May 11, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

Flash to jump beyond the browser

Adobe Systems is working on software meant to blur the line between the Web and desktop PCs.

The company is working on a project code-named Apollo, which will let applications written for Adobe's Flash presentation software run without a Web browser, Kevin Lynch, chief software architect and senior vice president of Adobe's platform business unit, told CNET News.com.

The goal of Apollo, which will be available as a free download early next year, is to overcome some of the limitations in today's Web applications, Lynch said. Right now, Flash programs run within a Web browser. Apollo is client-based software that will run Flash applications separately from a browser, whether online or offline, he said.

Competition is heating up among companies seeking to be the preferred supplier of tools and software to run a new generation of Web applications, which feature an interactive user interface and take advantage of broadband networks.

Microsoft and Java specialists are also building slicker Web development tools. But Adobe remains the incumbent when it comes to front-end design, said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst at the Burton Group.

"Everyone is rushing in the same direction, which is to reduce the barriers between a Web page, an application and multimedia content," O'Kelly said. "(But) for a lot of people, the de facto most widely deployed Internet client is from Adobe."

Apollo is designed to give developers a way to create applications that can render Flash animations as well as HTML and Acrobat files (PDF). That approach preserves the benefits of the Web but allows room for programs that can't be included now, Lynch said.

Web-native applications, such as Web e-mail, can run on different operating systems but generally don't work when the user is disconnected from the Internet. Apollo will seek to bridge that gap, he said.

"As people start using Web applications more, and they become part of your daily life, they should be first-class citizens on your computer," Lynch said.

Apollo programs will function when a person is offline and automatically update data when the user gets back online. For example, a person could book an airline ticket from a handheld or laptop offline; when the person reconnects to a network, the software will complete the transaction.

In addition, Apollo applications will behave like other desktop programs: They will have a separate icon for launching the program and appear in operating system utilities, like the "Add or Remove Programs" feature in Microsoft Windows, Lynch said.

An early version of the Apollo software is expected to be made available to developers on the Adobe Labs site later this year. Programmers can write applications to run in Apollo using Adobe's current line of tools.

Front-end incursions
Apollo is part of Adobe's strategy to expand its network of third-party programmers, particularly Web developers, who build applications around its Flash and Acrobat technologies.

But developers are being offered a plethora of options, including more robust tools for scripting languages and AJAX-style development for the Web, analysts said.

Lynch said Adobe is seeking to tap into the growing interest in scripting languages. The forthcoming Flash Player 9, the software that runs Flash applications, has been rewritten to run scripts at least 10 times faster, he said. On Tuesday, Adobe joined Open Ajax, an Eclipse-based project for AJAX development.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has its sights set squarely on Adobe's traditional products for designers and illustrators. And it is working on development software, called Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere, which promises to render Windows applications on different operating systems and browsers, as Flash does.

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Adobe Apollo, Kevin Lynch, Adobe Systems Inc., AJAX, Web application

28 comments

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Traditional Microsoft........
"Microsoft executives said that upcoming Windows Vista development tools will be able to run on non-Microsoft browsers and operating systems, although they will not be as functional as Windows-native applications."

They want their tools and apps to be widely adapated but of course, if it's not running on Windows it will be crippled.

Get the hell out of here!!! They really don't get it and assinine statements like that prove it.

Flash would have never taken off in the way that it has if it wasn't as roboust as it is on every platform.

Microsoft, get a clue!!!!!
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good/Bad
I like web browsers and the freedom to explore. I can see these web-apps, that reside outside browser space, handle specialized tools and portals.

If these applications come out...

What about version compatibility? If I upgrade ?Apollo? does app <X> break?

My "Start->All Programs" menu is flooded with applications, why do I want more in there?

The web browser is great and I can keep websites and web client applications away from my desktop.
Posted by arcadefx (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
THIS is why!
This is why people mourned the idea of Adobe acquiring Macromedia.

Adobe is looking for ways to make flash player more intrusive, like Acrobat Reader.

(for a Reader alternitave see Foxit Reader: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/rd_intro.php</a> )
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get the facts right
It takes relatively little research to find the facts out yourself.

There is complete commitment towards keeping the Flash plugin
as is - they are focused on keeping it lean and invisible to the
user.

