For those of you too busy to do more than make snide comments about a product you haven't bothered reading even the simplest introductory article on (many readily available from Adobe's wiki), I thought I'd take a few minutes out of my own busy schedule:
1) AIR (formerly "Apollo") is to the desktop what Flash Player is to the web browser. That is, you write content for AIR, compile it, and then people can download it and run it like a regular desktop application. And, yes, this means that you now have access to desktop-side faculties, such as the filesystem.
3) Adobe's purpose is to create an application development platform that allows the huge community of web developers use of their already-existing skills for desktop development. A secondary purpose, of course, is to allow web apps to be brought to the desktop for offline-enabled apps... apps that update when you're connected, but are still usable (in a limited sense, like composing email using Mail offline) when you're not.
4) The fact that Adobe has put more effort into bringing this technology out in a beta form shows more interest in creating a grassroots community. Branding can come later; the hardest part is getting developers interested in using the tools.
5) AIR is cross-platform. There is a runtime for Mac and for Windows, and I'm certain that if the Linux community gets pushing, there will be one for them as well.