Adobe AIR Is a Game Changer, if People Would Build for It...

Spend five minutes talking to me about technology or business and you’ll quickly realize I’m a fan of Adobe AIR. Adobe has done a very good job building a cross-platform runtime, and providing tools that make the transition from the web to the desktop quite minimal.

First to elaborate why I like AIR. For one I’m a fan of web 2.0, the sites feel cleaner, smoother, and drive new capabilities. Versus most desktop applications that are starting to feel old, and much like 1990’s Java Applets do on the web. With Flex Builder, which is an IDE for developing for flash and/or AIR, I can develop a sweet website, but then quickly port it to the desktop while maintaining a rich web 2.0 feel.

Second, did I mention it’s cross-platform? Windows, OSX, Linux, the application in AIR will look/feel/function the same. So what? This could have been done other ways right? Well here is where I start to place my bets, no one else has really done anything in this area as well as Adobe so far. Also Adobe has made their long term strategy clear, they want to truly become a cross-platform runtime. If you’re thinking what other platforms right now, you’re not thinking large enough. They want AIR to support mobile phones, set-top boxes, likely even gaming consoles. This means I can look at one application on multiple mediums with an either identical look, of very similar one, with minimal development efforts. This allows a developer to then focus even further on improving functionality.

Finally, a bit of a rant. Adobe AIR does not have a true competitor, Silverlight is a competitor to flash (not AIR), Google Gears might be the closest thing to it. But, with regard to gears taking a website and making it available offline isn’t all AIR can do. AIR has local file access, local access to some devices, which when you’re still within a browser you can’t do. Oh, and one feature I personally just like is the auto-update ability of applications.

So….. If it’s so great, why haven’t you heard of it and why aren’t you using it? Well the single problem seems to be people building applications on it. I’ve seen very few applications that would appeal to mainstream users. I (being an avid fan of AIR and anything web 2.0), will typically use 2 AIR applications per day. One being twhirl, which I use as my primary twitter client. The other tends to vary by needs. However this is contrasted with about 20 applications that I work in over a given day. Most AIR applications thus far are simple, one-off fun applications. Perhaps to really make some penetration there should be some of the following:

  • Financial/Stock tool that takes advantage of Adobe’s charting abilities
  • Word Application
  • Spreadsheet Editor
  • Central social networking aggregator (Think one stop stop to view and update all web 2.0 networks)
  • Email client