Home Adobe Engage – How Will Apollo Impact Mainstream Users?

Adobe Engage – How Will Apollo Impact Mainstream Users?

Written by Jay Fortner and edited by Richard MacManus. Jay was Read/WriteWeb’s
representative at the Adobe
Engage event
, held yesterday in San Francisco.

After attending
Adobe’s Engage event, where Adobe peeled the
covers off Apollo
, I began to wonder how compelling this offering is for the
mainstream user; and what is the most likely diffusion scenario (i.e. how
it will be accepted by the market).

During the presentation, Adobe mentioned that their Flash Upgrade 8 reached an 85%
penetration rate within 9 months, which is amazing. The diffusion rate was aided
tremendously by social network sites, which helped prompt people to upgrade their
players. So does Apollo have a compelling application opportunity that can deliver that
same market penetration? Is the ability to blur the lines of offline and online, as well
as the ease of starting an application on your desktop, important enough for my mother or
brother to want to download a desktop version of one of their favorite sites?

In all fairness, Apollo is not for every application – as was stressed by the Adobe
representatives who spoke at Engage. You probably won’t see World of Warcraft or Second
Life run as an Apollo desktop application, and many websites and web apps won’t find enough utility to justify having a desktop version. However Adobe would serve itself well by being hands off – and allowing
enough flexibility in the architecture to easily enable developers to work on value-added
tools using Apollo. I think for quite some time, Apollo will be mainly a techie product
for development and consumption. Their mission is groundbreaking, but many iterations are
needed in the short term for this to reach the mainstream user. As one commenter at the
presentation mentioned, Apollo aims to transform our notion of the desktop and how it
interacts with the Internet – and vice-versa. 

Safety and Security issues

It is often difficult to get viral reach with desktop applications, unless they are
packaged up with another product (e.g. Google
). Often when I hear of a new start-up that involves a downloadable application,
I immediately think they have more of an uphill battle to achieve user take-up. Outside
of all the compatibility issues that can come up, consumers are apprehensive about
downloading applications because of viruses and malware – even if an indicator states
that it’s safe. My non-tech friends often state that even with these indicators, in
the back of their head they worry that someone has circumvented the process and attached
spyware. Others are wary about installing applications on their computers that are in the
beta stages, because they are worried about it crashing their system. So Adobe needs to
educate the mainstream user about the safety and security in their software. They should
make this their top priority, while techies are testing and developing on top of

Immediate Value Proposition

Tim O’Reilly once mentioned how
he’d love for applications like Google Calendar to automatically display via his
desktop, because of how often he uses them. For others, this may not be compelling enough
– because typing in calendar.google.com and logging in is not painful enough to want a
desktop application.

But my bet is that many productivity applications will arise that use Apollo; and
these will be the early ecosystem that keeps Apollo moving forward. Those who use
productivity applications use them often and are are often on the move, so there is a lot
of value to be gained in desktop/web hybrid software here. 

Can anyone think of web applications in which they’d like Apollo desktop-web
functionality? Perhaps, for example, offline widgets with internet capability.

Favorite demo using Apollo

The demo of eBay using Apollo was
very impressive (it was also presented recently at the Demo Conference).
The application was very seamless, allowing tremendous offline functionality and synching
once the user logged back in to the network. With drag and drop features, it seems like
the perfect tool for the eBay Power User. The value in this application is that it makes
it easier to list items on eBay – even easier than using the eBay website. So if I’m a
Power User and have to go to eBay a hundred times a day, it makes perfect sense to just
launch it from my desktop. But we have to remember that the eBay Power User is a minority
in the eBay community.  

Image credit: Ryan Stewart

Other demos that I enjoyed getting a live view of was Brightcove’s AfterMix, which
provides online video editing tools and video sharing. It is easy to use, but the catch
is that it uses commercial partners to provide “quality” sources to mix and re-mix
content. I also enjoyed yourminis, which is a
slick start page and widget platform that allows great customization and sharing. Online
organizer Scrybe also showed some great Apollo


Overall, the Engage event was very interesting and had some compelling applications on
show. I’ll be curious to see the iterations and applications that are built off the
Apollo platform – and how they will ‘engage’ the average user. 

Photo credit: Mike
(nb: not taken at Engage, but at Adobe MAX 2006)

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