[LINK] AIR etc for 1.2 billion net computers,

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Feb 25 22:22:02 EST 2008

Adobe Blurs Line Between PC and Web

By JOHN MARKOFF, February 25, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — On sabbatical in 2001 from Macromedia, Kevin Lynch, a
software developer, was frustrated that he could not get to his Web data
when he was off the Internet and annoyed that he could not get to his PC
data when he was traveling.

Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer at Abobe, has been working out a new
software development system for seven years. 

Why couldn’t he have access to all his information, like movie schedules
and word processing documents, in one place?

He hit upon an idea that he called “Kevincloud” and mocked up a quick
demonstration of the idea for executives at Macromedia, a software
development tools company. It took data stored on the Internet and used it
interchangeably with information on a PC’s hard drive. Kevincloud also
blurred the line between Internet and PC applications.

Seven years later, his brainchild is about to come into focus on millions
of PCs. On Monday, Mr. Lynch, who was recently named the chief technology
officer at Adobe Systems, which bought Macromedia in 2005, will release the
official version of AIR, a software development system that will power
potentially tens of thousands of applications that merge the Internet and
the PC, as well as blur the distinctions between PCs and new computing
devices like smartphones. 

Adobe sees AIR as a major advance that builds on its Flash multimedia
software. Flash is the engine behind Web animations, e-commerce sites and
many streaming videos. It is, the company says, the most ubiquitous
software on earth, residing on almost all Internet-connected personal

But most people may never know AIR is there. Applications will look and
run the same whether the user is at his desk or his portable computer, and
soon when using a mobile device or at an Internet kiosk. Applications will
increasingly be built with routine access to all the Web’s information,
and a user’s files will be accessible whether at home or traveling. 

AIR is intended to help software developers create applications that exist
in part on a user’s PC or smartphone and in part on servers reachable
through the Internet. 

To computer users, the applications will look like any others on their
device, represented by an icon. The AIR applications can mimic the
functions of a Web browser but do not require a Web browser to run.

The first commercial release of AIR takes place on Monday, but dozens of
applications have been built around a test or beta version.

EBay offers an AIR-based application called eBay Desktop that gives its
customers the power to buy wherever they are. Adobe uses AIR for Buzzword,
an online word processing program. At Monday’s introduction event in San
Francisco, new AIR hybrid applications from companies including Salesforce,
FedEx, eBay, Nickelodeon, Nasdaq, AOL and The New York Times Company will
be demonstrated.

Like Adobe’s Flash software, AIR will be given away. The company makes its
money selling software development kits to programmers.

Mr. Lynch and a rapidly growing number of industry executives and
technologists believe that the model represents the future of computing. 

Moreover, the move away from PC-based applications is likely to get a
significant jump start in the coming weeks when Intel introduces its low
cost “Netbook” computer strategy, which is intended to unleash a new wave
of inexpensive wireless connected mobile computers. 

The new machines will have a relatively small amount of solid state disk
storage capacity and will increasingly rely on data stored on Internet

“There is a big cloud movement that is building an infrastructure that
speaks directly to this kind of software and experience,” said Sean M.
Maloney, Intel’s executive vice president.

Adobe faces stiff competition from a number of big and small companies
with the same idea. Many small developers like OpenLazlo and Xcerion are
creating “Web-top” or “Web operating systems” intended to move
applications and data off the PC desktop and into the Internet through the
Web browser. 

Mozilla, the developer of the Firefox Web browser, has created a system
known as Prism. Sun Microsystems introduced JavaFX this year, which is
also aimed at blurring the Web-desktop line. Google is testing a system
called Gears, which is intended to allow some Web services to work on
computers that are not connected to the Internet. 

Finally, there is Microsoft. It is pushing its competitor to Flash, called
Silverlight. Three years ago, Microsoft hired one of Mr. Lynch’s crucial
software developers at Macromedia, Brad Becker, to help create it. Mr.
Becker was a leading designer of the Flash programming language. 

The blurring of Web and desktop applications and PC and phone applications
is further encouraged by the cellphone industry’s race to catch up with
Apple’s iPhone. The industry is focusing on smartphones, or what
Sanjay K. Jha, the chief operating officer of Qualcomm, calls “pocketable

“We need to deliver an experience that is like the PC desktop,” he said.
“At the same time, people are used to the Internet and you can’t
shortchange them.”

Much software will have to be rewritten for the new devices, in what Mr.
Lynch said is the most significant change for the software industry since
the introduction in the 1980s of software that can be run through clicking
icons rather than typing in codes. This upheaval pits the world’s largest
software developer groups against one another in a battle for the new
hybrid software applications. Industry analysts say there are now about
1.2 billion Internet-connected personal computers. Market researchers peg
the number of smartphones sold in 2007 at 123 million, but that market is
growing rapidly. 

“There is a proliferation of platforms,” Mr. Lynch said. “This is a battle
for the hearts and minds of people who are building things.”

Cheers, people
Stephen Loosley
Melburbs, Aussie

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