Adobe bringing AIR to smartphones--Android first

Who's got the best programming foundation for mobile phones? Adobe is pushing not just Flash but its related AIR technology, too.

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Stephen Shankland
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Adobe Systems, hard at work bringing its Flash technology to mobile phones, announced Monday that it's also working on making the same move for a related programming foundation called AIR.

AIR, short for Adobe Integrated Runtime, is a foundation for standalone applications that use Flash or Web technology. Examples of AIR applications include the New York Times Reader and the TweetDeck for advanced Twitter usage.

Adobe is pushing AIR applications such as Alchemist by InRuntime for smartphones, starting with Android later in 2010.
Adobe is pushing AIR applications such as Alchemist by InRuntime for smartphones, starting with Android later in 2010. Adobe Systems

Adobe plans to release AIR for Google's Android operating system for mobile devices in 2010, the company said at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona. Also at the show, Adobe announced that it's joined the LiMo Foundation to bring Flash to Linux-based mobile phones.

Adobe plans to release Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones in the first half of 2010.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company demonstrated AIR on a Motorola Droid phone, including the Tweetcards Twitter application, a "South Park"-style avatar creator, and Adobe's Connect Pro software for screen-sharing and videoconferencing.

AIR for mobile will use Flash Player 10.1, a beta version of which Adobe said was just released to partners and programmers.

"AIR leverages mobile-specific features from Flash Player 10.1, is optimized for high performance on mobile screens and designed to take advantage of native device capabilities for a richer and more immersive user experience," Adobe said in a statement. Specifically, AIR for mobile devices will support multitouch interfaces, gesture inputs, accelerometers for motion and device orientation, and geolocation for detecting position.

Flash is ubiquitous on computers but comparatively rare on mobile devices; AIR hasn't achieved Flash's penetration even on desktops. But if Adobe can persuade mobile-phone makers to support it, or persuade phone owners to install it on their own, it could open up cross-platform advantages for programmers who want the same or similar versions of a program to run on different types of equipment.

However, Adobe has its share of challenges spreading Flash and AIR to mobile devices. Although Flash Player 10.1 will run on many smartphones, it won't run on arguably the highest-profile model out there, Apple's iPhone. The absence of Flash on the iPhone and iPad has put Adobe on the defensive, and the company has begun sharing more details on its plans to improve Flash.

Motorola, whose newer Droid models of Android phones compete with the iPhone, endorsed Adobe's moves.

"We look forward to seeing AIR come to the Android platform and developers creating applications that will delight our end-users," said Christy Wyatt, Motorola's vice president of software applications and ecosystem, in a statement.

Adobe isn't giving up on the iPhone. In a blog post by Adobe's Michael Chou, the company also touted several iPhone games written with its upcoming Flash Professional CS5 Packager for iPhone software, which lets programmers write Flash applications that run on iPhones without Flash installed.