We all remember when the Internet ran on Flash. It was exciting, it was interactive, it made us forget that the colors and sounds we were presented with were ultimately the same ones and zeroes of script compilers and logic engines. Flash gave art a seat at the web design table as well as expanding the functions of what a website could do. But it was not without its problems. Running Flash as a browser plugin generally means running a whole program on top of another program, and the CPU usage it requires tends to dwarf that of the browser it's running in. It's also proprietary, and when a rift formed between Apple and Adobe, Flash found itself locked out of iPhones and iPads.
The major benefit of Flash has not proven to be the technology itself, rather the kind of Internet that it made us aspire to. An Internet with responsive user navigation, streaming, embedded videos and media integration so tight it could serve as the focal point of a site. In this, Flash's legacy lives proudly on. But as those same features have become ubiquitous expectations for web users, the need for third-party code to make them possible has become a crystallizing force for HTML5. With the features users already expect from the web built into the basic markup language, many tech critics have expected Flash to join Microsoft Bob in the technological Great Beyond, and they may be right.
However those same critics also believe that losing Flash will strip Adobe of its New Media relevance and relegate the company to the post-production software market from whence it came. They, like the public at large, fail to take into account Flash's little brother, Adobe Air. Always stuck in Flash's shadow, Adobe Air was a technology without a purpose, a solution to a non-existent problem. It offered developers a simple set of tools to develop rich, web-enabled applications that functioned cross-platform. The technology was utilized by a few popular companies like Hulu, Pandora and Tweetdeck, but Air's misfortune was debuting in the age of AJAX and the desktop-replacing webapp. "Why make a cross-platform desktop application," developers wondered, "when I can just develop a web application with the tools I already have?" Even those companies who seemingly embraced Air hedged their bets: Hulu Desktop and the Pandora One client only provide an alternate way to stream the same content already available on their respective websites.
Making Adobe Air a viable and desirable development technology would take nothing short of the dismantling of the established browser-centric interface. The idea was originally preposterous, but before you knew it, 'bookmarks' had become 'apps' and the internet was redesigned to fit in your pocket. Like mighty Rome falling into countless feudal kingdoms, the Internet has become increasingly closed off, compartmentalized and reduced to single-purpose applications. While purists may argue this is a step backwards technologically, it is a golden age for designers as well as developers. It means that the user interface can be completely tooled to custom specifications, and create better brand identification than any website ever could. By using Adobe Air, mobile applications can be easily developed that would function on both iOS and Android, as well as Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.
“Companies like FedEx, Atlantic Records, Fox Studios, DIRECTV, NASDAQ, SAP, and Salesforce.com are already using AIR to deliver engaging RIAs to their users' desktops.” (Adobe.com)
OSS is fully capable of deploying cross-platform RIAs (Rich Internet Applications) using Adobe Air technology. Please contact your OSS representative to discuss using Adobe Air to build you the next great app.