Adobe AIR Gains Ground

Adobe AIR takes off, touts list of big-name enterprise customers.

You knew it was coming. After months of good press and major announcements around the Microsoft Silverlight rich Internet application (RIA) platform, Adobe Inc. is making a splash with its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR). This next-generation RIA platform does for Adobe what Silverlight 1.1 did for Microsoft -- advance the RIA platform from simple media delivery into a true application development and deployment vehicle.

But unlike Microsoft, which enjoys a rapt audience of corporate developers aligned with its .NET Framework and tooling, Adobe must find a way to extend its reach beyond the design and creative departments.

"The biggest challenge Adobe faces in getting traction in the corporate development space is getting IT to take it seriously," says Greg DeMichillie, analyst with research firm Directions on Microsoft. "Not many IT managers think of Adobe as an app platform and they associate Flash with annoying ads on Web sites. AIR is basically an extension of Flash to support desktop applications, so you've got to buy into Flash before you buy into AIR."

To help win over developers, Adobe has matured the Flex 3 development environment used to craft AIR applications. As industry analyst and former RDN columnist Dana Gardner notes in an Oct. 2 blog entry, the latest Flex beta supports ASP.NET and enables programmers to create applications from a SQL database using wizards. Both Flex 3 and AIR are currently in beta and are expected to launch in the first quarter of 2008, according to Adobe.

Name Dropping
One way to get IT to take AIR seriously is to name drop. That's exactly what Adobe did early last month when it trundled out an impressive parade of enterprise customers currently working with the AIR platform. Among the companies named were AOL LLC, Business Objects SA, eBay Inc., NASDAQ Stock Market Inc., PayPal, Inc. and SAP AG.

While some of the highlighted applications are media centric -- such as AOL's Top 100 Music Videos app -- others show a decided business bent. For example, SAP used Adobe AIR to deploy a slick analytics application for tracking spending patterns from the desktop.

The demonstrated application got praise in a statement from SAP Labs' VP Roman Bukary: "The SAP xSA proof-of-concept deployment demonstrates how SAP business users will be able to leverage AIR-deployed applications anywhere, anytime, whether connected or disconnected from the network."

By contrast, the Silverlight 1.1 browser-based runtime limits the ability of apps to access client hardware. That restriction gives Adobe AIR an edge in delivering more desktop-like environments.

"The news that a company like SAP is using AIR is significant," notes DeMichillie, "because it says that Adobe is having some success among the more traditional developers.

"Silverlight has some advantages, the biggest one being the ability to use C# as the programming language, which is very popular. But Flash is more mature and on its ninth version, while Silverlight 1.1 is still in alpha."

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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