Adobe AIR: Rich Internet Without the Connection

Dennis Faas's picture

If Adobe has anything to say about it, application programs will soon be as interoperable between the web, your PC, and other documents as a PDF document. As the maker of one of the most popular software platforms on the planet (including FLASH player and Acrobat Reader), Adobe is optimistic about the ability of its new Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) environment to become as popular.

How Does it Work?

The AIR environment is very powerful. It will permit existing FLASH, HTML or JavaScript code to be used to create applications that appear, act and behave like conventional PC-bound programs. AIR applications will have the benefits of being able to extend beyond the runtime environment of a browser and can use local PC host resources instead of relying on server-stored information or data. In this way AIR-based programs can operate in the absence of an Internet connect but than can expand its functionality or data when once again connected to the Internet. (Source:

Using the AIR environment, applications can be developed using conventional HTML, Ajax, Adobe FLASH, and Adobe FLEX. A Linux version is expected later in the year. The software developer's kit (SDK) for AIR has been available in pre-release forms since early 2007 under the code name "Apollo". Several applications have already been developed for the platform and were co-announced with AIR. These include applications from eBay, FedEx, AOL,, NASDAQ, and the New York Times. (Source:

A good example of the way AIR-based applications can work on and off the Internet would be the eBay Desktop application. A user can easily construct eBay ads while not connected to the Internet, and then have them automatically upload when the Internet becomes available.

As with any major advancement, other companies have been working on similar Internet independent cross-platform development environments. Microsoft's Silverlight has been available in one form or another for more than a year and a new release is expected in 2008. Key criticisms of the Silverlight environment revolve around its Microsoft-centric focus, whereas Adobe has a long and successful history of providing more open cross-platform support.

Cross platform environments like AIR and Silverlight are major stepping stones for the advancement of "cloud"-like computing. But users of such platforms need to understand that including such a runtime environment on their PC potentially opens up an entirely new, and very vulnerable, pathway for security breaches or malware.

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