Adobe's Apollo: Sounds Interesting, So Where's The Meat?

Developers will need to decide how to use Adobe's vision of rich Internet applications before the technology can bridge the worlds of the desktop and Web browser.
It could appear simply as a way to extend the marketplace for Adobe technologies like Flash and PDF, but Apollo is clearly part of an emerging software trend that takes some parts desktop app, some parts Web app, and blends them together into a whole that equals more than the isolated pieces. "A lot of the vision of Adobe relative to software is to extend the Web," Turner said. "This is really where Adobe wants to go."

Apollo's been a long time coming for Adobe, which bought Macromedia and its Web-development assets in 2005. With Macromedia Central, developers can create desktop applications that use Flash technology, but there has never been the acceptance the company expected, partially because applications couldn't be branded but instead had to run in a Macromedia sandbox. Apollo builds on those lessons. However, though Central releases have had similar NASA-related code names in Mercury and Gemini, Adobe said Apollo isn't a successor to Central.

Microsoft's software-plus-services strategy is another example of this trend toward applications that obscure the lines between the desktop and the Web. That includes things like the New York Times Reader, which allows subscribers to read the New York Times online in a much richer environment than the Web would allow. The Times Reader is built on Windows Presentation Foundation, a user interface technology built into .Net 3.0.

The Microsoft strategy appears partially geared toward giving users a choice between hosted and on-premise software and partially toward linking resources in the Internet cloud and on servers with resources on the desktop, as the Times Reader app suggests. Just last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke of a decade-long transformation of software toward "software and Internet services as one integrated experience." Microsoft has thus far been mum on the subject, but Turner said Adobe is aware of upcoming products from Microsoft that will compete with Apollo.

While Adobe's Apollo is a first fruit that's just reaching alpha and Microsoft's strategy has yet to flower extensively in developer's hands, having two of the biggest dogs in software development on the same page strongly suggests that the lines between the Web and the desktop continue to blur.

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