Adobe Releases AIR Runtime

Adobe releases first version of the Adobe Integrated Runtime, and open sources the complementary Flex framework.

While Microsoft is looking to convince developers and consumers alike to try Silverlight, the alternative to Adobe's Flash, the incumbent has made some strides of its own.

Adobe Systems Inc. has released the first version of its widely anticipated Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) cross-operating system runtime along with updates of its Flex framework for Windows and Mac platforms. The release of AIR is expected to let Web developers use their existing skills to build rich Internet applications (RIAs) for the desktop, smart clients and browsers.

AIR is a technology long in coming. Under development at Macromedia, AIR was acquired along with Flex, Coldfusion and Dreamweaver when Adobe acquired the developer tools company in 2005 for $3.4 billion.

Available as a public preview or beta since March 2007, AIR (formerly code-named "Apollo") enables developers to use familiar Web technologies such as FLASH, AJAX, HTML and Flex to build desktop apps. Other emerging technologies that promise to bring Web-like functionality to the desktop and synchronize data include Google Gears, Mozilla Prism and Sun Microsystems' Java FX. These technologies are open source.

Adobe AIR 1.0 doesn't have any major changes from the December 2007 beta. "There are some licensing details," says Adrian Ludwig, Adobe's platform marketing team manager, "but primarily it was performance and stability."

AIR is freely available to developers under the Adobe Apollo EULA license. A Linux version is expected this year.

In conjunction with the AIR 1.0 release, several companies -- including FedEx Corp., The New York Times Company, The NASDAQ Stock Market Inc., eBay Inc., AOL LLC and Nickelodeon-demoed RIAs.

Opening up Web Development
Flex is built on Adobe's Flash technology; it uses a declarative XML called MXML and ActionScript. Version 3 integrates AIR extensions into the framework, SDK and Flex Builder tooling. As promised, Adobe open sourced the Flex framework and SDK under the Mozilla license. The Flash player and Flex Builder 3, an Eclipse-based IDE priced at $249, require commercial licenses.

Adobe has what Ludwig characterizes as "a relatively new but committed movement toward open source" and opening up the Flex SDK is expected to increase its usage. "We're thinking that it's going to significantly affect uptake in the Web developer community, which has strong ties to the open source community -- they're very, very tightly aligned," he observes.

Adobe also released the open source Blaze DS back-end tools-for remoting and messaging -- for Flex applications.

Flex 3 is an incremental release, according to Ludwig.

New Announcements
Adobe announced the new dev tools at its Adobe Engage 2008 event for tech bloggers in San Francisco. The products were also featured at the 360|Flex conference in Atlanta and FITC Amsterdam 2008.

The company is working on several projects to improve the developer-designer workflow, most notably "Thermo," which was demoed at Chicago MAX.

"We don't have any plans to talk about Thermo at this point," says Ludwig. "Between the Creative Suite and Flex Builder, there's a lot of interoperability added with Flex Builder 3 to make it easy to build the components and skins and visual elements in the Creative Suite products, and easily transfer them into a Flex project," he adds.

Fast Facts

  • Available for Windows and Mac now, Linux later this year
  • Developers can use FLASH, AJAX, HTML and Flex to build desktop apps
  • Freely available to developers under the Adobe Apollo EULA license
  • New version 3 integrates AIR extensions into the framework, SDK and Flex Builder tooling
  • Framework and SDK now open sourced under the Mozilla license
  • Flash player and Flex Builder 3, an Eclipse-based IDE priced at $249, still require commercial licenses

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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