasdaq application is slated to begin rolling out to in-house analysts and client brokerages next month, coinciding with the expected release of AIR 1.0, he added.

Adobe described AIR as a runtime environment for building rich Internet applications in Adobe Flash, HTML and AJAX. The package includes the Safari WebKit browser engine, along with application programming interfaces to support desktop features such as native drag and drop and network awareness, Adobe said.

In addition to Adobe, Microsoft and Mozilla are also maneuvering to gain a foothold in providing tools to help companies build and run next-generation rich Internet applications that run on the Web and desktop systems.

For example, Microsoft has come out with an initial version of Silverlight, a plug-in that supports multiple browsers and operating systems and that is aimed at providing Web applications with desktop-based animation, interactive features and video.

In addition, Mozilla Labs, the research arm of Mozilla, in October disclosed that its Prism software, now under development, will let Web users strip a Web application from the browser and use it as a traditional desktop program.

The new technologies aim to enable Web developers to build desktop applications, significantly cutting the need for expensive programming talent.

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Heather Havenstein

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