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Adobe AIR: Desktop/Web Convergence


Network and Communication Support

Adobe AIR provides basic HTTP support courtesy of Flash, HTML, and PDF and binary client sockets as introduced in Flash 9. Adobe AIR also extends the Flash LocalConnection API to permit communication not only between Adobe AIR applications but also between Adobe AIR applications and Flash content executing in the browser. As with LocalConnection today, applications must opt-in to receive messages from other sources.

These features are designed to allow the creation of web applications and desktop applications that work together, rather than compete. For example, a company may offer both a web-based and Adobe AIR-based version of its interface to perform banking tasks. As a customer, you might use the desktop application at home, but the web-based application from a kiosk. A single click can take users from one to the other.

Security

Just like traditional desktop applications, an Adobe AIR application can perform operations that are dangerous. The file API permits an application to read, write, and delete files and, in combination with the network APIs, a malicious application could render substantial harm.

Adobe AIR mitigates this risk by providing a comprehensive privilege-based security model. Capabilities that are either inherently risky or that can be risky when combined with other capabilities can only be executed by an application that has been granted the necessary privilege.

This model is not simple and is not a first line of defense for typical users. Typical users should, as with all desktop applications, be careful about which applications they choose to install because installation conveys trust. (Adobe AIR uses signed deployment packages to help users make good decisions about which applications to trust.)

For enterprise administrators—and indeed, anyone who acts as an administrator, even if only for a single machine—the privilege model can be used to reduce the risks of running Adobe AIR applications. This feature is not intended to let you run applications that you don't trust in a protective "sandbox"; if you don't trust an application, you shouldn't install it. It is intended to provide an additional measure of assurance that an application you trust not to do certain things is, in fact, not doing those things.

Enterprise Support

Adobe AIR is targeted at both consumer and enterprise applications. In the enterprise, Adobe AIR will offer the same advantages of rapid development that the use of web technologies will bring to Adobe AIR applications.

Another advantage comes from Adobe AIR's security architecture that lets enterprises run Adobe AIR applications with the additional insurance that these trusted applications nonetheless cannot step outside their administrator-prescribed sandbox.

Other features are designed to be enterprise friendly, too. For example, enterprises often use native installation technologies to manage installations across a large number of machines. Adobe will provide a free tool that administrators can use to convert Adobe AIR deployment packages into native installation packages (MSI files). These MSI files can then be deployed using existing infrastructures, such as Microsoft SMS or IBM Tivoli.

Conclusion

Adobe AIR will provide a cross-platform runtime environment that will enable the development of desktop applications using web technologies. We believe this will enable the melding of great web experiences with the advantages of true desktop applications, both for developers and for users.


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