Several companies are investing development time in AIR apps, programmed using Ajax and Flex, as an adjunct or alternative to Silverlight and Flash.

J. Nicholas Hoover, Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

October 2, 2007

3 Min Read

EBay on Tuesday launched a hybrid Web-desktop application based on Adobe's AIR technology, which is still not even its final release version.

And it's not the only one creating such an admixture. During Adobe's MAX 2007 conference this week, several others, including AOL, QVC, The Nasdaq Stock Market, Philips Lighting and SAP all showed off apps and proofs of concept that used Adobe's Integrated Runtime -- or AIR -- platform

While Microsoft pushes Silverlight, which in its current incarnation is little more than the company's answer to multimedia plug-ins like Adobe Flash, Adobe's not letting up with its onslaught of new rich Web app technology, and it's got customers to prove it. EBay first demonstrated its eBay Desktop app, then code-named San Dimas, a year ago with little indication if it would ever produce a public version. On Tuesday, eBay Desktop entered public beta.

Microsoft's strategy with Silverlight going forward will move away from competing directly with Flash for multimedia apps and videos. The next step is to bring developers seasoned in offline programming languages like .Net and Ruby to the Web, which should open up a great many new possibilities for rich Web apps. Adobe, meanwhile, seems headed in the other direction with AIR, though not necessarily with Flash. While Silverlight and Flash are constrained mostly to the browser, AIR apps, programmed using Ajax and Flex, run in their own little sandbox straight from the desktop.

EBay Desktop runs on Adobe's AIR runtime, which allows for Web-connected apps that run, look and feel more like desktop apps, out of the browser. Its sleek interface lets eBay buyers and sellers navigate the auction site in new ways, with drop-down menus, eBay branding on the app, a tab for favorite searches and recent categories, and an integrated look at a user's recent items. There's no indication of when a final version of eBay Desktop is due.

AOL also launched a desktop app based on AIR, a widget called Top 100 Videos that brings the top flicks from AOL Music into an AOL-branded video player that lets users bookmark and share their favorites. Other new consumer apps included one from shopping network QVC that lets users buy items, interact with TV hosts and watch QVC shows outside of the browser, and Nickelodeon showed off its own Adobe AIR prototype.

But consumers weren't the only ones served by the AIR demos. Business Objects said it is launching an AIR-based dashboard. The Walt Disney company said it created a travel application based on the technology that gives agents updated customer lists and note-taking capability. An application called Nasdaq Market Replay lets investors and brokers experience past trading conditions in real-time. SAP presented the proof-of-concept xApp Spend Analytics, a business intelligence presentation app.

The customer demonstrations were all part of Adobe's annual MAX developer conference and coincided with the release of a new test version of AIR, along with a new beta of Adobe's Flex development environment and an early preview of the next generation of Adobe Flash Player, code-named "Astro." The final release of AIR is due out next year.

About the Author(s)

J. Nicholas Hoover

Senior Editor, InformationWeek Government

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