Adobe Systems has released Adobe Apollo alpha version for sneak peak and free download from Adobe Labs. Apollo is the code name for a cross-operating system runtime technology that allows rich Internet application to port and run offline, and thus allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills on Adobe (Macromedia) Flash, Flex, HTML, JavaScript, Ajax and etc to build and deploy rich Internet applications (RIAs) to the desktop. Apollo, if success, may threaten threaten the popularity of programming platforms such as Java and Microsoft.NET.

From Apollo page (no longer available) on Adobe Labs:

Apollo enables developers to create applications that combine the benefits of web applications – network and user connectivity, rich media content, ease of development, and broad reach – with the strengths of desktop applications – application interactions, local resource access, personal settings, powerful functionality, and rich interactive experiences.

Apollo enables familiar application interaction models, including drag-and-drop support, rich clipboard access, and desktop and system shortcuts. Furthermore, Apollo applications run as regular applications, and do not have to run within another application or shell (as web applications do by running within the browser).

Apollo technology has 2 components, Apollo Runtime just like Adobe Flash Player which yet to determine its final name and Apollo SDK and Developer Downloads which provides complete software development kit for programmers and developers who interested in develop applications with Apollo. The kit provides a set of command line tools to develop and work with Apollo applications, and Web developers can use the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) of their choice to build applications for the runtime, by using existing programming languages such as Adobe Flash, Adobe’s Flex tool, JavaScript, AJAX and HTML.

The current alpha version of the Apollo will be succeeded by beta version coming middle of the year, with final release and general availability of Apollo and additional developer resources expected later this year. Future releases will provide more stability, more desktop integration, and enhanced support for Ajax developers.

Download the Apollo Runtime
Download the Apollo SDK and Developer Downloads

There are also plenty of technical articles, developer videos, and sample applications available on Apollo on Adobe Labs.

For end users, they will need to download and install Apollo runtime in order to use Apollo applications, just like Flash Player is need to play any Flash object. Users can expect elements of online interaction when using a Apollo powered desktop client application, with web services protocols and APIs for online applications allow Apollo applications to pull data from online sources. Enhanced offline or better interaction between online and desktop feature functionality can be done with Apollo. Applications currently available on Apollo include Fresh, a skinnable RSS reader features offline RSS reading, multiple panels within a single window, tabbed browsing, and basic browser integration; Maptacular which combines Google Maps with Vcards on your local file system; Scout, Lookup, Pixel Perfect and ScreenPlay. Other early adopters of Adobe Apollo include eBay which uses it in SanDimas,

Update: Adobe Apollo is released as final product as Adobe AIR.

Mike Downey, senior product manager for Apollo demonstrates an eBay-branded Apollo application at DEMO 07.