Adobe releases Apollo and Flex tool betas

Adobe System Inc. released beta versions today of its Apollo application runtime to allow developers to build rich Internet applications that run on the desktop and its Flex 3 technology aimed at building RIAs for the Web.

The beta version of the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), formerly called Apollo, is a cross-operating system runtime to allow developers to use HTML, Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), Adobe Flash or Adobe Flex to build RIAs for the desktop. Adobe is part of a growing group of vendors, including Google Inc., that has announced plans to take RIAs back to the desktop. They were originally aimed at infusing the rich, interactive features of a desktop application to the Web.

“This is the first major public release of the AIR runtime,” said Mike Downey, Adobe’s group manager for evangelism of platform technologies. “This one is very close to having all the features enabled in it. We’ve focused on a variety of feature areas and very heavily on improvements to the HTML engine.”

In addition, this release will be major for AJAX developers, he said, noting that the alpha code released in March “was fairly incomplete if you were doing a purely AJAX implementation.” Developers building AIR applications now can use any AJAX framework, he added.

Additional new features in the Adobe Air beta include an embedded SQLite open-source local database, support for PDF and deeper integration with Flex, Adobe said. Users will be able to view and interact with PDF documents within Adobe Air applications similar to how they interact with a PDF in the browser, the company added.

Meanwhile, Ebay Inc. is scheduled to unveil today an Adobe AIR application project called San Dimas, which can deliver notifications and updates in real time to eBay users’ desktops without them having to open a browser.

A final version of AIR is slated to ship before the end of the year.

Adobe also announced the beta release of its Adobe Flex 3 software, its free open-source tool for building RIAs. The beta versions of the Flex Builder 3 and the Flex 3 SDK will be available for download.

This beta marks the first significant release of code for the open-source Flex project, beginning with the availability of daily code updates and a public bug database. This version of the Flex standards-based language and programming model, slated to ship by the end of the year, will be available under the Mozilla Public License used by the Mozilla Foundation and by Sun Microsystems Inc. for its OpenSolaris operating system. The dual-release dates for AIR and Flex 3 were no coincidence, said Dave Gruber, group product marketing manager for Flex. Flex 3 will now include support for applications built with AIR so developers can create RIAs that run in the browser and on the desktop, he added.

This version of Flex will include several new features designed to make it easier for developers to work with data, including added memory and performance profiling tools so developers can analyze and improve the performance of applications running in the browser or in AIR.

In addition, with Flex 3, a developer only has to download the Flex framework once; all future uses of Flex will use a version cached in the Flash player. “This makes the size of the application dramatically smaller … making the initial response very quick for Flex applications,” Gruber added.

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