Adobe is making available the first full release of its AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime), and is set to reveal the first customers who are building both business and consumer applications with the technology.

AIR 1.0 is now available as a free and open-source technology, said Adobe’s chief technology officer Kevin Lynch. He said hundreds of thousands of developers have downloaded the software development kit (SDK) for AIR during the beta process, which began in June. Some of the first applications to use AIR will also be available from today, when Adobe plans to highlight these releases at an event with customers in San Francisco.

AIR is aimed at bringing the same functionality of RIAs (rich internet applications) built using technologies such as Adobe Flash and Flex Builder to the desktop. It acts as a wrapper for RIAs, allowing those applications to run locally in Flash Player.

Adobe also is releasing the latest version of its developer framework for RIAs, Flex 3, along with a new technology, Adobe BlazeDS. The latter is a data-services layer that helps send information between back-end IT infrastructure-like application servers and front-end applications more quickly and efficiently. Like AIR, Flex 3 and BlazeDS are free open-source technologies.

Adobe hopes AIR will expand its reach beyond the Internet into business and desktop applications, where competitor Microsoft dominates. Meanwhile, Microsoft is gunning for Adobe's position as the leading provider of RIA tools with its browser-based technology Silverlight and its Expression graphic- and web-design toolset.

In fact, if Microsoft's bid to purchase Yahoo is successful, it could displace the use of Flash on many Yahoo websites and services, helping Microsoft spread the use of Silverlight more quickly.

However, Adobe’s Lynch, who was promoted to CTO last month, said that it's taken 10 years for Flash to reach 99 percent adoption among web users, so he is not overly concerned with what might happen to Flash if the Microsoft-Yahoo deal goes through.

"It's not an easy task to get that kind of distribution," he said, adding that Adobe would even welcome more competition in the RIA market. "It keeps all of our teams on their toes."

Particularly with the acquisition of Macromedia in 2005, Adobe has been successful at building a comprehensive set of tools that developers use primarily to deliver multimedia and high-impact, customer-facing websites and web-based applications. But with AIR and related free offerings, the company is hoping to drive adoption of its for-fee developer, design and server software in the business and enterprise market.

Some of the customers showing off applications today show Adobe is moving towards that goal. For example, BusinessObjects, the business-intelligence software provider recently acquired by SAP, is using AIR for a new product called BI Widgets. The technology allows users to search, organise and access BI content in back-end systems and databases from the desktop.

Web-based CRM (customer relationship management) provider also is using AIR to deliver applications built using its hosted developer environment to the desktop, said Adam Gross, vice president of platform marketing for The company is launching a new product called Toolkit for Adobe AIR, which allows developers to extend applications built using to the desktop.

Another enterprise customer, Deutsche Bank, is using AIR for a new Internet service for its business customers called db-direct, which provides instant desktop alerts about account activity to corporate clients and financial institutions.

AIR also is giving Internet companies new ways to reach consumers, Lynch said. Companies going live today with AIR-based customer applications include eBay and AOL.

Ebay will release the first full production version of eBay Desktop, a version of its auction site that can run on the desktop without being connected to the Internet or accessed through a browser. By using AIR, eBay Desktop can automatically update user information whenever the user is connected to the Internet.

AOL will also launch an AIR-based application called Top 100 Music Videos, which allows users to search for and view music videos from AOL Music even when they are offline.

Other companies scheduled to demonstrate how they're using AIR at Adobe's event today include The New York Times and Nasdaq.