Adobe melds desktop, Web apps with AIR

Early adopters have created a wide variety of data-oriented apps

Bridging the gap between desktop and Web applications, Adobe Systems is set to ship Monday its AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) 1.0 technology for melding applications from both of these realms. Formerly known by its code name Apollo, the free technology already is being used in applications at places such as NASDAQ and AOL.

AIR is a desktop runtime that allows Web applications to be run on the desktop in a disconnected fashion, said Michele Turner, vice president of the Adobe platform business unit. "We really believe the innovation in technology today is ... on the Web and that the desktop has stagnated over the last couple of years," she said.

Supported on Windows and Macintosh, AIR extends to Web applications desktop capabilities such as drag-and-drop, system notification, and local file system access. Applications using AIR can be written using the same technologies commonly used to build Web applications, including Adobe Flex and Flash, HTML, and JavaScript.

Desktop applications, in turn, update applications automatically and have branding. AIR applications have a Web look and feel. "We're seeing a number of hybrid applications today where developers are writing AIR applications and they also have a Web version of that," Turner said. AIR's capabilities include capturing data, pulling it into an Excel file and then uploading that onto a Web application.

"AIR is a way of packaging up Flex applications," said analyst Michael Cote of Redmonk. "It has more of a [focus] on running on the desktop and integrating more closely with the desktop rather than just being a Web application," he added. Flash content plus HTML and PDF could be packaged into one application, said Adobe's Turner. Or a Flash, Flex, or AJAX developer can take an existing application, and with minor updates, run them on the desktop.

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