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15 things about Adobe Apollo

Having listened to a Podcast hosted on TalkCrunch regarding Adobe’s Apollo web platform, many things emerged that paint a very, very intriguing and interesting picture.

So, by way of a follow-up to an earlier post: “Adobe Apollo nearing launch”, here’s a list of 15 things about Adobe Apollo:

  1. The ability to install web applications as desktop applications. So the web applications exist outside of the browser and are browser independent.
  2. Applications that work out of Apollo don’t have to be connected to the internet to function.
  3. In addition, Apollo applications can have access to your files and your network.
  4. Real time notifications can be sent via the Apollo framework.
  5. Adobe’s PDF file format is a peer format, which is of huge strategic significance.
  6. Apollo will work on Mac and Windows to begin with, Linux support to follow.
  7. Because of the technologies underpinning Apollo, the emphasis is clearly on ‘mashups’, which web applications created from loosely coupled APIs belonging to other web applications.An example given was a media player that made use of the Amazon API to pull down music artwork and a visualize that made use of Flickr images.
  8. Although the guy from Adobe, chief software architect Kevin Lynch, tried to play down the significance of Apollo and the fact that Apollo is Adobe playing Microsoft at their own game, Apollo is as significant a strategy that Adobe could hope to conceive.A strategy that will no doubt come under immense scrutiny over the next near, not least scrutinized by Microsoft’s own web strategy people.
  9. Apollo uses the WebKit web rendering engine built into Apple’s Safari web browser and the Nokia S60 platform.
  10. Over time, Adobe hope to bring JavaScript, ActionScript (a derivative of EMCA script, which is essentially JavaScript, but used inside Adobe Flash) and the JavaScript used within the WebKit, into ‘one VM’ or Virtual Machine, which is a piece of software that executes code and reinterprets into another language more ‘native’ to the device, in this case, the computer.
  11. Whereas it’s clear that Microsoft aren’t all that bothered about customers running older platforms, Adobe’s Apollo will be more compatible with Windows than, err .. Windows! Essentially, pre Vista and pre XP computers will be supported.Again, this is because of the totally open nature of the technologies that underpin Apollo and allow for compatibility with a huge swathe of differing versions of operating systems.
  12. While this wasn’t directly mentioned in the Podcast, what Adobe are working towards with Apollo is something that one could imagine giving birth to the Widgets used in Apple’s Dashboard.It’s clear that Apple have their own ideas about how a Widget ought to take shape. What with Apple looking to release Dashcode, which is IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for developing Widgets used in Dashboard.However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if both Apple and Google didn’t get their heads together on this issue and work with either Adobe or OpenLaszlo (an open source framework of similar intention and purpose as Apollo) to help establish a standard practice. Meanwhile, the World Wide Web Consortium have moved to establish the Widgets 1.0 Working Draft: “The type of widgets that are addressed by this document are usually small client-side applications for displaying and updating remote data, packaged in a way to allow a single download and installation on a client machine. The widget may execute outside of the typical web browser interface. Examples include clocks, stock tickers, news casters, games and weather forecasters. Some existing industry solutions go by the names ‘widgets’, ‘gadgets’ or ‘modules’.” However, when asked about how similar Apollo applications sound to Apple’s Dashboard Widgets, Kevin Lynch confessed that he hadn’t given the idea much thought. I’m not going to speculate on whether he had or he hadn’t, but he didn’t dismiss the ability of Apollo of being able to produce such things. Indeed, Apple’s own Widgets are built around exactly the same open standards and technologies as both Apollo and OpenLaszlo.
  13. Adobe will make the ‘runtime’ player for Apollo free, much like the Flash player is free. However, the revenue will come from the expected increase in sale of their web development applications, such as DreamWeaver and Flash.
  14. While it’s possible for people to develop a whole range of things with Apollo, Adobe don’t want to build too much into Apollo, such as Adobe Reader, which would make Apollo too heavy and not ‘light weight’, which is their specific goal.
  15. A public developer release of Apollo will take place some time in 2007, but no fixed, specific date was given.

In conclusion

Personally, I think Apollo is big. I’d also say that it’s the logical direction forward.

What I don’t want to see is Microsoft succeed here, because they will drag the whole thing towards their proprietary hooks & barbs, entangling a really powerful platform of the future on an idea based around a business model of the past…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

12 replies on “15 things about Adobe Apollo”

I understand that the KDE project is backporting support for OS X widgets into the KDE desktop which could help in establishing the OS X widget format as a standard.

