Adobe Systems is gunning for web and desktop developers with a revamped community site and a set of new beta software.

The company has relaunched Adobe Developer Connection, part of its larger strategy to promote its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) as the developers' choice for “rich Internet applications.”

Beta 2 of AIR is now available, as are Beta 2 of Flex 3, and updates to extensions that link AIR to Dreamweaver and Flash - Adobe's web development and design tools. The extensions let developers take applications built using Dreamweaver and Flash and port them directly to the desktop using AIR.

AIR is a runtime for creating cross-platform desktop applications with the same technologies used for building web applications, such as HTML, AJAX and Flash. At the Adobe MAX 2007 user conference in Chicago yesterday, executives confirmed AIR's importance to the company's long-term strategy. AIR is due out in the first quarter of 2008.

Adobe is turning into a major competitor for Microsoft and is betting on AIR to bring its success with web development to the desktop. More and more, developers and users are demanding a better user experience on the desktop and the web, and Adobe hopes tools like Dreamweaver, Flash and more recently Flex can help it win the hearts of desktop developers.

"When I speak to many of the customers we're trying to excite about what we're doing," said Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, "they understand the need for engaging applications."

Chizen also confirmed that although Adobe must cooperate with Microsoft to provide its technologies for Windows, there is no love lost between the vendors. "When I think of the word Microsoft I have a hard time thinking of the word 'partner' in the same sentence," he said.

Collaboration tools for information workers and hosted services are two other markets in which Adobe is boosting its investments, executives said. They gave attendees a sneak peek at some hosted services the company plans to discuss further in a keynote today.

One project, code-named Cocomo, will open up Adobe Connect so developers can create their own hosted services for screen-sharing, white-boarding and other video-conferencing functions, said Shantanu Narayen, president and COO of Adobe.

The company also released a document creation and collaboration service, Share, in beta form. Share is a complement to a web-based, word-processing service called Buzzword it will acquire through its planned purchase of start-up Virtual Ubiquity.

Adobe also plans to create online services out of key parts of all of its desktop offerings, such as Adobe Acrobat, Narayen said. This will put Adobe in not only Microsoft's way, but also will pit it against Google, which also offers online word-processing services.

While online advertising is a key part of Microsoft's and Google's hosted services plan, Chizen stopped short of divulging whether Adobe plans to use online advertising to fund its services.

"There will be lots of different business models," he said. "A lot will depend on what the application is, who the consumer is, if they're OK with advertising. We've got a lot of experiments already going on."

However, Adobe's Narayen did acknowledge that advertising will support the delivery of content on Adobe Media Player, so it's likely this model will extend to other offerings. Adobe released Adobe Media Player, its first entrant for media playback on the desktop, in beta form to its Adobe Labs site early this week.