Apollo is not a browser, stop the comparisons

Read/Write Web ran a story about Apollo competing with the browsers. I just don't think that's true. The kind of applications that Apollo is enabling don't belong in a browser, and websites don't belong in Apollo. This is a case of using the best tool for the job,

Alex Iskold has a post that in many was summarizes the mind share issues Adobe has to over come. The post compares Apollo to a browser and even goes so far as to say:

It appears that, intentionally or not, Adobe is on a collision course with IE, Firefox and the rest of the Web Browsers. Firefox has already said it is looking to add support for offline applications into its next version. If this happens, it will be bad news for Apollo - because Firefox users are not going to switch. IE plans in the same space are not clear, but we can be certain that if offline mode for web applications takes off, then there will be support in IE.

Apollo in no way competes with the browser, and I hope that's something we can all agree on when Apollo releases it's 1.0 product. Alex makes a lot of good points about the development environment and empowering web developers to bring their applications to the desktop. There continues to be this love of the browser in a big cross section of the tech population and I can't understand why. It's a good development model, and it's universal, but convenience aside, are "browser apps" better than desktop applications? No way!

And it's not just offline capabilities. It's about freeing yourself from the browser chrome, giving your users the ability to access your application in a new, more powerful environment, and really branding the experience in a way that the browser just can't handle. The desktop is a fertile ground for applications, and it's been the primary driver of software for a very long time. The browser will never be able to replace that. What makes Apollo compelling is that we can bring some of the web knowledge we've acquired over the years as developers onto that rich desktop platform.

I'm a big fan of Alex's writing, so I don't want to pick on him, but he has a couple of errors that hit at Apollo and I think need to be mentioned. One is when he asks "will ordinary users download a runtime?" Well Alex, yeah, they will, and Adobe is the company to get them to do it. This is the thing that surprises me about people questioning Apollo. Is there a single company better than Adobe at getting runtimes deployed? Flash? Acrobat Reader? Adobe has this thing down to a science, and they've got a good strategy in place.

Alex also questions some of the technical, developer-specific parts of Apollo:

Language-wise, Java and .Net languages are richer and easier to program in than JavaScript and Flash. But beyond languages, there is a much bigger problem - [programming] libraries. Any language is only as good as its libraries. JavaScript does not have the Java-like standard and rich set of libraries needed for real desktop applications.

Sure, Java and .NET are more powerful languages, but are they easier? That I don't buy. Part of the reason the web has become so revolutionary is that the barrier to entry for developers was so low. JavaScript and HTML are farily easy to pick up, which has resulted in a lot of innovation. Apollo brings that innovation to the desktop in a way that keeps 75% of the richness. Can it compete with rich desktop platforms like Windows Presentation Foundation (.NET 3.0)? Initially, it doesn't have to. As long as people are bringing their creative web skills to Apollo and taking advantage of the desktop, the platform will grow. I think it's ripe for a big success, despite some of the naysaying. We've just never had anything like Apollo before, and that includes Java.

Update: Someone made me realize that saying "Apollo in no way competes with the browser" is actually a pretty dumb thing for me to say (surprise, surprise). The "browser" is doing a lot more than it used to, and that includes delivering applications, with Firefox moving offline, they do compete. But here's the point: Apollo isn't supplanting the browser. Applications will still run in the browser, and the browser won't die because of Apollo (in the near term ;) ). I think Apollo helps draw a clearer line of what should be a browser application and what should run on the desktop. The technologies that create those can be the same, but Apollo provides a richer set of features that more advanced web applications" can take advantage of. So in some ways they do compete, but not in the traditional sense. Hope that clears it up a bit.

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