Adobe takes Android out for some AIR

The browserless rich media technology will be available for Android phones this year, with other platforms to follow
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor

Adobe has introduced a version of its Flash-based AIR runtime for mobile phones, which will appear first on Android handsets, with other platforms to follow.

The software maker announced the new version of AIR, a runtime for standalone applications that uses web technologies but runs outside the browser, on Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The desktop version of the runtime is already widely available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. Developers will be able to use existing AIR developer tools with the mobile version of AIR to deliver standalone Flash applications to mobile devices, according to Adobe.

Support for AIR on Android handsets will arrive later this year, the company said. Motorola and RIM have announced that they will work with Adobe to deliver AIR on their devices, and Adobe said BlackBerry, Symbian, Palm WebOS and Windows Mobile platforms will be supported.

"With the Flash Platform further advancing on mobile devices, we enable developers and content publishers to deliver to any screen, so that consumers have open access to their favourite interactive media, content and applications across platforms," Adobe platform business chief David Wadhwani said in a statement.

AIR for mobile devices taps into handset-specific functionality such as multitouch, gesture inputs, geolocations, accelerometers and screen orientation.

Adobe has said that developers will be able to use the next generation of its Flash development tools — Flash Professional CS5 and Flash Builder — to run the same Flash code on Apple's iPhone and iPad (using a cross-compiler to produce native code), in a browser as Flash, or as a standalone AIR application on desktop PCs and on mobile devices. The tools are due to arrive later in 2010 as part of Creative Suite 5.

Adobe has committed to allowing developers to publish their Flash applications to the appropriate store for each platform. "It's not our role goal to narrow things in any shape or form — so web, marketplace, whatever, it's great," Anup Murarka, Adobe's director of technology strategy and partner development, told ZDNet UK.

At the Barcelona show, Adobe also released a beta version of Flash Player 10.1, saying it expects to deliver a final version for distribution to supported devices in the first half of 2010. Flash Player 10.1 is the first version of Adobe's rich media technology to fully support a variety of devices, including mobile phones, and parts of the technology are built into AIR for mobile phones.

Much of the development of Flash Player 10.1 was done via contributions from the Open Screen Project (OSP), an industry-wide scheme to get Flash working on a range of hardware platforms. With over 70 members, the OSP includes content developers as well as technology partners, with 19 of the top 20 mobile-device manufacturers signed up.

"We are excited about the progress with Flash Player 10.1 and the work that developers, content publishers and close to 70 partners in the Open Screen Project have done so far as part of the beta program," Wadhwani said.

New OSP partners announced at Mobile World Congress on Monday are the Symbian Foundation, Opera, Wind River and ESPN.

Adobe is not just focusing its development on the OSP, as on Monday it said it has joined the LiMo Foundation to help define how Flash will be integrated with Linux-based smartphones and mobile devices.

New outlets for Flash call for new design tools, and Adobe plans to deliver a new version of its Device Central testing platform as part of the Creative Suite 5 suite of tools. "There's been a definite bit of buzz about this next generation of our tools, and mobile design will be getting some significant features as well," Murarka told ZDNet UK.

Creative Suite 5's tools will include improved mobile HTML support, the addition of Flash Player 10.1 and emulation for supported mobile technologies such as accelerometer hardware and multitouch. It will also provide more device profiles, including support for developers working with BlackBerry.

Although Flash is not supported on the iPhone, Adobe continues to provide developer tools and services for Apple's smartphone. On Monday, the company added the iPhone to the platforms supported by its Omniture analytics subsidiary. A new set of programming libraries will allow application developers to use the same dynamic content-placement tools as web designers, with support for Omniture's test and target APIs.

"Imagine games and other online capabilities having a more dynamic nature," said Murarka about the Omniture move, saying he is confident that the libraries will be widely used.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK contributed to this report.

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