It would certainly be a good idea to have one, as most widgets I use are pretty platform independent (i.e. they’re web connected, not OS specific system monitors).

The useful side-effect of Apollo is that even if Adobe didn’t create a widget runtime themselves, they’ll have done the work to get WebKit running/tested on Windows and Linux, which would make it easy for someone else to do, although I think it’s unlikely people will install too many widget engines (how many Mac users have Konfabulator/Yahoo widgets installed as well as Dashboard??).

Mozilla’s Gecko and Opera also supports the ‘canvas’ tag which is used in a lot of OS X widgets, and it now has WHATWG support.

Hi Jules and thanks for the great comment!

That is certainly interesting stuff.

So how do you think that might work out? Do you see Adobe and Apple competing, or as the Podcast suggests, Adobe don’t get involved with the Widget side of things?

By the way: I’ve just added a link to the article which points to an earlier post on Adobe Apollo…

Hi Wayne,

greate article again.

The question about Widgets, is the question about standards, to get them running on the most important platforms. That’s also the idea behind Apollo I think.

Java was once the first try and now there is AJAX, CSS and a lot of webstandards. People are going to have their life online, to access their photos, mails, music etc. online. The operating system is going to be the unimportant part of this process. That’s why they try do unify things with WebKit, PDF an all these technologies. Microsoft will lose this fight in the not to far distant future, because they don’t follow standards, that are open to everyboy.

Just some thoughts :-). Don’t take them to seriously

Hi Sebastian!

I think that Microsoft are sensing that things are moving under their feet, but it’s a question of how to move with the times.

Since almost everything they do is a by-product of their Windows franchise, their options are limited somewhat.

Even more so because of their desire to tether everything to IIS and .Net, which makes things inflexible for developers who like to keep things open.

Strange times ahead for Microsoft, but I’m sure they’re aware of this…

Hi Wayne – the way I see it, Adobe are competing directly with Apple – not necessarily with widgets, but by providing an alternative framework / runtime on OS X itself – that’s the essence of any cross-platform tool.

And of course it will be possible to write Apollo apps that are widgets (in appearance and functionality) even if they’re not in a widget layer.

It’s one of those things that is both an opportunity and threat to Apple (developers could use Macs to write desktop apps for Windows users – but it makes Apple’s own dev frameworks less relevant).

You make a good point about IIS and .Net but from where I’m sitting MS have actually been making the right moves there – the usual thing of going over the heads of the techies and getting to the decision makers. I work in a Unix/Java house but a lot of our clients are making increasing use of .NET – and C-sharp is showing strong growth as a language.
It’s worth asking which companies would survive if computers were completely replaced by smart phones and games consoles, and MS are not in a bad position.

“It’s one of those things that is both an opportunity and threat to Apple (developers could use Macs to write desktop apps for Windows users – but it makes Apple’s own dev frameworks less relevant).”

I have to wonder if there’s a similar discussion going on in some room at 1 Infinite Loop.

“I work in a Unix/Java house but a lot of our clients are making increasing use of .NET – and C-sharp is showing strong growth as a language.”

You’re going to know more than me, so I have to bow to your better knowledge on that matter.

But my thought is, given that’s deeply proprietary, is there a long-term future for .Net given the almost wholesale movement towards open standards?

Microsoft tried to do the same with .Net like Sun did with Java, but with one difference. They haven’t done it to create os independet apps, they just wanted to be able to run all other apps on the windows platform. It wasn’t a step of os independence, more a step to language independence on windows. It’s a step backward. The mono project is doing the work now, that ms should have done. And I think that will save Microsoft in the future. Because all their apps depend on Windows, but the OS doesn’t really matter, so the apps must be portable. Maybe Exchange etc. wil work on Mono sometimes :P.

That’s so far for Microsoft :P.

Apple uses a lot of open source frameworks for there web stuff and that’s good, because of standards.

The other frameworks are important and aren’t less relevant. Because CoreAudio, CoreVideo, CoreData or CoreImage make it able to create these beautiful apps and make it a lot easier to create powerful apps then on windows. Another fact is, that they’re really hardware-based to speed up things, what a native framework can’t do. Have a look at Quartz, which is doing most of the stuff on the gpu.

But Widgets aren’t the number one thing for Apollo, because these aren’t very complex and can be easly ported. The number one thing is unified interfaces for data-driven webapps…mostly with offline-online sycronization.

It’s like a vm for you apps or like java for the webstandards :P.

There’s so much been said here, I’m going to have to turn this entire comments section into a follow-up ‘blog post.

With your respective permissions, of course…

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