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Technology: Page (1) of 1 - 03/17/08

The Merging of the Web and Desktop Applications

How Adobe came to deliver AIR

By Matthew David

When you look at it, the last 10 years there has been a significant skew in the design and development of solutions. The bias has been to Web technologies. The old trusty desktop is definitely the poor man`s son not receiving the same attention, particularly when it comes to design. The Web has just been, well, more glamorous. The desktop is now the place where you do work you can not do online such as listen to music, write Word documents and access corporate applications. The desktop is trustworthy because you can still work on it when you are disconnected from the Internet.

A new set of solutions that look to marry both the services of the Web with the reliability of the desktop is emerging from companies such as Adobe, Mozilla and Google. Adobe`s early leader is the Adobe Integrated Runtime, or AIR, framework.

The first question you need to ask yourself when using technology is: what is the problem? Amazingly, you see solutions appear all the time that are looking to find a problem (can we all say "Segway") the rarity is the problem looking for a solution. Adobe has a problem that needed a solution. The bottom line is this: the business workforce is now very mobile. We conduct work in coffee houses, on site, in airports, at home, in meetings and on the road. You are being forced to step away from your desktop in order to get things done. The problem is that you are not always connected to the Internet when you move to these locations. Keeping applications on the Web is not practical. You can do amazing things over the Web. But you are down the creek without a paddle when you loose you Internet connection.



A host of websites have taken advantage of Adobe's AIR technology.

Adobe`s AIR is a paradigm shift in software architecture. Simply put, the technology allows IT departments to take the applications developed for the Web and port them to the desktop. If you are connected, you can sync your applications to central servers. If you are not, then you can still get your work done through leveraging local offline data storage. This new paradigm is called "occasionally connected device," or OCD, and is being siezed upon by companies such as Google and Mozilla, through its new Google Gears solution, and an upcoming solution from the Mozilla called Prism. You can even argue that Apple is jumping on the OCD bandwagon with the upcoming release of the iPhone 2.0 software update in June.

Adobe?s AIR is a paradigm shift in software architecture. Simply put, the technology allows IT departments to take the applications developed for the Web and port them to the desktop. If you are connected, you can sync your applications to central servers.

Both the Google and Mozilla solution rely on just porting Web solutions to run offline. Adobe is taking and expanding the scope by enabling Flash and Web technologies to merge offline in desktop solutions. The result allows for sophisticated solutions that look, frankly, very cool.

AIR is comprised of two core technologies that openly communicate with each other: Flash and HTML/AJAX. Flash is able to provide an aesthetic appeal that is unmatched by HTML design. In addition, Flash supports standards such as Web Services, CSS, ECMA Script formatting, E4X, h.264 video, MP3 and more. AIR also allows you to merge Flash solutions with HTML and pure AJAX technologies to have a best of breed framework. AIR leverages the open source Web rendering engine WebKit, the same engine that powers Apple`s Safari and Google`s Android Web Browser, to render HTML and run JavaScript. WebKit is a leader in the standards battle between FireFox, Internet Explorer and Opera. There is a third component to AIR: support for PDF. Unfortunately, to support PDF you must separately install Adobe`s Acrobat as it is not bundled into AIR. With Acrobat installed, however, you can now merge Flash, AJAX and PDF solutions.

Taking and delivering AIR as a new technology solution is a bold move by Adobe. The court is still out on whether or not this is a good move. Do we really need occasionally connected devices? With ever increasing demand for wireless applications, I would say we do. However, is the PC the right place for AIR, or should it be on the smart phone? Adobe has already stated that it will have Flash on a billion phones by the end of the decade or will it be AIR, not Flash, we have on the phones?

Matthew has written four Flash books, contributed to a dozen Web books, and has published over 400 articles. He is passionate about exposing Internet's potential for all of us. Matthew works directly with many companies as a business strategist coaching IT architects and business leaders to work tightly with each other towards common goals.

Related Keywords:Adobe AIR, web development, IT web applications,

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  • The Merging of the Web and Desktop Applications by DMN Editorial at Mar. 17, 2008 11:49 pm gmt

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