Adobe AIR Does Not Compete With Silverlight

As I have been reading in many blog posts lately, I felt that I needed to make one point perfectly clear. Silverlight is not Microsoft’s answer to Adobe AIR, it is Microsoft’s competitor to the Flash Player. This means they now have a competitor to Flash in the browser. Sorry for the bold type, but I wanted to make sure my point was made. I know that many of the readers of my blog get this, but there still seems to be quite a bit of confusion.

Adobe AIR is a new technology that allows developers to take their web applications which were built using Ajax or Flash and move them outside of the browser where they can take advantage of desktop features such as file IO, system notifications, multiple windows, drag and drop, etc. I am not sure where the confusion is coming from, maybe just ignorance and the fact that Adobe AIR and Silverlight are getting a lot of press. But right now Microsoft does not have a cross platform runtime equivalent to AIR (not that I know of, I am willing to be proven wrong here if someone has that information.)

I am not trying to put down Silverlight here. Congrats to the Silverlight team, I am sure they are having some big parties this week after their launch. Silverlight is a good attempt at accomplishing some of the same functionality that we have provided in the Flash Player. But we do have a ten year head start and the Flash Player is installed on 98% of all PCs today (we just announced that Flash Player 9 is on over 90% of PCs.) But, we don’t take the competition or our current position in this market lightly.

As you can see by our recent announcements, such as the addition of H.264 to the Flash Player, we will continue to innovate and do everything we can to make Flash the best platform for building RIAs in the browser and now on the desktop within Adobe AIR. As Ted mentioned yesterday, we have a lot of things you will want to keep an eye on. Just wait until you see what we will be talking about at MAX!

9 thoughts on “Adobe AIR Does Not Compete With Silverlight

  1. Amen. I’ve been having to explain this to many people, mostly my colleagues entrenched in the MSFT world. I figured out a way that’s a little more ah-ahhh, though: I’m now saying that Adobe AIR is like a cross-platform Visual Basic (for people who’ve used such tools in the past). Then they understand that they can create applications for the user’s desktop. And then I tell them it’ll run on both Mac and Windows…and then they say, “Hmmm….Interesting”…and start rubbing their chins.
    Keep up the good work and thanks for the options.

  2. For what it’s worth, I’m seeing more reports which accurately portray Microsoft’s Silverlight as a browser plugin, like Adobe Flash Player or the Cosmo engine.

    There are still some reporters who lump together “new things” like Silverlight, AIR, and the JavaFX initiative though. More work to do, but the overall trend is in the right direction, I think.


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  4. yeah, correct. also, Silverlight is not direct competitor to Flex as well. Flex is a sort of compiler. and Flash and Silverlight both are client runtimes.

    maybe we will see some plugin for Flex that compiles same MXML to SWF for Flash as well as XAML for Silverlight.

    AIR is a fantastic platform. and i’m whishing if AIR can also host Silverlight applications within it. as Silverlight runs on OSX’s WebKit based Safari, i think there wont be a problem making Silverlight work on AIR.

    i think this will put AIR far ahead from MS, if they’re thinking to make thier own AIR competitor.

    // chall3ng3r //

  5. Quoth:
    “But right now Microsoft does not have a cross platform runtime equivalent to AIR.”

    Well, they have .NET. It’s not officially cross platform (there’s Mono, of course), but AIR and .NET are in competition with each other.

    Sometimes we technologists lose site of the forest for the trees. While .NET is not a cross platform runtime (no official version for anything but Windows), if someone wanted to write a desktop app, they could write a .NET app, or they could write an AIR app. They can be used to provides the same types of solutions (which is the definition of competition), with the advantage to AIR being that it allows you to write once and “run anywhere.”

    Competition does not mean products that do the same thing — it means products that can be used to address the same problem. AIR and .NET can clearly be used to address the same problem, therefore, they compete.

    Same goes with Silverlight being a competitor to Flash and/or Flex. True, Flex code is compiled to Flash bytecode, but the truth is, Silverlight and Flex can be used to address the same problem, therefore, Silverlight and Flex are in competition.


  6. Just to cement Josh’s “It doesn’t compete with Silverlight”, I agree…

    So.. Adobe & Microsoft both say “It does not compete”..

    Scott Barnes
    RIA Evangelist

  7. @Scott – I never really feared that Microsoft thought Silverlight competes AIR. Good to hear you confirm that. As you can see in that search, its mainly press/bloggers, etc.

    @Joshua – I don’t think I am losing site of the forest. Yes, .NET does allow you to build desktop applications, yes, AIR does allow you to build desktop applications. But that is pretty much where the similarities end.

    AIR is targetted at developers who are looking to take web based applications and use that code and those skills to bring them to the desktop. In the web world, there are a few things that are of value, one of them being that when you write your app for the browser it runs on any platform. AIR is also cross platform and will run on Mac OS X, Windows, and in an update soon after release, Linux. This is a huge differentiator from things like .NET.

  8. .NET -> Deploy to Windows (Microsoft) or Mono (Novell)
    AIR -> Deploy to Windows, Linux, Mac (Adobe)

    Seems like Microsoft would somehow stand to benefit from a closer partnership with Novell, but for the time being AIR looks a bit more appealing.

    Silverlight -> IE, Firefox, Safari on Mac and Windows and Moonlight (Novell)
    Flash -> IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, everything?! (Adobe)

    Again, simplification of deployment. Microsoft solutions can be deployed to other platforms but your then dealing with two vendors. If I had a commercial product I would need (or at least I would do this) support from Microsoft and Novell should I care to deploy to Linux, Windows and Mac. With Adobe it’s alot easier to manage, one company.

    Wonder how hard it would be to add ActionScript as one of the languages the DLR understands. Write your Silverlight apps in AS, would increase the usefulness of AS even further, or at the very least get more people used to the idea of AS then is already the case now.

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