"As far as the AIR part it, it's a downloadable version of ShifD that you can keep on your desktop and add content to it but it's then accessible from anywhere," said Nick Bilton, a user interface specialist at the Times. A user, for example, could download a recipe from the Web onto the AIR application and then access it on the mobile device, providing the list of ingredients in hand, Bilton said.
AOL plans to supplement its Xdrive online storage application with AIR. "Today, the Xdrive UI is either a classic Java-based Web application or a C++ desktop application," said Robert Blatt, vice president and general manager of personal media at AOL. "We're basically … building an AIR and Flex application that will either work on your desktop or in a browser," to replace the current UI, he said.
AIR will make it easier for a consumer to use the application via drag-and-drop capabilities, Blatt said. Users get online connectivity of a Web application and the richness and usability of a desktop system, he said.
If a user wants to upload photographs, for example, AIR allows for camera assets to be dragged and dropped into an online folder instead of users having to tackle a cumbersome uploading procedure. "What AIR really does is take the manual upload and make it almost seamless for the consumer," Blatt said.
Salesforce.com, meanwhile, plans to use AIR to supplement Force.com, the company's platform for third parties to develop business applications and run them as a service on Salesforce.com infrastructure. The Force.com Toolkit for Adobe AIR and Flex extends offline capabilities to Force.com applications. Information such as customer data being managed on Force.com can be brought into offline use, said Adam Gross, Salesforce.com's vice president of platform marketing.
The AIR toolkits
Although AIR is offered free of charge, Adobe plans to make money from it by selling development tools for it such as Flex Builder. The company may sell service components as well. Adobe also is building products such as Adobe Media Player for playing video feeds on top of AIR.
As part of that development tool set, Adobe today released an AIR SDK and Flex 3, which is the primary programming language for AIR. The AIR SDK features tools necessary to build AIR applications. Developers can also use Adobe's Flash CS3, Creative Suite 3 Professional, or Flex 3 to build AIR applications. Accompanying the release of Flex 3 is Flex Builder 3.0, an IDE for Flex costing $699.
Among the enhancements in Flex 3 are improved charting and touting testing tools for memory and performance profiling for use in building applications for the Flash Player or AIR. Flex 3 also improves integration with Adobe Flash CS3 and Creative Suite 3. Debugging has been improved as well, Adobe said.
Adobe today also followed through on its open source intentions for Flex first revealed last year. The company is open-sourcing the Flex framework, which features libraries for Flex application development. Developers will be able to extend the language itself. Also, Adobe will open-source the BlazeDS libraries for connecting to back-end data sources from Flex applications for the browser and Adobe AIR.
Open-sourcing Flex capabilities could expand the number of developers able to work with it, noted AOL's Blatt. "The talent pool of people who understand how to build in Flex is not as large as it needs to be," he said.