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Adobe AIR & Its Hybrid App Dreams

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For what seems to be an eternity, we have been promised seamless connectivity, high-speed connections that appear auto-magically out of thin air, giving us access to the wonders of the web — and of course, our data, including the unending stream of emails. Today, we have 3G networks, Wi-Fi in coffee shops and our homes, connections in office, trains and in some cases, even in planes. You would think that we are almost always connected.

And yet we have a growing number of companies — many of them with vested interest in the desktop PC paradigm — that are convinced we need to have a hybrid strategy when it comes to applications.

Adobe Systems (ADBE) is about to officially announce its desktop-webtop hybrid technology AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) and related products for making rich Internet applications. Others have similar ambitions. Mozilla with its Prism initiative, Google’s Gears, Sun Microsystems’ JavaFX and Microsoft are trying to come up with ways in which our data lives in the cloud but is available on the desktop, aka locally.

I, for one, have been in this hybrid camp because it is hard to predict when we will have ubiquitous broadband. I first wrote about this trend back in March 2007 for Business 2.0 and pointed out that “the ability to work offline is crucial to overcoming consumer resistance to Web-based applications. The new offline mode will doubtless help with the adoption of many Web-based applications that are debuting right now.”

In December 2007, Anne Zelenka reminded us that despite all the hoopla, the initial attempts at hybrid apps didn’t prove to be all that compelling. Many of our readers felt that the hybrid applications need to present a new kind of value proposition that goes beyond offline access to all the familiar web apps.

Hopefully we will see some of them soon enough.

Related Posts:

* Desktop Apps, reborn as hybrids
* Not Hot, Offline Web Applications.
* The Coming Apollo vs Firefox Battle.
* Why Google needs the desktop (& Adobe)
* Google buy Adobe

15 Responses to “Adobe AIR & Its Hybrid App Dreams”

  1. imho, a hybrid app, for its an offline capability, mainly offers 2 critical benefits:
    a) non-reliance on 100% internet connection
    b) privacy of some critical / private data

    Also, such an app does not have to use Adobe Air not that using Air is undesirable.

    Check out my site for such a non-AIR hybrid app…

  2. Hi, my company (go to “trial” tab to see tool) is looking for a great Flex/Air developer to convert our amazing Flex-based drag-n-drop flash widget creation tools to AIR.

    Any takers or does anyone know any people that have spent the last year mastering AIR?

    from, Your One Stop Social Media Shop

  3. Still a big fan of Google Reader’s offline mode. It’s simple and I don’t need it often, but when I do, it’s invaluable. The amount of reading I have to do in a day means getting behind is disastrous. Thanks to Google Gears, I can read even when I’m not connected.

  4. When the applications are thsoe that solve problems, beyond those vertical applications, then we should see those RIAs advance beyond something more than a flash in the pan every few months or so. Long tail adoption of web apps would be more able to happen if RIAs pick up, and at the same time, they need to offer more compelling items than just repeating the offline paradigm of use.

  5. Marl Balou

    As Brian states, this is more than just offline access. Ideally data & state should reside in the cloud so that it is accessible from anywhere and any device but there should be a mechanism to bring this down to the device and then use the full computing power of the device including DirectX graphics, locally connected peripherals etc. This will provide extremely rich application experience similar to today’s desktop applications and games but with the advantage of roaming & any device.

    To get this right we need a new framework (ie AIR, Silverlight) and also new thinking on the architecture ie how to get data optimally using async protocols, caching of this data, updating the data/state in the cloud, providing the right level of experience based on the computing resources available on the device etc.

  6. You are all such great and venerated philosophers, “I have written”, “I have spoken”. !

    If a business has a line operation (CLOB – Capital Line of Business) that it may put on a hosted platform or service, as we say, the relationship between that enterprise and that SAAS account will last exactly until, and only until, a major outage.

    Therefore, chipmunks, the SAAS vendors MUST have a way to preserve data, enable off-line and alternative access, generally, keep disruption to a minimum.

    The conveniences aspect is a secondary issue.

  7. It’s not just about the offline access. It’s also about extending web applications to the desktop. It’s about creating a more “application”-like experience and less of a web site (which is important to non-technical users). Its about tightly controlling and thereby enhancing the users experience rather than being bound to a browser over-which you have no control. The offline capabilities are important but should not be overstated. If that were the only benefit in a world growing 100% wireless this would surely fail.

  8. I just wrote about this in more detail, but I think that what is really interesting here is the strategic threat that this stuff poses to microsoft. Perhaps the most important thing that microsoft has had as a strategic advantage was the fact that if you wanted to write desktop apps you needed to use windows. AIR and Flex abstract the OS layer entirely and make everything cross platform. As I see it this is a death stroke to microsoft’s historically most important advantage.

  9. Om,

    Didn’t Adobe already officially announce AIR? Or are you saying that they are announcing it as a commercial (non-beta) product that can be installed / run / supported / paid for?



    P.S. Insanely great software is hard work. Wouldn’t be ironic if, by the time the really great hybrid apps came along, ubiquitous broadband came to fruition yielding all the hybrid efforts not so useful after all? Its kind of like a race condition.