AIR had their big launch this week, and I am very happy for the folks over there to have that 1.0 out in the wild. It is a huge deal. I really like the idea of taking Web technology and development skills, and expanding them out from the desktop browser into new worlds such as the mobile device and the desktop itself.
With Gears, you can start to see this vision. Starting with LocalServer, Database, and Workerpool; then maybe seeing notification, crypto, messaging, location, shortcut, and more.
Here we see more and more services being made available to the Web developer in a way that makes sense to them.
AIR has a set of APIs too of course, but there are a couple of differences.
1. Desktop focus
AIR is very much about building desktop applications using Flash and Ajax. If you want a desktop application, you can choose AIR as a choice versus Swing, WPF, Cocoa, etc.
Gears is about adding more value to the browser itself, and letting you keep building your Ajax applications, just with more power. We will constantly be adding more and more APIs and services for you to work with.
Adobe develops AIR, and they have plans for the future, which I am sure are constantly changing. You have the power to change their mind by being vocal customers.
Gears is an entirely open source framework. Although Google has the majority of developers on the project, you have different advantages, due to the open source model:
- If you are running into an issue, you can get down to the metal and look at the source code. You can even contribute a fix!
- You can scratch your own itch. Let’s say your company has a particular Gear that you would really like to see. You can create that Gear yourself. If it is generally useful (which is normally the case) then you can propose it to the Gears community, and it can get into the Gears distribution itself. That’s right guys, you can write your own Gears. Of course, there is no guarantee that your Gear will get in the distribution. If that is the case, you still have options though. You can distribute your own MyGears. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that, but at least you have the option
This is why it is a big deal that Gears is open source. I know that it is hard when a company like Google is behind it, but I hope to see some non-Google Gears getting out there and attaching themselves to the browser service bus that is “Gears”.
Gears and AIR
Gears and AIR are very different, and although there is an overlap, they are complementary too. I would love to see some convergence in the future where Gears and AIR APIs join together. That would be a win win for everyone in my opinion. I would also love to see AIR open sourced, which isn’t a crazy idea given how Adobe has been moving in that direction for many of their projects.