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Apollo Gives Way To AIR

Adobe Systems has officially branded its rich Internet application (RIA) technology known as "Apollo" with the name Adobe Integrated Runtime, or AIR. The new brand name accompanies the first public beta, being released today

AIR is a runtime like Flash, Adobe's widely-used Web animation technology. Flex is the developer framework, which works in Adobe's DreamWeaver authoring software. Developers will be able to write one set of source code that can be executed within a browser using Flash, or on a desktop as an AIR applications.

All developers will need to do to enable their application to run in both environments is repackage it for AIR deployment. "That opens up a whole new set of capabilities that can be done on the desktop that couldn't be done in a browser," said Dave Gruber, group product marketing manager for Flex at Adobe .

Public beta 1, out today, is almost feature complete, but some features are not yet enabled, according to Mike Downey, evangelist group manager at Adobe. This beta includes features like much more support for AJAX developers thanks to full HTML support.

The HTML engine in the first public release was not even halfway complete, according to Downey. "It will be a huge improvement over what we did in beta 1," he told internetnews.com.

Public beta 1 will also support transparency in the app, so developers can build an HTML desktop app with its own custom chrome and transparency. It will also support PDF files and thanks to a partnership with Google , AIR will include support for the SQLite database.

The AIR runtime will be about nine megabytes in size, according to Gruber.

Adobe is also working on extensions to its authoring tools to publish AIR installer files, starting with DreamWeaver CS2. A CS3 version will follow shortly.

Flex is also being updated, with the third beta available today. Adobe is promising nightly builds of the Flex SDK, so people can get latest builds. Among the new features are support for AIR debugging, application packaging and signing, and integration with Adobe's suites, like Illustrator and Photoshop.

This beta separates the application logic from the frameworks. Previous releases forced developers to embed the Flex framework into the application, which made it fat.

Ray Valdes, research director for Gartner, thinks Adobe is taking the right steps. "There needs to be reduced discontinuity between browser and desktop apps through common programming models and tools. I would worry if adobe were not doing these things because all of these things are needed," he told internetnews.com.

He noted that while Adobe is going from the browser to the desktop, Microsoft  is going in the opposite direction with Silverlight.

"That of course means a collision course. I think in some sense it's all good in that there are more choices for the developer and the user. I think that anyone who wants to compete will need to execute well, look at competitor offerings, realize it's a dynamic space and everything is a moving target," he said.