Developers have high hopes for Adobe's newly named AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) software, but reservations remain about the technology's cross-platform capability and learning curve.
Formerly called Apollo, AIR is described by the company as a cross-OS runtime enabling developers to use existing Web development skills to build Internet applications that can run on the desktop. Currently available in a beta release, it is due to ship by the end of the year.
"I would say that [AIR] creates kind of a new breed of applications that are somewhere between traditional desktop applications and Web applications," said Lee Brimelow, senior design technologist at early AIR user Frog Design.
"It kind of opens up a new world to Web developers. It enables Web developers to enter the desktop space," Brimelow said. "It allows you, for example, to take an online e-mail account like Yahoo Mail [and] you could have an offline app that allows you to read your mail and compose mails," he added. "One of the major [benefits] of AIR is that it is cross-platform so we don’t have to worry about 'Is it a Mac thing, is it a PC thing?' "
AIR is more or less a wrapper for Flash, said Gabor Vida, president of Teknision, a rich media application developer. But it is not tied to the operating system, he said. "We just deploy an AIR file, and it's the exact same file whether on a PC or on a Mac," with Linux support due soon, Vida said.
AIR, however, is not as powerful as Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation or Apple's Cocoa development technologies, Brimelow said. With those, developers have fuller access to the user's hard drive and OS capabilities, he said. But WPF is only for Windows, Brimelow noted.
One developer who said he has not tried AIR nonetheless was interested in it. AIR could be an improvement compared with third-party solutions for running the Flash projector offline, such as FlashJester, said Kurt Suchomel, founder of the Vermont Flash User Group and a developer at Draftfcb, an ad agency that also develops Web sites.
"It’s exciting to me to hear that there's a possible product that's something similar to that," but could offer more versatility, Suchomel said. But he expressed concerns about how effective AIR will be on different operating systems, wondering if there will be "possible gotchas on each platform." AIR is supposed to be identical on the Mac and on the PC, Suchomel said. "I would just hope that it is truly that way," he said. "It will "be interesting to see what the bugs are.
Another developer who also had not experimented with AIR expressed similar curiosity.
"It just seems like it's going to be really cool," said Steve Farwell, marketing director at Traveland USA, which sells recreational vehicles. He also is host of the Orange County Flash User Group in Southern California, or OCFlash.