Adobe’s Apollo Bridges Desktop, Internet Divide

Adobe released its cross-operating system application run-time for Web developers on Monday. The development system, available from Adobe Labs, is currently in the first public alpha version.

Code-named “Apollo,” the technology enables Web developers to create and deploy rich Internet applications (RIAs) on the desktop, utilizing their existing HTML, JavaScript and Ajax skill sets with Adobe Flash and Adobe Flex software.

“We’re working to enable this new generation of innovative applications to bridge the chasm between the Web and the personal computer,” said Kevin Lynch, senior vice president and chief software architect at Adobe. “Apollo will empower millions of Web developers to make their RIAs first-class citizens on the desktop using the tools they already know.”

The alpha version of Apollo includes a free software development kit (SDK) for Apollo applications that includes command-line tools for both packaging and testing. The release also includes multi-window support; a new installation process; an extension to Adobe FlexBuilder that lets developers use an Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE); and support for writing to the file system and working with other types of files such as PNG files, Excel and more.

It is available for both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Later versions will be available for Linux and will incorporate PDF functionality, along with greater support for Ajax and mobile technologies. Adobe plans to release version 1.0 during the second half of 2007.

A Bridge to Desktops

RIAs are a cross between Web applications and traditional desktop applications. While they have the features of conventional desktop applications, RIAs generally transfer the processing necessary for the user interface (UI) to the Web client while maintaining the bulk of the data on the application server. The applications typically run in a Web browser, so a software installation is not required.

RIAs offer a solution to one of the problems traditionally associated with Web applications — their slow and ponderous processing. With standard Web applications, all interactions have to go through the server, which means that data has to be sent to the server, then the server has to respond and the Web page is then reloaded.

Apollo combines the reach of Internet technologies with the richness of desktop applications, says Adobe, and works seamlessly across operating systems. Perhaps most importantly, the technology removes the browser from the RIA equation.

Look Ma – No Browser

Apollo allows direct access to Internet applications, including those built with HTML, JavaScript, Flash and PDF, without the need to open a browser, the software maker said. Instead, the RIAs are offered within the familiar desktop environment, providing an easier and more reliable interaction with content.

Users can launch the applications directly from their desktops and interact with the RIAs whether they are online or offline. When a network connection is detected, newly created or changed content can seamlessly synchronize.

Adobe said it will continue to work on Apollo’s integration with the desktop in upcoming versions to enable drag-and-drop functionality for transferring items such as image files and other media content directly into Apollo applications.

“RIAs have become a core element of today’s Web-computing experience,” Lynch explained. “With this alpha release, we’re continuing our collaborative effort with the community of developers and designers to further evolve how the world engages with ideas and information. We can’t wait to see what the community will create in this new medium.”

Blooming Market

RIA technology is burgeoning, with applications such as Adobe’s Flash, Ajax, Open Laszlo and Microsoft’s Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere (WPF/E), already claiming niches in the space. Adobe’s entry will almost assuredly generate more challenge and competition — particularly with software giant Microsoft.

“Certainly, Adobe is competing with WPF/E in the realm of the universal client — and that will be a classic battle,” Melissa Webster, program director for content and digital media technologies at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

“Both vendors are taking steps to support a broad range of platforms, for both print and Web,” she continued. “Even Microsoft, with WPF/E, is supporting non-Microsoft browsers on non-Microsoft operating systems.”

For Adobe, getting its Apollo project to market quickly is critical as it seeks to thrive in today’s new era, Webster concluded — which is all about RIAs and the quality that Adobe so aptly terms “engagement.”

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