Although it is true that more and more services are going to be web-based, giving you the benefit of having access to them from any device connected to the Internet, it is also true that users are still fond of double-clicking an icon on their desktop. This is probably because it’s still not very easy to stay online wherever you go (in fact, most areas don’t have free access to the Internet). I have the feeling that people still like working on their computer, with locally installed applications. So, what to do? Step up, Adobe Air….
Adobe Air is a free, cross-platform and open-source technology which allows web-applications to be used offline. It is aimed at bringing the same functionality of rich Internet applications built using technologies such as Adobe Flash and Flex Builder to the desktop. Developers of web services can now offer the possibility to download their services for offline use. The benefits are clear: users will be able to work with any service they need while offline, and upload their changes as soon as an internet connection becomes available. Adobe AIR’s competitors are Microsoft with Silverlight and Google with Gears which differ for type of technologies supported (like .NET framework rather than Flash) and for type of service they point at.
So far, among the big names developing desktop versions of their online products there are: eBay, AOL and Yahoo!. The BBC is also building prototype applications with AIR. According to eBay’s frequent users for example, the desktop application is really useful as it is designed to do everything in the quickest possible way by pre-organising the activity of selling and buying in customizable ways.
We would all prefer to use web services online but when this is not possible, it can be useful and more efficient to be able to manage them offline, uploading any changes at your convenience.
That said, not all critics are enthusiastic about this new release from Adobe. Tim Anderson of IT Week said:
AIR is poor compared to either Java or .Net, which have richer runtime libraries and greater extensibility. It is hard to find many good reasons for enterprises to use it in place of Java or .Net on the desktop, or web applications running in their more familiar home, the browser.
It still remains to be proven whether many users will make the switch from web services back to offline applications, or for how long such applications will be popular. Meanwhile if you want to share what you think about this topic with the community, just post your comment.
AIR 1.0 has been released today and you can download it from Adobe now.