Talking Apollo with Kevin Lynch at Adobe Engage

I’m at the Adobe Engage event with a bunch of other bloggers including David Berlind, Tim O’Reilly, Robert Scoble and James Governor. We’re getting demos from Adobe customers (and in some cases products the company is working on) which I’m covering over on my ZDNet blog, The Universal Desktop. The big highlight so far has been Adobe senior vice president and chief software architect Kevin Lynch’s keynote covering Apollo (You can listen to recent a podcast interview with Kevin Lynch, Steve Gillmor and Michael Arrington here).

Having a lot of inquisitive bloggers in the room meant a lot of good questions as Kevin gave his presentation. Kevin talked about how widespread the Adobe Engagement Platform has become with 700 million PCs and 200 million devices. In describing Apollo’s place in the ecosystem, he showed a slide charting richness and reach. Up to now, Adobe has focused on cross platform web based experiences, but with Apollo they’re hoping to move into richer desktop experiences as well as richer mobile integration.

A lot of the basic information on Apollo has been covered pretty extensively, including here on TechCrunch, so I’ll focus on the things that got the most discussion amongst the bloggers here. Security, which has been a concern of a lot of people in the community, seemed secondary to this audience. There’s a lot of talk about whether Apollo is going to be used for spyware or malicious software, but at the end of the day, Adobe is of the opinion that users have final control over what’s installed on their machines. They’re making sure that Apollo can’t wreak havoc (it won’t be
able to write to or delete system folders and each Apollo application is sandboxed so that Apollo applications can’t steal data from other Apollo applications).

The installation experience for Apollo goes through the Flash Player, so it bypasses Microsoft’s controls which results in a better experience, and one that Adobe controls. Kevin showed how quickly and easily it is to install individual Apollo applications and it’s a pretty good user experience. The one thing that seems to disappoint people here is that there are no plans to allow Apollo to access native applications on the OS. Adobe wants the Apollo experience to maintain its cross platform portability and they are aiming to keep up with developer needs without opening up OS-specific possibilities. The other thing that is becoming clearer is how Apollo applications will store data. Kevin said right now they’re looking at XML-based storage along with the possibility of advanced file-system caching that developers could tie into via an API. That’s all doable by developers now, but they’re talking about making it easier.

There is a lot of excitement here about Apollo. There are concerns about how viable it and how people are actually going to use it. A persistent question for the presenters has been “how does Apollo help you” and the main answer seems to be file system access. There aren’t a lot of people pushing the boundaries.