Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Adobe AIR is on Fire

Category: Adobe

Adobe AIR, the platform that lets you create desktop apps using web technologies, continues to garner attention. With Beta 3 just recently released and a host of companies coming out with new apps, AIR is building up a ton of steam just prior to it’s official v1.0 release.

First up, Adobe’s Kevion Hoyt gives us a rundown about the new AIR Introspector which is VERY similar to FireBug, but for AIR applications.

We’ve heard this request right from the start “Is there something like Firebug, that lets me monitor the assets in my application?” The answer to that question is now a resounding, YES! The AIR Introspector is designed to let you interact deeply with every aspect of your application.

Mind you that this is a BIG plus to AIR development which hasn’t benefited from having the ubiquitous FireBug to help during tough debugging sessions.

Some features included are:

  • Point at a user interface element and be able to see and edit the markup and DOM properties.
  • An interactive console that lets you access references, adjust values and execute JavaScript code.
  • Lists links, images, CSS and JavaScript assets loaded into your application.
  • Provides for viewing the original markup and the current markup.
  • Viewer for XHR objects including their properties and headers.
  • Search for matching text in the source code of your application.

Also, Aptana just updated the Studio IDE to support AIR Beta 3. While developing AIR in other editors is perfectly fine, Aptana really has done the best job of integrating support into their IDE making it substantially easier to build AIR apps. This is just pure speculation but I wouldn’t doubt that a big player, like Adobe, scoops up Aptana in 2008.

Nasdaq and American Cancer Society

ComputerWorld recently reported that the Nasdaq and American Cancer Society will be leveraging AIR for specific projects.

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.

Using Adobe’s Flex and AIR, the Nasdaq created an application that can “can provide a replay of the quotes at the time of a trade — and associated prices on different markets — in seconds”.

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 American Cancer Society has been using AIR since early beta and has continued to build new apps regularly. Their recent initiative was a desktop application to assist users in determining when it was appropriate to schedule mammograms:

Another new Cancer Society application allows users to enter demographic information and receive suggestions about scheduling tests such as a mammogram, he said. The group hopes that providing such reminders on desktop systems will be more effective in prompting users about their treatment needs than forcing them to frequently visit a Web site, Pellegrini added.

They’re also creating a Flex/AIR-based portal for physicians that will allow the doctors to access Cancer Society’s information via the web or in an offline mode.

The offline synchronization capabilities of AIR are especially attractive to many companies as more and more employees are working remotely and may not have immediate access to the web. The inclusion of the SQLLite DB into the AIR runtime seems to have really piqued the interest of IT departments interested in providing the desktop experience without having to retrain their staff in traditional desktop tools such as C# or VB.Net.

Challenges Ahead

AIR is not in the clear though as very strong technologies from both Microsoft (SilverLight/.Net) and Mozilla (XULRunner) are serious challengers to the desktop space and could bite into AIR’s pie. The biggest advantage that AIR has, though, is Flash Player 9’s near 97% penetration rate. In addition, rumor has it that Adobe will issue an update to the Flash player that would include the AIR runtime making it a highly desirable target for building new applications. We’ll have to see if the rumor holds true.

For now, though, AIR is certainly showing a lot of promise and seems to have gotten past the “evaluation” stage. Once v1.0 is officially released (rumored to be sometime soon), the number of AIR applications will undoubtedly rise. I also envision an opportunity for developers to benefit financially from selling desktop applications that seamlessly tie into the web.

This should be interesting.

Update: Adobe’s Rob Christensen has sent me an update letting me know that Adobe has no plans at this time to bundle AIR with the Flash Player. One of the primary goals of the Flash Player is to keep the download size as small o that they can continue adding powerful features like h.264. Thanks for the update Rob.

Posted by Rey Bango at 6:10 pm

4.1 rating from 29 votes


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If it’s on fire, does that mean it’s lot of hot AIR?

(groan… sorry :*)

Comment by dogsthat — January 29, 2008

Hi Rey,

First, thank you for mentioning the Introspector. We added this capability as a direct result from community feedback. The Introspector will be included in the Adobe AIR SDK for 1.0.

Second, I wanted to address the rumor you mentioned about the possibility of Adobe bundling AIR with the Flash Player: we have no plans to do this.

As a browser plug-in, it’s our intention to always keep the download size of the Flash Player as tiny as possible. Since Adobe AIR targets desktop applications and includes capabilities like an HTML engine (WebKit) and a SQLite database, the download size requirements are a bit bigger. For example, on Windows, the download size of the Flash Player is about 1.5 MB and Adobe AIR beta 3 is about 11 MB. Adding another 11 megabytes to the Flash Player download size runs counter to our core objective of keeping it as small as possible. :)


-Rob Christensen
Sr. Product Manager, Adobe AIR

Comment by adoberob — January 29, 2008

Thanks for clearing the up that rumor Rob. :)

Comment by Rey Bango — January 29, 2008

I feel obligated, as usual, to point out that AIR simply cannot do real desktop stuff. You can’t link in your own (native) libraries and you can’t have real threads.

That said, AIR is spot on for easy web-apps-on-the-desktop.

Comment by rcrowley — January 29, 2008

I haven’t played with the Introspector yet, but I definately will. If it’s even half as usable as Firebug, Mozilla’s XULRunner’s got quite some catching up to do.

Comment by DiSiLLUSiON — January 29, 2008

My favourite AIR app is a desktop port of Google Analytics. Check it out, it’s still in Beta (as half of the world nowadays) but it’s superb: http://analytics.boulevart.be/

Comment by pixeline — January 30, 2008

So, when can we actually expect the linux version of AIR, if ever?

Comment by urandom — January 30, 2008

Just get the whole eval() situation worked out (without having to use an iframe) and I’m sold on AIR.

And in response to the first comment:
(muted trumpet sound) Waaa waaaaaaaa….

Comment by igaenssley — January 30, 2008

@pixeline: Rest assured, AIR is coming to Linux! We’re actively working on the Linux version of AIR. If you are interested in applying for our prerelease program, please contact me.

-Rob Christensen
Sr. Product Manager, Adobe AIR

Comment by adoberob — January 30, 2008

I wonder when they are gonna fix Socket:

Comment by ducktyper — February 1, 2008

Rob when do you expect the new version to be released? Have sent you an email

Comment by Cancerandrisks — February 10, 2008

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