San Francisco -- Adobe Systems on Wednesday has released the Linux version of its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR), a platform for building programs that cross the barrier between the web and your desktop, is now fully compatible with Linux operating systems, and bringing it up to speed with the versions available for Windows and Mac users.
The company has released AIR 1.5 for Linux, the first time the Linux desktop variant has made it as a production-grade, Adobe-supported release.
While AIR applications are already functioning on Windows and Mac computers, this release would mean that developers can now build a single application that will run on pretty much every major operating system.
And now also for the first time, this new version differs from previous beta versions of AIR for Linux by fully supporting Flash 10 which includes such niceties as 3-D effects, high resolution text rendering, custom filters, and support for digital rights management (DRM).
AIR for Linux is available in the same 15 languages as Flash Player 10.
By working on your desktop, AIR applications can be more powerful and convenient than apps trapped in your web browser. These components are important for media intensive applications like photo and video editing tools, and applications like Adobe’s AIR-based media player software, which make use of the DRM support to serve up protected content.
The update signifies an essential step toward unifying AIR across all three most important computing platforms. The Windows and Mac versions of AIR were able to take advantage of certain features that the Linux version could not -- it fragmented which apps Linux users were able to run. Of late this happened with the popular Twitter client Twhirl, which became unusable for Linux users after requiring the latest spec of AIR to run special Flash 10 features.
Adrian Ludwig, Adobe’s product manager for platform, says his company aims to keep all three versions up to date, and roll out future updates at the same time. In practice this will let developers write an application that does not require any special coding to get it to run on all the platforms.
Developers and designers can now target the three platforms with the exact same code without making any modifications, at least 90% of the time or slightly better, according to Adobe’s tests.
The Linux stuff supports Fedora Core 8, Ubuntu 7.10 or higher, and openSUSE 10.3. It is also compatible with Intel-supported Moblin Linux crew to get AIR on Atom-based netbooks and nettops and has cozied up with Android and Nokia for phones. (It is working on Flash for iPhone but has to overcome Apple’s distaste for the widgetry.) It also expects to support China’s Red Flag Linux at some point.
Adobe was the first company to release a prominent platform for hybrid web/desktop applications, but competition is growing. Sun just released its competing platform JavaFX, and a startup called Appcelerator also offers an open source competitor called Titanium. AIR has been making healthy product in the last year -- Ludwig said it is closing in on the 100 million download mark, and should cross it before the end of the year.
Additionally Ludwig says one of the hurdles of developing for Linux has been compatibility. “Less than 2 percent of clients are using Linux,” he said. “It is a big challenge to deliver applications to such a small market.”
Ludwig says he thinks that having such a platform that offers cross compatibility like AIR offers will bring in new developers that might have previously never thought of building their applications for something other than Windows.