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The future of Rich Internet Applications
Adobe has finally launched AIR, the new run time that allows web applications to run on your desktop. DMN contributor Matthew David met with Ed Rowe, Director of AIR Product Management and asked him some questions about AIR, Flex and the future of Rich Internet Applications.
DMN: Ed, thanks for taking time to meet with us today. Can you begin by explaining what Adobe AIR is and the reason why Adobe has developed this solution?
ER: Adobe is a leader in Web-based technologies. We have Flash, Dreamweaver and Flex. There are millions of amazing Web solutions leveraging these technologies. Developers like the Web for its reach and the immediacy to update solutions. This allows for shorter development cycles and more releases. Customers love this. Customers also love their desktop applications. It is great to have an icon on your desktop and data stored on your system. The barrier Adobe saw is that innovation is not happening on the desktop at the same rapid rate as seen on the Web. Adobe`s AIR is changing this. Adobe AIR is essentially a runtime that allows you to disconnect your Web solutions, using Flash, HTML or AJAX, and run them as applications on your desktop. As a developer and designer you can take the creative solutions you have running in the Web and deliver them to the desktop. This helps fix a huge business problem.
DMN: You say that Adobe AIR runs on the desktop. By this do you mean just PCs?
ER: No, Adobe AIR currently runs on Microsoft`s Windows (2000, XP, 2003, Vista and 2008) and Apple`s OS X. We are taking the term "write once, run anywhere" very seriously. An example of this is the new development we have in porting AIR to Linux. We took an early version of AIR to the Linux community and asked them to try the solution. The samples we gave had been developed on Windows and Apple machines but they ran on the Linux systems. No code changes needed. It all just works.
DMN: How do you go about building an application in AIR?
ER: This is the good news with AIR. You are already developing Web applications using Dreamweaver and RIA solutions using Flash. You can port those same solutions directly to AIR. AIR gives you additional extensions for accessing local files and data through our support of SQL lite. Developers wanting a no-timeline based solution can also leverage the new Flex 3.0 development environment.
DMN: Flex 3.0 is a new tool that has come out. Is this the preferred development environment for AIR?
ER: You can certainly use Flex to develop solutions. You can also use Dreamweaver and the Flash authoring tool. We want developers and designers to use tools they are comfortable working with. Flex 3.0 is an amazing new tool built on top of the open source Eclipse design solution. A new feature for Flex developers is profiling. You can now track down performance issues. Also, you can now use Blazs DS, a set of tools that allow you to connect Flex to a data source. We are making Blaze open source.
DMN: Where can a developer go to find out how to use these tools?
ER: The best place to start is labs.adobe.com . You will find the latest releases of all our open source solutions. There is a lot content there explaining how you can start building AIR solutions today.
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DMN: Ed, where do you see the future of AIR?
ER: Adobe is committed to AIR. We see this as a key next step solution for the Web and desktop. You will see us continue to integrate the latest releases of the Flash Player and WebKit, the engine we use to render HTML/AJAX, in AIR. We also want to make AIR available on multiple platforms. There is no reason why AIR can not be on your cell phone, mp3 player and game system. All of these technologies are becoming more and more like mini computers.
DMN: Does this mean you will develop a solution for the iPhone?
ER: We will have to see. Apple is a great partner and we want to keep building upon our relationship and give them great solutions.
DMN: Finally, what are some good examples of AIR solutions already in use today?
ER: We have had a great response to AIR. Companies such as eBay, SalesForce.com, AOL, Yahoo, NASDAQ and Nickelodeon have solutions they have rolled out that leverage AIR. We are also seeing other solutions coming from our developer community every day. It is exciting to see AIR being embraced. We think AIR has a great future.
Adobe AIR Developer center can be found at www.adobe.com/devnet/air/
The beta version of Adobe AIR can be found at labs.adobe.com/downloads/air.html
Matthew has written four Flash books, contributed to a dozen Web books, and has published over 400 articles. He is passionate about exposing Internet's potential for all of us. Matthew works directly with many companies as a business strategist coaching IT architects and business leaders to work tightly with each other towards common goals.