Adobe Releases Alpha of Apollo

Adobe drops an alpha release of its much-anticipated cross-operating system run-time for Web developers.

Adobe Systems has announced the first public alpha release of Apollo, its cross-operating system run-time for Web developers.

The technology is available on the Adobe Labs site here.

Apollo is the code name for Adobes development system that enables Web developers to leverage their existing skills in Adobe Flash and Adobe Flex, as well as HTML, JavaScript and AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), to build and deploy RIAs (rich Internet applications) on the desktop.

The first version of Apollo includes a free SDK (software development kit) that provides a set of command-line tools—one for packaging and another for testing—for developing and working with Apollo applications, Downey said. Developers can download the Apollo SDK and then use the IDE (integrated development environment) of their choice to build Apollo applications, the company said.

With the alpha release of Apollo, Adobe is closing in on the goal of enabling developers to create applications that leverage the reach and ubiquity of Internet technologies with the richness of desktop applications—a goal shared by many, including Microsoft. And Apollo works across operating systems and outside the browser to deliver a "more consistent and engaging user experience," said Mike Downey, senior product manager for Apollo at Adobe.

Apollo provides users with direct access to Internet applications—including those built with HTML, JavaScript, Flash and PDF—without the need to open a browser and gives users a user experience similar to that of desktop applications while providing more reliable interaction with content, Downey said.

Adobe will deliver a beta release of Apollo in a few months and will release the final version of the product by years end, Downey said.

"With this first release were focused on Flash support, and this is the first drop with stable, HTML support," he said.

Other features in the alpha release include multiwindow support; a new installation process; support for writing to the file system and for working with other types of files such as PNG files, Excel and others; and an extension to Adobe FlexBuilder to enable developers to use an Eclipse-based IDE, Downey said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifeWEEK Labs finds Flex 2 to be a major platform for creating Web apps and services. Click here to read the review.

The Apollo run-time and SDK are available for both the Windows and Macintosh operating systems. Future versions will be available for Linux and will integrate PDF, include deeper AJAX support and leverage mobile technologies, the company said.

"This release will not feature PDF support," but a future release will, and the next release, expected this summer, will focus more on AJAX, Downey said.

"We think Apollos kind of unique," Downey said, citing other platform technologies such as the Java platform and Windows as foundational technologies that could offer developers similar capability.

"But whats unique about Apollo is everything you do with Apollo is using Web technology," Downey said. "The closest thing [to Apollo] would be Java, but they fragmented their own run-time over time," so that various implementations require specific JVMs (Java Virtual Machines), he said. "But were avoiding that with Apollo, because well be backward-compatible with the previous version" of the technology.

Downey cited eBays San Dimas Project, which built an eBay desktop prototype, as an example of an early use of the technology. EffectiveUI, a Denver-based design and development firm, helped eBay build the San Dimas prototype.

At the Dx3 Conference & Expo in Boston in mid-May, Allen Ellison, managing partner at EffectiveUI, will discuss his companys work on the eBay project, where it used Adobe Flex and Adobe Flash with a prerelease version of Apollo to create a highly dynamic application that can be used online or offline, as a desktop application or through a Web browser.

"Ellison will share an under-the-hood look at what makes the eBay desktop application tick," said Lynda Weinman, CEO of Events, which is putting on the Dx3 conference.

The eBay desktop application was designed in Adobe Fireworks and developed using Adobe Flex 2.0. It is deployed using a prerelease version of Apollo and accesses eBay data and business logic through open-source ActionScript classes designed to work with eBay APIs. The project included interface design and Adobe Flex and Apollo development, Ellison said.

"EffectiveUIs team was contracted to help eBay turn their vision into reality," Ellison said in a statement.

"eBay is constantly striving to provide the most compelling experience for our end users, and to enable eBay developers to do the same," said Max Mancini, senior director of disruptive innovation at eBay, in a statement. "Our work with Apollo is an example of one of the many ways eBay is delivering a fun, immersive experience outside of the browser. In this case, the marketplace is brought straight to users desktops with improved caching, real-time product availability notifications, and auction updates."

Also in a statement, Michael Lebowitz, co-founder and CEO of Big Spaceship, in New York, said: "Extending the Web applications were developing to run directly on the desktop and across platforms, without extra coding or the need to learn new, complex OS-centric development technologies opens up new business opportunities . We can use our current skill set to solve some of the traditional problems that plague Web applications, such as losing data when a page refreshes, and help our clients take the next step in connecting with their customers."

Downey said Apollo is an important element of Adobes strategy to provide technologies and product workflows for developers and designers to create and deliver new kinds of high-impact, rich applications, content and experiences to engage people virtually anywhere at any time.

"RIAs have become a core element of todays Web computing experience," said Kevin Lynch, Adobes senior vice president and chief software architect, in a statement. "Were working to enable this new generation of innovative applications to bridge the chasm between the Web and the personal computer. Apollo will empower millions of Web developers to make their RIAs first-class citizens on the desktop using the tools they already know.

"With this alpha release, were continuing our collaborative effort with the community of developers and designers to further evolve how the world engages with ideas and information. We cant wait to see what the community will create in this new medium."

Other companies have used early versions of Apollo to work up applications they intend to bring to customers. Finetune, a Boston-based music streaming service, is one of them. The Finetune social networking music site has developed a pilot application based on Apollo that will allow users to have a stand-alone music player on their desktop to easily listen to Finetune playlists.

And Virtual Ubiquity, of Waltham, Mass., is developing a robust word processor, known as BuzzWord, which leverages Web technologies. With BuzzWord, users will be able to create and save documents to their desktop through Apollo and access those same documents via the Web from any machine.

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