Adobe AIR 2.5 makes a play for phones, tablets and TVs

Adobe has updated AIR to let applications created on the platform run on a range of devices, including BlackBerrys and Samsung TVs, and releases new versions of its Flex developer tools

Adobe has introduced AIR 2.5, opening the door for developers to create Flash services and applications for smartphones, tablet PCs and televisions.

The software maker announced the update to AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) on Monday at the company's Max conference in Los Angeles. It also unveiled new Flash development tools and an upgrade to its LiveCycle enterprise suite.

Optimised for use in mobile, AIR 2.5 was rolled out last week for Android. A BlackBerry OS version and an Apple iOS packager will follow soon, according to Adobe, and like its predecessors, the Flash-based runtime works with Windows, Mac OS and Linux desktops.

"This is really the first year that we have production runtimes across desktop, mobile, TV, tablet and in live retail devices," Anup Murarka, director of partner development and technology strategy in Adobe's platform business unit told ZDNet UK. "These things are real — developers can work with them, get access to different platforms and actually build content for devices available today."

Improvements to AIR 2.5 include further integration of the SQLlite database and hardware acceleration on many devices. In addition to mobile, Adobe will deliver AIR to television screens, with Samsung including the platform on its newest TV sets.

At the conference, Research In Motion (RIM) and Adobe revealed that the user interface for RIM's PlayBook tablet will be written in AIR. The companies are working on language extensions for AIR to give it deeper integration with RIM's QNX operating system. Adobe will also work on simplifying the process for publishing AIR applications to the PlayBook's application store.

"It's not the FUD we've heard that [using AIR] is going to the lowest common denominator," Murarka said. "We're going to do work to make sure it's easy for developers to publish to the PlayBook platform, and they will have access to a unique set of richer capabilities. And this is something that will continue with other platforms as well."

In conjunction with the AIR 2.5 release, Adobe has launched a public preview of version 4.5 of its Flex developer software development kit (SDK), as well as previews of the next Flash Builder (Burrito) and Flash Catalyst (Panini) design and development tools. Codenamed 'Hero', Flex 4.5 is intended to "enable developers to build multi-screen applications, while still focusing on designer and developer productivity", Andrew Shorten, Adobe's senior product manager for Flash Builder, told ZDNet UK.

Flex will provide a single framework for applications for the web, for the desktop and for mobile, with initial mobile support for Android. Adobe is adding touch-enabled components to Flex 4.5, and it has included code-hinting in its Flash Builder tool to help developers use the right component for the right target device.

In addition, Flex 4.5 is tailored to what Shorten calls "mobile-specific design patterns", adding support for views, and stacks of views, to simplify application navigation. Other new features are support for the preservation of data and state when an application is switched away from, and better support for interruptions and notifications on mobile devices.

The new developer tools are designed to help build applications delivered to a range of screens, via support for screen re-orientation and full-screen applications. Shorten described Flash Builder as "intelligent, giving you the right components for the right target".

Flash Builder will also provide debugging on remote devices. It works with Android without the need to install the Android SDK.

Adobe is upgrading Flash Builder's support for the Eclipse application development environment to Eclipse 3.6, with the aim of improving performance. Shorten said the upgrade will help developers deal with the largest code bases. "We're scaling up for million-line projects," Shorten said.

Designers and developers using Flash Catalyst as a prototyping and design tool will finally get full round-tripping for code between it and Flash Builder. This means they will be able to collaborate around design and code changes, and will also be able to use application-specific libraries of components. A compatibility checker will ensure that code can be passed between two applications successfully.

Adobe also released a new version of its LiveCycle software for building business-oriented web applications. Intended to handle multi-channel customer interactions and voice and video chat, LiveCycle Enterprise Suite 2.5 supports mobile devices and voice search, as well as PDF-based workflow.

LifeCycle includes Solution Accelerators, which provide templates and building blocks for particular applications. The update includes Solution Accelerators for running in the enterprise, rather than being supplied as code samples. LiveCycle ES 2.5 will help streamline common workflow patterns, covering correspondence, statements, and complex review and approval cycles, according to Adobe.

In another announcement, the company said it is releasing its InMarket application publishing platform, originally codenamed 'Melrose'. InMarket will allow developers to write once and publish to many places. This will be enabled via partnerships with outlets such as Intel's AppUp netbook software store, as well as stores from Samsung and Acer. Adobe said it aims to have publishing agreements with 12 different application stores by the second half of 2011.

"Our largest developers — Disney, the BBC, Viacom — don't need our help getting distributed," said Murarka. "This is about helping smaller developers in our community and giving them as broad a reach as possible."

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