Following the announcement that Salesforce will provide a free toolkit for Adobe Flex and AIR development on its platform, I spoke to the company’s Doug Farber, the Vice President of Operations, Asia Pacific about its functionality and other issues surrounding the toolkit.

The key feature of the toolkit, Farber said, is its ability to make data available offline, by downloading it automatically from the platform to the local database inside of AIR. The consequent changes to the data are also sent back to when the AIR is back online.

OpenLaszlo, Silverlight and now AIR show a trend of making web applications act more like traditional desktop applications. Farber said customers were increasingly moving towards using applications in mobile contexts. “By enabling offline extensions to, AIR makes these apps available to users when they are away from their desks and without access to the Internet”, he said.

When asked if the new tool could threaten Salesforce’s promises of security by taking data offline, Farber said that the offline compliments to are ‘single user’, thus only the data that the user already has access to is copied down to the client.

Farber didn’t think the client installation of software went against’s SaaS principles. “AIR provides a great compliment to’s database-as-a-service capabilities, allowing SaaS to be used in scenarios where ‘extra’ browser applications are required. One way of thinking about AIR is as a kind of browser in of itself, rather than a traditional desktop application”, he said.

— Posted By Lana Kovacevic