watching apollo

The Article I Think I Read
I burned a good hour of time that I didn’t really have today looking for an article that I’m pretty sure I read a few years ago. The way I recall things it was sometime in maybe 2002, the article was published on and it described a fictional “day in the life” in which the principal “character” was helped in their day to day routines by various “intelligent”, occasionally connected devices and software. Things like reading and writing email, buying concert tickets, tracking current events and making social plans all being done while she made her way to the coffee shop, rode a train to the office etc. A vision that’s pretty common today but back when I read this article it all seemed quite revolutionary to me and ever since I’ve been watching for it to become reality.

Did Kevin Read the Article?
In October I was lucky enough to be sitting in the audience during Kevin Lynch’s keynote at Macromedia’s Max when he first talked about “Apollo”. Something tells me Kevin read the article too. Here, go check out the video from that keynote and you’ll see how familiar it sounds. Choose ‘Day One’ > ‘Platform Future’ (3rd thumbnail from the right), then jump ahead to around 1:08:00 (yup, the ability to direct link that would be easier for me too).

What Adobe Has Said About Apollo.
So like I said, I’ve been following Apollo and while there aren’t alot of concretes on what it will be, Adobe’s made a number of details available. I think Mike Chambers had the most recent public comment earlier this week:

“Discussed Apollo. This is a next generation platform we are working on for deploying Flash / HTML based applications to the desktop. Apollo will provide all of the desktop APIs and functionality you would expect from a desktop application, while allowing developers to leverage the technologies the are already familiar with (Flash / Flex / JavaScript / HTML / Ajax). And yes, it will be cross platform, developers have 100% control over application control (not running in some wrapper / shell), and you will be able to create applications using HTML / JavaScript / Ajax just like you will be able to with ActionScript / Flash / Flex.

Which Apollo Will It Be?
It’s pretty clear that alot has gone before Apollo (the most obvious of which was Central) and it’s entirely possible that Apollo may not even be the realization of it all. While I’ve finally come to understand that Adobe’s acquisition of Macromedia is probably the only way to make a real go of it, I have to be honest and admit that when I would think about the realization of what’s described in the article-I-may-have-dreamed-up I never really imagined Acrobat in there. Judging by Kevin’s Max presentation I don’t get the impression he did either. I tend to be of a field of dreams, “build it and they will come” mindset but as I watch the players position themselves for the coming ‘occasionally connected’, ‘RIA on the desktop’ wave I’m beginning to realize that the kind of clout Adobe provides may be needed to make bringing all the pieces of this puzzle together possible.

Microsoft Read it Too.
Adobe isn’t exactly branching off on it’s own in this space and the competition is pretty obvious. Microsoft’s Vista and it’s Windows Framework (WinFX), is being positioned to turn the Windows OS into the web platform. The Microsoft plan to realize the scenario in that article I read is to leverage their platform with a nearly ubiquitous install base – the operating system. That’s what Sparkle is all about – designing those connected full on desktop applications.

This Last Bit Reads Kinda Like a Prediction.
With Vista looking like it’s maybe 6 or 8 months away I fully expect Adobe to crank things up on Apollo and won’t be surprised to see some Apollo related previews on Adobe labs between now and then. The timing on this is kind of significant in my opinion. The increased pace of web based application innovation that folks refer to as Web 2.0 has been surging for awhile now and while I don’t think it will fall off as dramatically as the dot com era, (it won’t get nearly as out of control either), I do think the shine will begin to wear off. If both Adobe and Microsoft have planned this correctly, just as the limitations of the RIA as we know it today becomes glaringly apparent (to non edge cases ’cause you edgies have thinking about this for years) there will be platforms available on which to build the applications that overcome those limitiations. And you know what, there’ll probably be room for both and any rumoured killings will be unlikely.

3 Responses

  1. Kevin Lynch says:

    March 4, 2006 at 2:47 pm

    Hi Andrew- yes, I can confirm that paper existed — I actually wrote it a few years ago :) Sorry you spent time searching, it doesn’t appear to be on the site anymore. These ideas drove our initial work on Central, and we’re using what we’ve learned now in Apollo.



  2. andrew says:

    March 4, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    Ah ha. Thanks for confiming that Kevin! Knowing you were the author explains a great deal.


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