Adobe ponies up for Apollo

Adobe to invest part of $100 million venture fund the downloadable player that lets Web applications appear as desktop programs.

Adobe Systems plans to spend $100 million in venture funding to promote its software development platforms, with a particular focus on Apollo, which allows people to run Web applications without a browser.

Company executives at Adobe's Max developer conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday disclosed the plans to fund third-party software start-ups, in allocations over the next three to five years. The software maker also released a preview version of Apollo and other development-related tooling.

Apollo is a downloadable "player," like Adobe's Flash, for running Web applications on Windows, Macintosh or Linux.

What sets it apart from Flash is that Web applications can run without a browser and can function like other desktop applications. That means, for example, that an application can function online or offline and interact with locally stored files.

The introduction of Apollo, slated for a version 1.0 release in the first half of next year, underscores Adobe's expanding developer push, as it seeks to become the provider of choice to Web developers and interface designers.

In his keynote speech, Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen said that he was most excited about the introduction of Apollo than any other initiatives at the company--a sentiment that other company executives later echoed.

Many Web sites are not taking advantage of the better user interface possible with today's Web environment, Chizen said.

"In some ways, I look at what Adobe is trying to accomplish (with Apollo) with the desktop publishing revolution," he said. "Today's Web is what the world of printing was prior to Postscript and Apple Laser Writer."

The company intends to monetize Apollo software by selling development tools and server software that works with the company's front-end display tools, including Flash and Adobe Acrobat, executives said.

Analysts and developers familiar with Apollo said the software will be significant because it opens up new possibilities to Web developers without their having to master an entirely new set of tools.

Developers can write Apollo applications using Flex Builder, Adobe's development tool for writing Flash applications. Apollo also runs Web applications written in JavaScript and HTML. That means that AJAX -style applications, which are allow for an interactive user interface, will work with Apollo.

Adobe on Tuesday introduced a preview version of Flex Builder for Macintosh, which is available as a separate product or a plug-in to Eclipse. A Linux software development kit for Flex is expected in January of next year.

The Apollo runtime software will be between five and nine megabytes and needs to be downloaded or preinstalled on users' machines.

During a press and anlalyst briefing Wednesday, Adobe's senior vice president and chief software architect Kevin Lynch said Adobe will build its future products using Apollo.

He showed off an Internet television player, called Filo, which Adobe will release. Adobe's Flash Player is widely used for video distribution Web sites, such as YouTube.

Filo will allow users to take video feeds delivered via RSS and display them by either streaming video or downloading the content. Lynch showed that the user interface of Filo can be modified automatically by the video producer.

"We enable companies that produce the video feeds to attach their branding to those video feeds," he said, adding that videos can be played in a full screen.

Company executives touted Adobe's integration with Macromedia, an acquisition that closed late last year.

Lynch said that future editions of Adobe's Creative Suite will seek to combine products from the formerly separate companies.

In particular, he said that Adobe is updating its product line to ease the "workflows" that occur between software programmers and Web designers.

For example, Lynch said that future versions of Dreamweaver and Photoshop will allow teams of workers to cut an image created by a graphics designer and paste it into the Dreamweaver Web development tool.

Separately, company executives said that Acrobat 8 will ship in the first week of November, as planned.

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