Adobe AIR to traverse online/offline borders

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Adobe AIR to traverse online/offline borders

Vendors are preparing wares designed to capitalise on the arrival of Adobe’s AIR system that builds a bridge between online and offline applications.

Supporters say that AIR, expected to arrive in the spring, will provide a flexible working platform that takes advantage of collaborative web capabilities when connectivity is available, while letting work continue when it is not. Other advantages are the ability to have rich media capabilities, and scope for very small applications that can be regularly updated.

The attractions of AIR have led to firms from eBay to AOL, Nasdaq and Nickelodeon developing applications. Enterprise software developers including Business Objects also plan to support AIR.

US startup Instacoll is preparing an AIR-based suite of productivity applications that can be accessed from users’ desktop or via the web.

Instacoll chief executive Sumanth Raghavendran said he envisaged smart web-enabled clients that allow users to seamlessly switch between the desktop and browser versions while automatically taking care of synchronisation and version control aspects without requiring any manual actions.

"We see our AIR app as providing an alternative to users who want to collaborate from the desktop, running any OS, and use the app in offline mode without requiring any Microsoft software,” he said.

Raghavendran added that the AIR suite will also provide improved usability through capabilities that would not be possible within a browser, such as access to the local file system, clipboard support, and file drag-and-drop.

Much of AIR’s success will depend on Adobe’s ability to distribute the AIR runtime very widely, as it has done with Acrobat readers and Flash players.

“We are counting on Adobe's proven record of being able to push out their runtimes to a ubiquitous level,” said Raghavendran.

Gartner analyst Toby Bell said, “Given the investment by Adobe in its development and promotion, I would have to bet on strong initial interest from the developer community. Enterprises will adopt slowly until skills and proper usage cases more fully evolve. Adobe has both a good product and an obvious value proposition.”

However, not everybody is convinced that AIR will succeed, with skeptics noting competition from Microsoft’s Silverlight, criticising Adobe terms and conditions, and questioning the effect of applications that do not conform to the desktop user interface norm.

Even supporters admit to caveats.

“AIR is still in beta and as such unproven, and from a technical perspective, there are still several areas that are either completely missing or have major gaps in developing client software,” said Instacoll’s Raghavendran. @ 2010 Incisive Media

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