/ General chit-chat

Apollo takes to the .air

Much like the Spartan king from that movie 300, Apollo has obviously spent its time in the alpha version wilderness, and has returned to take on its new name. All praise "AIR". (Adobe Integrated Runtime)

Seriously though, I'm not sure that it returned wrapped in the skin of a dead wolf (or a dead Silverlight) but it certainly piqued the industries' interest. Time will tell, as always, whether the stir it caused actually forced Microsoft into announcing features they hadn't planned for, or wether the race is truely still on.

Anyway, enough mystical-sounding crap. What's this all about then?

adobeair.jpg

What's in a name?

First up, the name "AIR". We always knew that the file extension was going to be .air, and we know that Adobe in particular has a penchance for strange project codenames. (One iteration of Photoshop was codenamed 'The Big Electric Cat') Air however, had me imagining that this would be some kind of ... well, something to do with clouds and weather. But actually, it means "Adobe Integrated Runtime", which is a whole lot cooler, as product names go. Methinks Adobe had this one laying around in some cubboard for a while before they aquired Macromedia.

What is it now?

Beta should naturally mean its more stable. Although frankly, I never had any issues with it in Alpha.

Whats' new is a little more interesting. With the early ebay desktop demos there was a tantalizing talk on creation of content with more varied applications than Flex and Flash. After all, they just publish to the same file format anyway. So HTML and AJAX are now joining the lineup. It's not an altogether huge leap, JavaScript has been an option for scripting Flash for a while now (instead of ActionScript), and HTML, well the support that Flash and Flex have for HTML has been on a rapid rise in the last two or three versions.

As well as this, we get more information on the scheme of things. "AIR" was looking very much like it could be little more than downloadable executable files - with the exeption that there's no .exe stigmata and it's cross-platform. Our latest information clears a few things up...

The technical specs of Adobe AIR include:

  • Lightweight (9 MB) runtime installed once with first Adobe AIR application.
  • Open source WebKit engine for HTML.
  • Open source Tamarin VM for Flash.
Plus, the Flash player 9's enhanced speed, and all that stuff.

So?

Well a 9mb download is... not ideal, but I'm sure they've done their best. Least it's a one-off thing. If it can be distributed on CD-Rom, somuch the better. People will just have to get used to the idea?

As for the Open source, WebKit is something I've heard of, and exactly what the Flash players' HTML compatability is built on. Tamarin VM... never heard of it. But stuffing both of those Open source projects along for the ride sounds a lot like the Open Sourcing of Flex and is, as I've commented before, an interesting move.

Anything else?

  • Flex builder 3 has reached Beta, although I haven't had a chance to check it out yet.
  • I'm still worried that people might get too laisé-fair about downloadable apps, and get stung by malware with the file system abilities that AIR could unleash...
Right, I'm off to play with Apollo AIR

Minor thing? www.adobeair.com doesn't get you to Adobe - it takes you to an Air Conditioning website. Not so bad, unless you're feeling lucky.

James Ford

James Ford

Front end web developer, author of the Flash Facebook Cookbook and Technical Architect at MMT Digital.

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