Oh, Apollo!  ( Technical Overview and 21 Questions )

Update: The Breeze recordings from the Developer Week sessions are officially up. You can view them here: Adobe Developer Week (06/06).

As part of Adobe Developer Week, Luis Polanco spoke yesterday on Adobe Apollo, the cross OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills to build and deploy desktop RIAs. He gave a good overview of how Apollo works, and even showcased some demo applications.

It was great to see the eSeminar at maximum attendance; it shows that more people are beginning to realize the potential of the new platform, or are at the very least, curious to see what all the fuss is about. In either case, I’m almost certain that most everyone left the seminar thinking about the possibilities. In the coming days a recording of the session should be released, but till then, I thought to share some of the take-aways here.

I took some screen shots during the Breeze presentation, two of which provide a good technical understanding of Apollo at-a-glance. The first is a representation of current RIA technology trends; it’s noteworthy because it shows the reach of a runtime such as Apollo, but also because it shows how Microsoft’s WPF/E compares, which is important for those out there speculating as to what sort of competition there will be between the two, if any.

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The second image shows a typical makeup of an Apollo application, and where it ‘sits’ in relation to the operating system and backend RPC services.

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21 Questions.
While Luis spoke, Mike Chambers did a great job of fielding several questions from the Breeze audience, confirming some of the rumors, and setting a few of them straight. I’ve taken those questions, as well as some asked after the event, and compiled the list below.

01. When will Apollo be available?
The developer release will be available on Adobe labs before end of calendar year so developers can start building and prototyping. Apollo 1.0 is slated to be available the first half of 2007.

02. Is Apollo just Central 2.0?
No, the first release will be Apollo 1.0. There were lessons learned from building Central, and from users using Central, but this is completely new, and built from the ground up. Apollo does not share any of the Central code base.

03. Will you be able to download Apollo to mobile devices or is it strictly for the desktop?
Version 1.0 is targeted at desktops, future versions will target devices.

04. So … is Apollo just a player?
It is a runtime. It is used to run Apollo applications.

05. Will Apollo applications require an installer or will it be a simple .exe that can run from a CD-ROM?
They will require the Apollo runtime (i.e. Apollo is not a projector creator).

06. What is the IDE for Apollo development?
You can use whatever IDE you use to create your current web apps (flex builder, flash IDE, eclipse, notepad, etc…)

07. Is the HTML support planned to include full standards support or only a subset?

08. Will Apollo use a self built, opensource or licensed HTML rendering engine?
We [Adobe] haven’t announced the engine, but we will NOT be creating our own engine.

09. Are you including a coldfusion engine or something?
No. Apollo can access a coldfusion backend, but there will be no coldfusion runtime bundled with it.

10. Will .cfm, .php etc pages load and function dynamically in Apollo?
You could build an app that loads and renders dynamic content like that.

11. How does Spry relate to Apollo?
You will be able to build apps using Spry, or any other Ajax framework to build content that will run on Apollo.

12. For communication between Apollo applications, will this be done by local connection or some other way?
We are looking into this.

13. Will interfaces be provided into the Apollo API be included for JavaScript, ActionScript, etc?
Yes. That is what we are planning.

14. Do you have a demo showing the flash, html, and pdf together?
Not yet. We are still in the early development phase, so everything hasn’t been implemented.

15. What advantage would a cdrom developer have from moving from Director/Flash apps or Zinc/Flash apps to Apollo?
Apollo 1.0 does not target CD-Rom creation.

16. Does the code need to be compiled into Apollo ‘bytecode’?
No. Apollo runs SWF based and HTML based applications.

17. Can Apollo access the local machine file system?

18. Will Drag & Drop from the OS to Apollo applications be supported?
Yes. We are planning to add support for that.

19. Any plans for an Apollo forum on labs.adobe.com?
Yes, eventually.

20. Will Apollo use the same open alpha and beta development?

21. Are there licensing issues?
Apollo will be free, just like the Flash Player currently is.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m really excited about Apollo. Here are a few points that get me going:

  • RIAs leveraging local resources (hard disk, etc)
  • Integration with the desktop shell (clip board access, file extension registration, etc)
  • Operating system independence without the confines of a player.
  • Freedom from the browser chrome (you have full control of your app’s bounds and shape, like a traditional desktop application).

It’s only a matter of time… we are going to see an explosion of creativity in the RIA Desktop space, just imagine the possibilities! Those who attended the session have seen Apollo in action; for those that didn’t, Ryan Stewart has some screen shots of the demo’ed applications. Have a look, spread the news, and be sure to check Mike Chambers’ blog for more Apollo goodness in the days and weeks to come!