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Adobe's Apollo

Adobe Systems wants more with your desktop than just Photoshop.

Its Apollo, released to alpha late last Friday, is a runtime designed to support applications that bridge the worlds of the desktop and Web browser. The applications will run on HTML, plus they'll be able to access the local file system, work when users are offline, and operate in the background. OK. So what, exactly, does that mean?

One test Apollo application, Maptacular, serves as a useful example. Maptacular mashes stored contact information with Google Maps. When the user drags digital business cards from the desktop to the application, it automatically maps the location of a contact. It could also, say, drag home address information and work address information to the map and automatically create a driving directions map between home and work. Users can then save the map for future offline reference.

Since Apollo apps will run on HTML, technologies such as Ajax, Flash, JavaScript, and PDF will all be in play, giving Web developers a chance to build applications that can interact with information stored on a user's computer. "We're enabling Web developers to create desktop apps for the first time," said Michele Turner, the VP of Adobe's platform business unit. "I think we're going to see a lot of innovation."

Even in these early stages -- Apollo won't be out in final form until the fourth quarter, according to Turner -- there already are signs she could be right. Companies such as eBay already are creating branded applications based on the technology that let customers access their services without a browser, and Adobe's working with a number of large corporations to create custom applications like dashboards for financial information. "I've often had the corporate intranet as my home page; now I can have a module that runs on Apollo that's constantly feeding me the information I need to know," Turner said.

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