We caught up with Ryan Stewart, rich internet evangelist, Adobe, at MAX and spoke about AIR, Thermo and how Ryan has covered the US in a bus.

Builder AU: What’s your take on AIR?

Stewart: I think AIR is really really cool, I think AIR is a powerful new way to build applications, and I think that what makes it so neat is that we really have enabled Web developers to finally get into the desktop.

They can do things like talk to the file system, they can detect that the application is offline or online and then can change it accordingly so they really get closer to the operating system than they’ve been able to before. And it opens up a whole new world to them, I think, which is going to be very cool.

AIR is many things to many people and I think that one of the things that makes it so compelling is the offline functionality for Web applications — AIR can give you that if you want something a little more meaty. So you’re allowed to pick from the entire plate of options with AIR and if offline is what you want to do then AIR is a really good way to do that.

Can you tell us about Adobe’s Media Player?

The media player we created in house, it’s an application we’ve had people at Adobe building. We wanted two things, we wanted to show off AIR’s capabilities but we also wanted a way for content providers to use all their Flash video infrastructure to deliver that content to users.

So the AIR Media Player is something that you can download, and then you can subscribe to channels. We showed a couple of companies including CBS in the keynote — so you can subscribe to some of your favourite CBS shows and then the Adobe Media Player will go out and grab those clips, download them to your hard drive so that you can watch them when you’re online or when you’re on an airplane or anywhere you need to go. It’s a very cool offline video experience.

We wanted to make sure that you could incorporate advertising because Adobe is very much a rich media company and we’ve enabled a lot of really fantastic rich media experiences on the Web, but in order to take the leap, you’ve got to give people a way to monetise their content, so Adobe Media Player does exactly that.

And you can advertise, you can touch your users in a way they’ve never been able to do before, there’s a lot of things going on that I think make it a pretty powerful program.

Most of the focus on AIR has been on Flex development, we saw some Ajax AIR examples in the keynote — how are you also looking after Ajax developers for AIR?

It’s been great for me as a new Adobe employee to see how much we embrace the Ajax community. People perceive that there’s some adversarial relationship between Flash and Ajax, but in Adobe AIR you really get the best of both worlds — and we have products like ColdFusion that leverage Ajax in really powerful ways.

So you’ve got AIR, you’ve got ColdFusion, we’ve got the Spry framework for Ajax. It’s really part of a continuum of Adobe saying “Ajax is great”, Flash is also great for a lot of things, but if you want to use Ajax we fully support you because we think that Web technologies are good.

For AIR, is Flash with HTML is there yet?

It’s not there yet, but it will be, so we are going to let you embed Flash within HTML, and the team has been working on the best way to do that and make it an optimal experience, that’s the reason that it’s been delayed, because it was harder than we anticipated.

Are you still intending on a Linux release after the 1.0 release?

Absolutely, the reason why the Linux version was delayed is because the Linux version of the Flash Player was delayed a little bit. So really the Flash Player is kind of the core of AIR and AIR is dependant on what it can do.

So now that the Linux version of the player is out we’ve actually started development on the Linux version of AIR. I don’t think that we have a release date for that but it’s something that we’re really excited about and we’re going to bring as soon as we can after the 1.0 release.

Does this release include the equivalent of “Movie Star”, the next Flash Player update that offers high definition video?

No, not yet. So the 1.0 release will include some of these features. It’s actually kind of interesting because the player development cycle and the AIR development cycle are slightly offset. So we can add some cool things into the AIR version that won’t actually be in the player for a couple of release cycles or a release cycle.

So some of the “Movie Star” stuff will make it into AIR. I think that we’re going to have H.264 support for 1.0 in AIR for instance, but it’s not in the beta version that we released yesterday.

So the “Movie Star” stuff, when it makes it in there — I’d love to see that in a dot release of AIR but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen.

So what else should we look out for with AIR?

One of the things you should look out for with AIR is the tools that people are going to build applications with. There was a demo of Thermo today which is something that as a developer and as someone who grew up in the Flex community as opposed to the Flash community I’m really really excited about.

We’ve seen the Flex community has adopted AIR I think spectacularly so now we’re going to see even better experiences because Thermo allows those Flex developers to get in with their Flash side so to speak to create some cool Flash experiences that are actual applications that can run on the runtime and be very compelling desktop applications.

You and a bunch of guys have been in what I call the frat house on wheels. You’ve been barnstorming with “the bus”.

In San Francisco we had an event, “ApolloCamp”, we invited developers in, we allowed some of the people who had built AIR applications to show what they were doing and it had a really cool independent feel to it. It didn’t feel corporate at all, it was just a barcamp style.

Everyone came and hung out and learned a lot about Apollo which is now AIR and we thought, “wouldn’t it be great to take this on the road”, if we could do this event in a bunch of different places across the country. So Mike Chambers said “let’s do it” and he figured out a way to lease a bus, he got a company that picked venues in 18 difference places across North America and that’s exactly what we did.

We had a little mini one-day conference in a bunch of cities and talked to people about AIR, really got in touch with developers and showed them what was going on and showed them how to build things on the platform.

Our registrations were really great but I think our largest number was 240 or 280 in Atlanta for the whole day so that was pretty impressive.

So it was a whole day event that you were throwing each time?

About half of them were full day events, in the bigger cities it would be a full day, in smaller cities we’d do an evening event which was still five or six hours but more a compressed version of the full day event.

One of the things that really surprised me was that we had about a 50/50 split between Flex and Flash developers and Ajax developers so it was amazing to see how many HTML people had heard about AIR and actually signed up to come to this event because they were interested in checking it out, so I think that it’s a great thing for Adobe.

Did you have examples of Ajax and HTML development?

Yes. Kevin Hoyt is the Ajax guru on the evangelism team and he did a couple of sessions. I think he was the session machine for these conferences and he did two sessions a night or a day talking about how to build your first AIR application in Ajax and then some of the really cool script bridging techniques that are in AIR, like you can talk from ActionScript to JavaScript so he showed demos of that and how you can leverage that pretty powerfully.