Adobe announced on Sunday night that it was releasing the first public alpha version of the Apollo runtime, which will allow end users to run Apollo applications. A few hours later, the downloads--the runtime Apollo client as well as a developer's kit--appeared on the company's site.
Apollo is the new framework that allows developers to build rich applications that run without a browser, yet still take advantage of the Adobe Flash expertise that they've been using for the past few years to create cool Web-based apps. Like many other industry watchers, I've written very enthusiastic stories about Apollo. I believe it is going to be one of the key technologies in the development of hybrid applications--apps that put a rich interface on the desktop with most of the heavy lifting taking place on a Web server. Apollo is going to help Web 2.0 services escape from the confines and constraints of a Web browser. And that's great.
You can try some sample Apollo apps now, but don't expect to be terribly impressed. If you're not a developer, few are worth bothering with. Most do a good job of showing off some raw capabilities but aren't what anyone would consider must-have tools. One demo app, Lookup, is a system hog, even though it performs a very simple service: it looks up terms in online dictionaries and thesauruses. Another app, the RSS reader Fresh, doesn't let you paste feed URLs into it (you have to type them by hand or import an entire OPML file). The Finetune Desktop is very nice, though: Ii's a slick, browserless interface to the Finetune (ZDNet review) music recommendation service.
Apollo is not yet ready to take over for traditional Windows or Macintosh executables. But the release of the public alpha is an encouraging milestone. I know there are many developers eager to apply their expertise to this new platform.
For more details, see Martin LaMonica's CNET News.com story, and Ryan Stewart's post on ZDNet.com. Also, check out the upcoming Flash-based Trillian, which doesn't use Apollo--the developers said they couldn't wait.