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Adobe AIR as the cross-platform solution of choice

Adobe has just made an important announcement:

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of the Adobe AIR 2 runtime. Starting today, you can download and install the new version at get.adobe.com/air/.

Adobe AIR is rapidly becoming a very viable solution to the desktop cross-platform conundrum. MicroISVs pay attention, this new release includes a native processes API, WebKit, multi-touch and gesture support, as well as major performance improvements.

If I were to develop a cross-platform application today, I would probably opt for AIR, just like Balsamiq did. Working with AIR and Flex (or HTML5) is a pleasant enough experience, and while bashing Adobe seems to be in vogue these days, I like where they’re heading (at least on the desktop front).

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10 Responses to “Adobe AIR as the cross-platform solution of choice”

  1. You still have a problem though. You can’t take your cross platform AIR app and make it work on a smartphone as is, let alone on the iPhone.

  2. I you don’t care too much about user experience, performance, security, or locking you and your users into a proprietary platform controlled by a company that couldn’t care much less about any platform besides Windows, then yes, AIR is probably a good bet.

    That probably sounds a bit harsh, but I’ve never had a good experience with an AIR application, and for me it’s up there with Java in that when I see that an app’s interface is powered by it, I instantly lose interest. I was actually interested in trying Balsamiq until I opened the Demo and saw the ClickToFlash banner.

    Every AIR app I’ve tried has had a non-standard interface, idled at a good 5-10% CPU, and used an obscene amount of RAM. AIR is technically cross-platform, but the experience will be so terrible on non-Windows platforms (and for all I know is terrible on Windows as well) that you might as well just make a proper desktop app.

  3. John Dowdell says:

    “I you don’t care too much about user experience, performance, security, or locking you and your users into a proprietary platform controlled by a company that couldn’t care much less about any platform besides Windows, then yes, AIR is probably a good bet.”

    Well, at least he posted with a name and a link… reminds me of those guys who said a PC could never compare to a mainframe…. ;-)

    (Glad you like the new options, Antonio, good luck in your work.)

    jd/adobe

  4. “Well, at least he posted with a name and a link… reminds me of those guys who said a PC could never compare to a mainframe….”

    Besides conveniently allowing you to dismiss everything I said without actually addressing it, I’m not sure how the PC/mainframe metaphor has anything to do with what I wrote.

    AIR apps DO idle at 5%+ CPU (at least I have yet to see one that doesn’t, though I’ll grant you it’s been a while since I’ve had AIR installed), they DO use obscene amounts of RAM, and they DO tend to have interfaces that don’t feel at home on any platform. Instead of assuming prima facie that I’m wrong, why not prove me wrong?

    I’m sure AIR has been making strides, but there’s a reason why Mac users are conditioned to be extremely wary of trusting Flash/AIR stuff and it’s not because we worship Steve Jobs and take everything he says at face value. It’s because every time a Flash applet is loaded, no matter what it does, we can be sure that our CPU fans will start blasting in a few seconds. It’s because playing the same H.264 video in QuickTime or an HTML5 video tag uses a fraction of the CPU it uses in Flash (and no, my GMA950 MacBook doesn’t support hardware acceleration). It’s because—pre-Snow Leopard—our browsers crashed regularly when Flash decided to lock up and take the browser down with it. It’s also because we’re used to great type in native apps, which makes Flash’s terrible text rendering all the more obscene. From what I understand, the situation is significantly worse on Linux, and that’s really saying something.

    I don’t *want* to hate Flash, but I’ve been conditioned to. As a developer, building something in Flash/AIR would be irresponsible because it wouldn’t be something I’d actually want to use.

    (Sorry for completely derailing this comment thread Antonio!)

    • Marius Filip says:

      Ditto.

      I installed once the AIR interface to an online service that I was actually willing to pay for. The AIR desktop app, the interface to the service, came with a trial period.

      After experiencing the interface I ceased desiring the service. Plain and simple.

      Despite being visually enticing the functioning left so much to desire that I started to doubt the service itself.

      The sloppy functioning may be charged on the developers, true, yet we still have to see large and reliable applications written in AIR that have success cross-platform.

      The comparison to Java holds.

  5. IsTI37 says:

    Well, I hate every AIR application available on linux.

    It may be cross platform, but it’s crap.
    C is 99% cross platform and if you know C/C++/C#/Objective-C you can rule the world with it with little changes between Mac, Windows and Linux compilations of you apps, just program well. (It runs starting from Android, Nokia handhelds, Iphone upto Mac, Windows and Linux with no performance and memory hit.) (actually only if the application is well designed)

  6. Marius Filip says:

    Antonio

    Are there technological reasons for choosing AIR over Silverlight/Moonlight other than being cross platform?

    • Granted that AIR support for some platforms is less than ideal, I tend to believe that the AIR runtime is currently more widely available than the Silverlight one. That said, if you are targeting Windows only, or Linux only, then Silverlight or Moonlight may be the right way to go.

  7. Richard says:

    I was looking for something cross-platform, that makes use of web technologies. I found Appcelerator Titanium: http://www.appcelerator.com/.

    It’s on my “to evaluate” list, but looks interesting.

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