Adobe pushes RIAs with AIR 1.0, Flex Builder 3

San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe Systems Inc. Monday released the production versions of its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) and Flex Builder 3, as well as two open source projects – all of which serve to further its Rich Internet Application (RIA) strategy, the company said.

AIR 1.0, which follows beta 3, can now be distributed to a wider audience, and customers who had been building on the test versions made their applications live same day, including RIA applications by eBay, nasdaq, and Fedex.

AIR 1.0 – a cross-operating system runtime for building RIA applications using Flash, Flex, HTML and Ajax – joins Adobe’s Flash Player as one of the baseline components of the company’s RIA technology suite. “This is a major step forward for our Rich Internet Application platform,” said Phil Costa, director of product management of the platform business unit at Adobe.

The production version of AIR addresses developer pain points typically encountered when applying Web technologies to the desktop, he said, adding there’s “greater control over the brand, greater functionality in terms of local storage or local access to the file systems, and more persistent connection between the client and the server so you can do notification and other desktop-like functionality.”

The runtime supports Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Mac 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard operating systems. A version that supports Linux will follow although a date has not yet been identified, said Abbas Rizvi, solutions architect with Adobe. But he added it’s something Adobe is “committed to doing sooner than later”.

The cross-platform interoperability means nuances of the operating system are handled by the AIR runtime, he said. “That’s a real appeal for AIR because a lot of application developers spend a lot of time maintaining different code bases for different operating systems or different versions of the operating systems,” said Rizvi.

The system interoperability benefits Adobe as well, he said, given the company spends “millions of dollars on parallel development” and quality assurance and support for the technology.

The production version of Flex Builder 3, the integrated developer environment (IDE) for creating Flex-based RIA applications, allows developers to use the same Flex framework to build for AIR. Also, the release comes with advanced developer tools like code refactoring and memory and performance profiling.

Adobe has also “invested heavily” in building integration between Flex Builder and its Creative Suite to allow designers and developers to collaborate on RIA applications, said Rizvi. It’s an effort to bring the company’s “core base of customers into the fold as well,” he said, referring to designers.

The product version launches are an “important moment for our overall platform,” said Costa, and that Flex, in particular, has gone from a tool used by select early adopters to one that is a “major component of today’s Internet platform.” It’s also become a central component of the company’s application strategy, he said, citing Adobe Share, Premiere Express and Photoshop Express as applications built on Flex technology.

The release of the production version of the runtime “legitimizes AIR and brings it out of beta and into the spotlight for people who don’t know about it yet,” said RIA developer Demosthenes Kandylis of Toronto-based SplitElement Inc., who has been building RIAs with beta 2 and 3 of the runtime.

Kandylis said that despite the ample “buzz” around AIR, the drastic alterations from the second to the third beta of the runtime turned many developers away, choosing instead to wait for the production version. The release of version 1.0 now presents an additional product on the market for developers, he said.

Flex Builder was a “major step in RIA for Adobe”, said Kandylis, in that it was an “improvement over Flash” and therefore a necessary technology to attract developers – .Net or Java – from other parts of the development world.

Adobe also announced that it has open sourced its Flex SDK, a move the company previously announced it would do last April under the Mozilla Public License. The second open source project launched, called BlazeDS, centres around the company’s remoting and messaging technology that allows developers to connect to back-end distributed data and push data to Adobe Flex and AIR applications.

The move towards open sourcing components of Adobe’s platform illustrates a commitment to share the platform’s evolution with the developer community, said Costa. “Establishing those protocols as a core piece of technology that you can use not only with Java, but with .Net, PHP, Ruby on Rails” should also help broaden use of the platform, he added.

Adobe’s open source announcements will certainly help raise the popularity of its RIA platform, said Kandylis, given the attraction to open source versus proprietary code. However, he cautioned that “it remains to be seen how the development community will react” considering that Adobe is only open sourcing some of the platform’s components.

Although Kandylis acknowledged the Flex open source project is a big step, it can only expect to reap a substantial adoption rate “once other companies start creating IDEs for developing action scripts for Flex applications.”

In the enterprise sphere, Costa said he’s observed an increasing number of businesses using RIA technologies as a “key piece of their overall enterprise strategy just as they’ve looked to standardize on database or middleware technology.”

As with Adobe Media Player, AIR will also be freely available.

Both open source projects will be housed at where developers can download the distribution, contribute to the open bug base and to the open source repository.

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