Follow Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch as he walks the halls of Adobe headquarters and interviews several core members of the AIR engineering team (view transcript).
JC: Hi, I'm Julie Campagna. I manage the Edge Newsletter. We recently announced the availability of Adobe AIR, which is exciting news because Air enables web developers to build applications for the desktop. So today, we're going to right along with Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch as he interviews several core members of the AIR engineering team. So c'mon, lets go!
Kevin Lynch: Now, the first person I've wanted to start with here is Ed Rowe, whose actually been leading the development of AIR since the earliest conception through it's release now and we're actually in Ed's office right now. So when you've been working on AIR, what would you say has been the most challenging part of making AIR happen?
Ed Rowe: There's been many challenges in trying to get AIR happening in building a team and building a project but I think fundamentally the biggest design challenge has been we need to make it possible to write incredible and compelling applications on platforms we haven't even tried yet. So, I'm sitting on my Mac and I'm writing an app and it needs to work on Windows, and it needs to work on Linux, and it's going to need to work on devices; but I've never even used those things, and maybe they don't even exist yet. Designing in such a way that that's possible to let developers do that is really difficult.
KL: So when we built the AIR team, we were trying to assemble the best team that we could find. We were diligent about that. Could you tell me about some of how we put the team together?
ER: Yes. Obviously, you know, I was working in Adobe and you worked at MacroMedia, so we were able to tap folks from both companies to build the initial team. We brought together a couple of folks from the Reader project here at Adobe, we brought folks from the Flash Player team and folks from the RIAA project called Tahoe that Adobe had been doing.
KL: All right Ed, thanks. I'm going to let you get back to work here.
ER: All right, thanks.
Chris Brichford: So I was in the clean room when the two companies were first starting the merger process, but I was one of the first engineers to actually work on AIR with Ed Rowe, yourself, Brent Rosenquist, Ethan Malasky and Oliver Goldman. Actually, Brent and I sort of started a little bit before the other guys looking at HTML engines, 'cause we knew what Flash engine we were using and we knew which PDF engine we were using but we didn't know which HTML engine we were using. We ended up going with Webkit, which a decision we've been very happy with.
KL: You've been on the AIR team since the very beginning. What's it been like?
CB: It's probably at least as much work as it was in the startup. It was very intensive time, we had a lot of focus on it from the company. That's been gratifying as well, though, to be on a team that's recognized by the company as something that's an important endeavor. It's something I hadn't had the chance to be as much a part of, but when you're one of the core, original people on a project, in a company like Adobe. That was just a great experience.
Oliver Goldman: So I started working on AIR back in October 2005, which was slightly before the project officially existed. Before that, I was actually working on a project called Tahoe, which was basically Adobe's previous attempt at the same kind of idea, to bring web technologies to the desktop but without Flash, so it really wasn't quite the same thing. I've been most heavily involved in developing the installer technology that we use, both for AIR applications for themselves, getting them installed, the auto‑update facilities that we provide to them, and also for Adobe AIR itself, for the runtime itself.
Luis Polanco: We get feedback, every single day. If you look at how many requests on our forums are posted in an hour, it's a huge amount. That's one way that we could ensure we were building the right thing. So we do listen to developers and we always talk to customers. It's not traditional product management that Adobe might be used to, where the product manager just sits in a room, writes a PRD, and then the team builds something. This is a very different dynamic, very very agile.
Erica Norton: We take it from start to finish as far as testing goes. Writing test plans, coming up with test cases, writing the test cases, executing the test cases...
Masahito Kagita: I worked on the Reader team for about eight years. Probably one of the most challenging parts of testing AIR, as a QE, we have to actually write test apps, instead of just testing the application.
KL: So how many bugs have been found so far in AIR?
MK: We have probably fixed actually about 3000.
Jason Williams: So the feature that I've been working on in the AIR runtime is the embedded SQL database. It's basically allowing access for developers to work with a database locally in their applications and write SQL directly against that. So they get the relational storage capabilities write out of the box.
Ethan Malasky: The feature I was most involved in developing was the windowing, and the windowing API and the windowing feature for AIR, which is a really cool thing, in that it basically creates a great programming model for using multiple windows in an application, which is essential if you're trying to build a desktop application.
Stan Switzer: I started out working on the file system support so that AIR applications could interact with the local filesystem. I wrapped that up quite a while ago and I've been working on support for writing Ajax style applications. It's been crazy at times, we've had a pretty grueling schedule. We've had a lot of features to develop over a pretty short period of time. I've put off some vacations for a couple of summers, but I'll probably take some time off to just stare at the clouds for a while.
KL: So, if there was an application that you wished existed on AIR that doesn't today, what would that be?
Ed Rowe: An application to track our schedule of our project. [laughter]
Masahito Kagita: I'd like karaoke software. [laughter]
Chris Brichford: A really great video game written in AIR.
Ethan Malasky: A really, really sexy bug tracking application.
Erica Norton: A figuring-out-where-to-go-for-lunch application. That would be cool. That'd be fun.
JC: If you want to learn more about Adobe AIR, visit the AIR Developer Center. Or, if you just want to download some cool applications that are based on Adobe AIR, visit the AIR marketplace. And that's it. I hope you enjoy this edition of the Edge.