What Adobe are up to is finding ways to re-use the technology
from Flash. There is a real opportunity to make Flash a cross-
platform API.

And while Acrobat Reader is a POS, Adobe have done some
pretty cool things as a company - making PDF an open standard
for starters, means you don't HAVE to use Acrobat Reader,
wheras with SWF there is no legal alternative. I also suspect they
are behind the opening up of Flex - Adobe have always been
more interested in open standards, wheras Macromedia have
been tool focused.
Posted by JulesLt (110 comments )
Link Flag
The Problem is...
Macromedia has made executive decisions in the past that decide NOT to support or create Flash players and plugins for 64 bit operating systems. Try finding one for an operating system like Suse 10.0
when running in 64 bit mode on Opterons!

So they may SAY it is cross platform--but only platforms of their choice (and they don't support modern 64 bit operating systems).

How many opterons have to be sold (and run with 64 bit operating systems) before macromedia decides it will produce Flash for 64 bit operating systems?

If everybody is going to run Flash on their desktop, they could start by making Flash work
in a browser on a (64 bit) operating systems such as Suse 10 for X86-64?

As long as it doesn't work now on Opterons with 64 bit operating systems, it is not a solution for a growing segment of users.
Posted by xorek (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
We already have this
It's called the Java Runtime Environment. Works great. Cross-
platform.
Posted by chassoto--2008 (71 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How can the JRE view flash videos?
Is there an API class that handles this?
Posted by CommandHerTaco (43 comments )
Link Flag
well
I could see some use of this is these types of applications were to end up on something say a set top box or some kind device like that.
Posted by chuchucuhi (233 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Isn't that Macromedia Director??? Oh wait..
Ya they tried this it's called Macromedia director flash is essentially Director Lite. Although flash has taken off and director has not it is or was cross platform until they stopped updating it. Flash has built a reputation for being pretty and pointless. Also their browser support SUCKS! for anything other than Windows it's slow as hell on Mac and recently made an appearence on Linux but neither of the pluggins are taken seriously on Mac/Linux, like MSN Messenger for Mac it's always a few versions behind a few bug fixes behind and never optimized. If Macromedia wants other platform users to take flash seriously please put some more resources into cross platform development.
Posted by brian.lee (548 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Flash Support
I agree that Flash is generally slow and bulky when on older computers and non-windows platform, but I wouldn't go as far as to say it's not widely adopted and deployed.

Take a look at YouTube, Google Video, almost all Rich Media, it's powered by Flash and it sure seems to work just dandily for millions.
Posted by calbear--2008 (11 comments )
Link Flag
Pretty but Pointless?
I thought that was Mac, not Flash, which is much more widely used on the desktop than Mac or Linux. If you coose to be in a niche you cannot expect the same level of support.
Posted by dikelmm (1 comment )
Link Flag
You can already do this...
...with mProjector from Screentime Media. It allows you to take
your Flash content and create cross platform stand-alone apps that
run natively on Mac or Windows. Also, it has access to system level
functions of the native OS, such as file copying and saving.

While it's true that this solution is not free, it does work well and
does not require the user to download another plugin.
Posted by kaisdaddy (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
didn't they already try this?
It seems to me Macromedia tried this already with Flash. Maybe a couple of years ago. But I can't remember the details.
Posted by tipper_gore (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My thoughts exactly! What is new here?
That's what I was thinking too. In fact I have 2 Macromedia-based programs that give me realtime weather updates on the desktop, and they don't need a browser at all. Plus I have Macromedia Central which (though it never got very popular) let Flash-based programs run outside the browser.

Looks like is just a marketing push for Adobe's new tools. It would be nice if cnet bothered to report which parts of Apollo are actually new instead of just rehashing Adobe's press release.
Posted by Logomachist (4 comments )
Link Flag
Reserve airline tickets....offline?
I don't understand the airline ticket reservation example in the article. The data required to reserve an airline ticket is obviously somewhat timely. One minute you have a seat...the next you don't. Or the flight might get completely booked. I suppose you would receive some kind of notification (via the Apollo application) the next time you connect to the Internet, but if you have to go back and fix your reservation anyway, you might as well have waited until you could connect to the Internet to make your reservation in the first place!

