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Adobe Kicks Internet Apps to The Desktop

Adobe Systems  has released the alpha version of Apollo, the code-name for a new development environment and runtime that can be used to build and deploy rich Internet applications on the desktop. Both the runtime and the software developer's kit (SDK) are available immediately for download free of charge.

Apollo allows developers and designers to create software in HTML, JavaScript, Ajax, Flash and Adobe Flex that combines the strengths of both Internet- and desktop-based applications into a single application.

The first time end users want to use an application built using Apollo, they will be prompted to download an executable file. Thereafter, the application will download and run on their desktops, whether or not they are online.

People can launch the applications directly from their desktops and interact with them offline. When a network connection is available, newly created or changed content can seamlessly synchronize. In future versions, end users will be able to drag-and-drop items, such as image files and other media assets, directly into applications built using Apollo.

Pam Deziel, director of product marketing for the platform business unit at Adobe, explained that Web applications can be deployed and are more easily managed through a browser, but that desktop applications provide end users with a richer experience. With Apollo, "developers can take advantage of the desktop to create an even richer and more immersive experience," she told internetnews.com.

The fact that Adobe is driving developers to the alpha version of this application demonstrates how important the development of new applications is to the product's success. "What this is all about is what the developers are going to do with it," Deziel admitted.

Eventually, Apollo will also allow developers to create applications for mobile devices, which is also central to Adobe's strategy. While it has not signed deals with U.S. carriers, it has a version of Flash running on mobile devices in Japan and elsewhere in the Far East.

"Mobile devices and non-PCs are a real focus for us," Deziel noted.

Jeffrey Hammond, who covers application development and developer tools at Forrester Research, said that rich Internet applications running on the desktop will make it possible for developers to create Web applications without the constraints of the browser, while still being able to take advantage of the Web's networking strengths.

"It's the ability to connect and be updated by the Web that matters, not to exist within a browser," he told internetnews.com.

He also noted that Adobe's aggressive rollout is indicative of "the intense competition in rich Internet development."

Microsoft is rolling out the Expressions application developer toolkit and WPF/E (or "Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere," the code name for the cross-platform development environment it said it will launch at the end of April).

How big a deal is this? "Microsoft is nothing if not persistent. They'll keep plugging away until they get it right, and they've decided that they want to get it right," Hammond said.

Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen contrasted Apollo's ability to work across platforms and on non-PC devices to applications from Google , which requires users to be online, and Microsoft , which requires users to adopt the Windows operating system. Apollo "enables people to consume content offline" on any platform they choose, he said during the American Association of Publisher's general meeting in New York earlier this month.

The shadow of Microsoft has certainly not gone unnoticed by Chizen, but he believes his company has an unwitting ally.

"They're a $50 billion monopoly with unlimited resources, and they would like to keep that monopoly going. We're a concern for Microsoft," he said.

So what, in his opinion, is keeping Microsoft from crushing this "concern?"

"There's a heat shield called Google that's diverting Microsoft's attention," he said.