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Adobe turns Apollo into AIR

And developers into AIR-heads

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Adobe Systems today lets loose beta code for Apollo, a software developer platform that runs web applications such as Flash, HTML and Javascript on a browser and integrates them with applications running on a desktop PC.

The outcome of this software mind-meld will be, what some commentators are already calling 'WebTop applications'. Adobe has a different name in mind. It is jettisoning the Apollo moniker in favor of a new official name: Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR). This means that Apollo developers are all AIR-heads, and that can't be a bad thing.

Prime features, not available in the earlier alpha, include full HTML engine, drag-and-drop development of files, PDF support and SQLite database that can be accessed through the same APIs as Google's Gears announced last week.

Non-Adobe file types are also supported, such as Microsoft's Word and Excel, following the release of code written using Adobe's Actionscript.

Also due today is a beta for the third version of Adobe's Flex authoring tool for building rich internet applications, with tools to improve developer efficiency and to integrate with Adobe's Creative Suite (CS) 3 suite.

The Flex 3 beta binds an application's user interfaces to data sources, features memory and profiling tools to improve application performance, and includes re-factoring, while integration with CS 3 means that applications and content can be saved using native formats with the Flex player taking care of assembly. Flex 3 can also cache the Flex framework in the Flash player, to reduce the size of downloads of content and applications from the internet - speeding start times and cutting down on bandwidth requirements.

And, following Adobe's pledge to deliver Flex as an open source project, Adobe today makes public specifications for Flex 3 along with a roadmap. It will begin releasing nightly builds of the Flex SDK and post bugs and fixes.

Flex and AIR come as Adobe seeks to surf the wave of popularity for rich internet applications, and applications running outside the browser. TYhe challenge is to stat relevant in a market that is driven fundamentally by AJAX. Adobe's latest products support AJAX, but Adobe is clearly hoping that improvements in its tools around developer productivity will win users.

"People are asking: 'Should I use AJAX or Flex, or a hybrid?' As people start to do things with AJAX they get frustrated. Flex provides a completely integrated world, and you get to use Actionscript with AJAX," Dave Gruber, Flex group marketing manager said. ®

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