I'm sure there are lots of other applications for this technology but something tells me Flash and Apollo aren't necessary to do it. In fact, I bet the required technology is already a part of Windows Vista and XP, or easily added. Thanks for sharing your innovative idea with Microsoft...!
Posted by JEG2006 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can book offline for seats outside the plane
They cost half as much too.

I just bought a ticket for only $50 for a window seat not on flight 456 from Buffalo to Denver.

Gartner says that blogging was yesterday, MySpace is today, and offline airline tickets will be tomorrow.

For $10 extra/month AOL is going to offer a window that uses the Apollo engine but enhances the offline ticket buying experience.

If I were and investor I would get in early.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Link Flag
Internet connection needed, OS - no longer?
Hmmm. Looking into my crystal ball...

This seems to me to be (yet another) beginning of the end, of the OS. As long as a machine is connected to the net these programs (Flash) doesn't need an OS. It runs independently, correct?
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rebranding is in order
In order to get this effort taken seriously, they'll need to do a major re-branding. Flash has too many awful connotations: dancing menus, unwanted animated banner ads, bad design...in a word, crap.
And the words "Flash developer/designer" are a sure way to get your resume tossed in the bin.
Posted by Jackson Pollock (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Same as Photoshop?
Well, comeon, whenever most people say the word "photoshop", it's in regards to a (usually) tastless and/or humorous edited image, rather than in a proffessional view.

"And the words "Flash developer/designer" are a sure way to get your resume tossed in the bin."

I know about 5 people who have gotten pretty good jobs because they had this on their resume, as opposed to the average "web designer" resume.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
You can export flash as a .exe
Or at least you could, and I know they have a seperate version of flash player that is not just a browser plugin and enables you to just double click .swf files.

Macromedia already did this and this is NOT what Adobe is trying to do.

They want instead to find a way to be more in your face about it (like Reader) so they can make more money from it.

They only just aquired the company (Macromedia) and they are already finding ways to exploit their products at the expense of the consumer.

I cringe every time I accidently click a PDF file on a machine with Acrobat Reader. I just can't wait to get the same experience from Flash.

Burn Adobe, burn.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Try Adobe Digital Editions Beta
Try Adobe Digital Editions Beta to see how much cleaner and less resource intensive opening pdf's using flash. You will cringe no longer.
Posted by threeDart (1 comment )
Link Flag
REBOL/View ....
Hmm, no, when the world is talking web 2.0 with ajax, and us reboller's do use web 3.0 already, other get the idea too - Flash, and even Ruby now tries to copy Rebol/View :-)

cheers,
Petr
Posted by pekr (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Why not do it the easy way...
QuickTime already contains support for Flash 5; why not just
develop a QuickTime component for modern Flash content and go
that route. QuickTime Player is already a cross-platform stand-
alone app that already supports older Flash. Why reinvent the
wheel?
Posted by RideMan (81 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Stay cautious....
..... Never trust Microsoft or Adobe,,,,,
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why should we not trust MS and Adobe? (particularly Adobe?)
Because... what?

They're probably the 2 most powerful companies on the desktop. That doesn't make them evil.
Posted by Logomachist (4 comments )
Link Flag
Sounds familiar.....
Taking Flash beyond the browser all sounds a bit familiar. Tools like MDM Zinc have been around for a while and allow you to build Flash projectors and deploy to Windows, Mac and Pocket PC platforms and doesn't require a plug-in (see www.multidmedia.com).

Will be interesting to see what becomes of Apollo and whether its just a re-hash of the failed Central from a few years back
Posted by K Aujla (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sounds Familiar
Taking Flash beyond the browser all sounds a bit familiar. Tools like MDM Zinc have been around for a while and allow you to build Flash projectors and deploy to Windows, Mac and Pocket PC platforms and dont require a plug-in (see www.multidmedia.com).

Will be interesting to see what becomes of Apollo and whether its just a re-hash of the failed Central from a few years back
Posted by K Aujla (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I want a standalone Flash player for Windows.
Particularly, one that I can integrate with a web browser so I can watch Flash videos in places that do not have Flash installed and will not allow Administrator rights.

I found a workaround using old versions of flash plugins, but it doesn't always work. Basically, the new versions of Flash player demand Administrator rights to operate.

Flash flv player requires Flash already installed, Media Player Classic does not get stuff straight from the web. Is there a hack out there that does this one simple thing?
Posted by CommandHerTaco (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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