Adobe AIR Looks Beyond Competition from Microsoft Silverlight and Google Chrome

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-09-25

Adobe AIR Looks Beyond Competition from Microsoft Silverlight and Google Chrome

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- In an interview with eWEEK, Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer at Adobe Systems, said Adobe is looking beyond competition from Microsoft and others and focusing on providing innovation for its base of designers, developers and end users of its technologies.

For instance, when asked whether the new Google Chrome browser with its nascent ability to run Web applications as desktop applications might present competition to Adobe's AIR technology, which enables users to run Web applications across operating systems and work on the Web as well as the desktop, Lynch said: "Chrome is a Web browser and I'm excited to see more innovation in the Web browser space."

However, "the ability to run an application in Chrome and save a shortcut to the desktop, right now what that means is basically it's an icon that launches you to a Web page and then you're interacting with that application again," Lynch said. "That's not the same approach that we're taking with AIR, where you can actually install a Web application on your computer and it runs whether you're online or offline and you can access information you couldn't with a Web application -- so being able to access your local documents and edit them in a word processing application or a rich editing application. That's not possible inside the Web model with the sandbox. Doing things like notification on the screen and being able to drag and drop information between applications, these are things that AIR is enabling you to do on the computer that the Web browser doesn't do."

Moreover, Lynch, who spoke with eWEEK at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Emerging Technology conference here, asked why should a user have to switch from a preferred browser to Chrome anyway. "If you like using Firefox or you like using Opera or Internet Explorer and you want to install a Web app on your computer, you have to change browsers," he said. "And my view is you shouldn't have to change browsers, you should be able to do that without having to make that switch."

However, Lynch said that now that Google is also supporting the WebKit engine, which Adobe also supports, in Chrome, the companies will likely be working together more. "There's a lot of momentum around using WebKit as a core technology for HTML," Lynch said. "We adopted that for AIR and we're contributing to the open-source project. Nokia is active there, Google is, and Apple is. So I really think there's increasing momentum around that as a good implementation of HTML that is broadly applicable and works on mobile as well as on PCs."

Microsoft the Follower

Meanwhile, Lynch said Adobe has seen no real impact of the concentrated focus Microsoft has placed on some of Adobe's core business. Asked how the competition with Microsoft has been going, Lynch said:

"I would characterize it more as we've been going in an innovative direction for a long time at Adobe in terms of enabling people to express themselves with tools, get great clients out across the Web and get great server-side experiences. And what I see now is Microsoft starting to target each of those areas that we continue to innovate in and that we've been leading in for decades. But that is more of a following position than an innovative position. If you look at Silverlight versus Flash, for example, we've been deploying Flash on the Web for a decade to great success. There is no other technology that's as widely distributed as Flash today. We haven't seen any impact or lessening of Flash's momentum so far. In fact, acceleration is what we're seeing. Flash came from nowhere on video. By incorporating video in Flash Player across the Web, almost overnight we saw this incredible revolution and now over 90 percent of video streaming on the Web is actually in the Flash format."

In addition, with AIR, Microsoft has no solution in that space right now, Lynch said. "While it's competing with Flash via Silverlight, there is no competition for AIR right now from Microsoft. Except maybe from Windows, but that's an operating system. And AIR runs across operating systems. So that's kind of missing the point to say a particular OS is competing with AIR."

And in tooling, Lynch said Adobe's newly announced Creative Suite 4 "is just the best in the world at enabling people to express themselves. I would say Creative Suite is really light years ahead of where Microsoft is coming in with tooling. So we're just going to keep focusing on our customers, working to innovate and not be distracted by how we might be pursued in some cases."

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