Adobe Genesis brings fresh AIR to business portals

Adobe Genesis is an AIR take on the venerable enterprise dashboard, or "enterprise desktop" as it is referred to on their development blog. Development of this business platform has not taken place in secret, but it has only recently been given its first public outing at the Office 2.0 conference. Below is a 40 minute video presentation by the Product Manager Matthias Zeller on Genesis, but if you want a higher resolution view check-out this March 2008 screen-cast.

Genesis is an attempt by Adobe to position their AIR run-time as the platform for business applications. Given the eagerness of business developers to use Flex, Adobe are hoping AIR will see similar levels of adoption. However unlike Flex, which produces Flash content that any modern web browser can consume, AIR applications reside in their own, dedicated run-time. This requirement, alongside improvements in browsers, may prove too big an obstacle for Adobe to get around, but you have to give them credit for trying.

Overall Genesis is a shiny looking, but still fairly standard, enterprise dashboard. The biggest problem is that the majority of the functionality demonstrated could be achieved using modern Javascript and Flash. Besides the ability to drag and drop files to and from Genesis there appears to be very little demonstrated benefit to using the AIR run-time over a standard web browser. This is unfortunate but the signs are there that if luck went Adobe's way Genesis could become huge.

Things could get interesting for Genesis if Adobe can deliver rich, Microsoft Office-like functionality as reusable AIR widgets. If they can pull this off then they stand a chance of establishing Genesis as the "Intranet 2.0" equivalent of the 1990's Access/Visual Basic combination. One really interesting piece to this puzzle is the built-in support for third-party 'templates' and 'tiles' (aka widgets). With this 'catalog' Adobe are attempting to establish a marketplace where developers can easily sell their Genesis handiwork to businesses. If this is followed through it may provide the momentum to push Genesis from a good looking toy to integral business component.

As it stands many I.T. departments will discount Genesis because its demonstrated benefits do not outweigh the cost and hassle of supporting yet another desktop run-time. Adobe and its partners will need to work hard to construct a vibrant ecosystem which justifies the AIR investment. The clock is also against them because Microsoft will no doubt be readying a Silverlight response that leverages their existing Office monopoly.