So there's this new thing called AIR. No I'm not talking about what you breathe or what gets compressed into scuba tanks for divers (like me) to inhale while exploring the depths of the ocean. Of course, the existence and release of Adobe AIR isn't news to you unless you've been hiding under a rock since June 2007.
While attending the annual Adobe Community Summit last year (in June) I got my first real peek behind the curtain of a pre-alpha product called Apollo. I'll admit it, I was a skeptic, especially considering Apollo wasn't Adobe's first try at creating desktop applications that were "Web-aware." Previous to Apollo/AIR, Macromedia had created a product called Macromedia Central that didn't get beyond version 1.5. Nor did it ever really get released into the wild. And while we could ponder for hours why Central didn't work Adobe's AIR is destined for greatness. The real success of AIR will come not only because of it's ubiquity in being a multi-platform runtime, but also because of it's accessibility and ease of entry to the developers of 2008. Using the tools, code, and paradigms we're already used to developers actually want to get into rich Internet applications on the desktop. In some cases I've seen programmers almost salivating at the thought of extending their application's reach to the desktop. If you don't believe me, just check out a few of the "Why AIR?" testimonies on http://www.30onair.com.
Over the next few days I want take some time to show you Adobe AIR. What better way to do this than to discuss a few AIR applications that I'm using on a day-to-day basis. It really hit me the other day when I noticed I had 3 AIR apps running on my desktop. The realization that AIR had staying power was extremely evident in that moment. Not only was I running "for fun" applications - like the one discussed below - but I was also running productivity and communications applications. These types of apps are what really pull you in because once you've used them you can't imagine losing the rich experience that adds so much to what might be a miserable one.
The first Adobe AIR application I want to talk about is AOL's Top 100 Video app. The first thing you notice about this application is it's completely custom skin and design. It uses AIR's ability to create chromeless apps wherein the developer must create all user interface elements including windowing controls. Personally, I find these to be the most enjoyable apps to use and I must not be alone as these seem to be the most prevalent. AOL's Top 100 Video application is just what it says and more. You can view videos in any of the categories shown above. Selecting a category and video will produce a view similar to the following.
Watching videos in AOL's app is a much better experience than using Google Video or YouTube. For one, the video quality is pretty good though not high-definition (not surprising). What sets AOL apart is the secondary content surrounding videos. You can see news related items, current pictures posted on AOL's network, switch to viewing a related video, and check out the artist on Napster or iTunes. The video itself can be viewed in standard mode (shown in these screen shots), a docked mode, or full-screen mode which uses AIR's hardware acceleration ability. Previously watched videos are cached for future instant access and nearly all video links include controls for rating the video. The links just to the right of the AOL Music graphic (at top) allow you to switch from the video catalog view (which itself includes an icon/thumbnail view and a list view), your favorite videos, a sharing view, and the settings view. The latter allows you to configure how the application works on your desktop including settings for video smoothing and how the app minimizes, to selecting what kind of connection speed you have.
This last screen shot shows the Sharing pane which allows you to share the video via e-mail or instant message. Another feature of the AIR runtime used by the app is the ability to run applications in the background similar to how Outlook works. When you press the close button in the interface the application is hidden from view but not exited.
Finally, AOL's Top 100 video application is a good example of brand extension. AOL gains a deeper reach to content already available by creating a rich experience on the desktop. They've also demonstrated a non-intrusive way to integrate advertising into the application. There are no pesky ads or audio that autoplays between videos. Instead, simple, unobtrusive text ads are shown in an almost out-of-the-way fashion.
If you'd like to give the application a spin you can download it from here.
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This entry was posted by Aaron West on March 4, 2008 at 8:30 AM. It was filed in the following categories: Adobe AIR. It has been viewed 3767 times and has 0 comments.