Adobe Floating on AIR

Company CTO Kevin Lynch says the new Adobe Integrated Runtime offering gives Adobe a strong lead over Microsoft in the RIA space.

Adobe Systems in February launched its Adobe Integrated Runtime, or AIR, a new technology that lets developers use proven Web technologies to build rich Internet applications that deploy to the desktop and run across operating systems. At the Adobe Engage 08 event in San Francisco Feb. 25, eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft spoke with Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch about AIR and a host of other issues.

As far as AIR deployment, why not just put it in Flash?

Well, the Flash player right now is still quite small in terms of its download and we still see that as being an important factor in the distribution and the rate of updates that we're getting with Flash. Right now, Flash Player 9 is being installed at the rate of about 12 million a day. It's one of the fastest distributions of technology I know about. This means we can update Flash across the Web-we can get over 90 percent penetration across the Web in over a year now with people updating it.

So size is part of that. And, of course, with bandwidth increasing, it may be possible to make the client technology bigger over time. But we see other opportunities for getting AIR out, so we don't have to necessarily include it with Flash to do that. There are a couple of ways.

One is we distribute [Flash] Reader. Reader is a larger download than Flash Player. Reader is a 30 or 40MB download right now. And so what we are looking at doing is making an application around AIR that we will include with Reader and that will also include the AIR runtime. And that will be one way that we'll get distribution. But over time, the biggest way that we'll drive distribution is applications using AIR.

That's the same way we distribute Flash today, where you go to a Web site that says in order to use this you need to get Flash Player. So most people have it now, so over time that will be the same mechanism that pulls AIR, but we'll also push it a little bit with things like Reader. So we should see fairly quick adoption of AIR, based on the applications I've seen and also our focus on getting it out.

But isn't the Flash Player only about a 500K download? Couldn't you just up that a little, as you said bandwidth is increasing?

The Flash Player is a little over a megabyte right now. But we're very cautious about increasing Flash Player's size. Although each release gets a little bit bigger as we add a new codec or other features to it. And we'll do that again in the next major Flash Player update. But we're just being cautious. The Flash Player team has a very intense focus on efficiency and performance and keeping the size of the player down.

When are you planning to, or are you in fact planning to, open-source Flash?

Well, we've already open-sourced portions of Flash. If you look at the core of the Flash Player, the virtual machine, that is now open source. That just happened last year. We actually took the virtual machine and we contributed that source code to the Mozilla Foundation. So not only is it open source, we've actually contributed the code to the Mozilla Foundation.