Adobe Launches AIR and Questions on the Viability of Native Mobile Apps

AdobeairAdobe will officially launch AIR today and of course lots of folks are breathing heavily about it. While AIR and some applications based on the runtime have been getting the beta testing routine for some time now, the “official” launch points to what many have been saying is the future: development platforms that allow users to take their applications seamlessly from the desktop to their mobile device. Of course Microsoft’s Silverlight figures prominently in this as well.

Intriguingly on AIR launch day, this post, Mobile Applications, RIP, appeared on Mobile Opportunity, essentially arguing that the business of developing native applications for mobile devices is dying. One reason pointed to is the growth of the mobile web, and of course with the advent of Adobe AIR and Silverlight, Google Gears, and Mozilla’s Prism, that growth sure seems poised to continue, at least in the short term.

Users want that kind of hybrid experience between the desktop and their mobile devices and I know I’d love to see the promise of seamless integration come true. But I think we are a ways off before we see the kind of web applications that really pull it all together.

One such application that is being talked about heavily today is ShifD, being launched in public beta by The New York Times Company. The aim is to allow users to sync their notes, links, and addresses between the desktop and their mobile devices. I have not given this a try yet, but from what I’ve seen it looks far from seamless. Targeted at those folks who email themselves reminders or links to informaton, ShifD lets users send send an SMS message instead. Offering both a downloadable desktop app, and a mobile website, the idea is your info is there when you need it. It makes sense, but other methods of doing the same thing already exist.

At any rate, I don’t want to sound like I’m being overly negative here, because I do think this sort of hybrid approach is going to be a focus as we move forward into the future. I just think we’re on the early cusp of what that might be. Interesting times.