Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Apollo - bringing all the web goodness to the desktop

Apollo has been getting alot of buzz lately. For those of you who doesn't know, Apollo is the code name for a project from Adobe that allows developers to build Rich Internet Application for the desktop using their existing skillsets in HTML, Action Script, Flex, Java Script and PDF. Apollo's run time will be freely available to download (much like the flash player). And the run time engine supported out of the box is very attractive to any web developer who wants to create a desktop version of their application.

In my talk given at Adobe MAX 2006 in Las Vegas, my colleague and I showcased an Apollo-ified version of the flex application that we were building for the telecom industry. Total time spent to "build" the apollo version? 10 minutes. This includes 5 minutes to find an icon we want to use on the desktop. Alot of details of Apollo isn't cant be released yet, however the vision is clear. Bring the best of breed of the web technology onto the desktop.

Imagine supporting PDF documents natively in the development and run time environment, such that incorporating PDF based work flows into your application is seamless. Kevin Lynch, Senior VP at Adobe, showcased a scenario where user is filling in details and applying for a mortgage on the desktop using Flash and HTML, and sign the PDF document directly within the Apollo application, and finally sent to the mortgage broker / banker in a single package containing all the necessary information. The integration was seamless and the UI was attractive, and easy to use.

Many has compared Apollo to the Java Web Start, and predicts it's inevitable doom. However, personally I think Adobe has a few things in their favor that will turn things around:

  1. Distribution Channels: Adobe (and Macromedia) have excellent distribution channel. The ubiquity of the flash player, the Acrobat Reader is an indication of this.
  2. Speed and Version Control: One of the big down fall of Java Web Start, is that the Java Run Time is a beast, and slow to start up. The Apollo run time is currently standing at approximately, 5.5 mbs. I can not tell the difference between the launch speed of an Apollo application versus a native windows/mac app.
  3. Developers: There are already communities of developers embracing the technologies behind Apollo: HTML/Ajax, Flash/Flex, and PDF. Transition for them over to Apollo is seamless.
  4. Technology: The level of interactivity and interaction that can be accomplished through AJAX/ Flash is unparalleled. A whole breed of desktop RIA is waiting to be created and embraced by the user.
I can't wait to see what's coming up next.

David in Vancouver

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