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Adobe brings AIR to Linux

Three distros, more due?

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The promised Linux edition of Adobe Systems' AIR 1.5 rich internet application (RIA) play is due to hit Linux today.

AIR 1.5 for Linux follows versions for Windows and the Mac, and has been built for Ubuntu version 7.10 and above, the Fedora core 8.0 and above, and openSuSE 10.3 and above.

AIR 1.5 will run on Linux distros that use an RPM package manager, so that also covers Mandriva Linux, Linux for the PlayStation 2, Red Flag Linux, Yellow Dog Linux and TurboLinux among others. Adobe, though, is only providing formal support for Ubuntu, Fedora and openSuSE at this stage.

Adrian Ludwig, group product manager for Adobe's Flash platform business unit, told The Reg Adobe wants feedback on what other operating systems AIR should support.

AIR on Linux is part of a campaign to get Adobe's RIA software on mobile devices. Adobe's been relatively late in putting its content development and runtime tools on Linux, a platform that's suffered as a result for lack of a decent, mass-market media player.

Lately, though, there's been much talk of mobile devices - phones and netbooks - being the next growth area for Linux. That means potential growth in market share and mind share among developers for companies putting their software on these devices.

Mobile is a market where Adobe's interface rival Microsoft is weak but is making a determined push for the hearts and minds of developers and content creators with its Silverlight browser-based media player. Microsoft's gone as far as support for Firefox in its desire to win. Windows, meanwhile, is seeing some strong uptake on netbooks.

Until lately, Adobe's engaged the classic software launch strategy of releasing first for Windows and Mac and - maybe - following up later with a Linux offering. At least, that's what it did with the Flash Player before version 9, when Windows, Mac and Linux finally shipped together.

Such a delay in availability was OK before application and content creators had an alternative option and when the PC - where Flash Player dominates - was the dominant media player and internet platform.

Ludwig said it was important to close the gap as there'd been so many requests for the Linux edition once the version for Windows and Mac shipped. Adobe promised AIR 1.5 for Linux when it shipped the Windows and Mac editions on November 17.

AIR 1.5 brings to Linux the WebKit HTML engine and SquirrelFish Web Kit JavaScript interpreter, for fast HTML and JavaScript rendering, and an encrypted database along with Flash Player 10 features including custom filters and effects.

Demand for the Linux edition has been strong since November. "There's nothing as powerful as seeing a whole bunch of tweets saying: 'You need to support this thing'," Ludwig said.

He blamed the Linux lag on the difficulty of building a consistent development and runtime experience for AIR across different distros of Linux.

"We threw around the word 'Linux' like it was a single operating system, but there are three operating systems here," Ludwig said. He said AIR 2.0 would continue this parity and also bring a focus on mobile. AIR 2.0 is due in 2009, but Adobe's not provided a date.®

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