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Adobe Floats AIR 1.5 Into Linux

Linux users take note: Adobe wants you to have the same desktop experiences that Windows and Mac users get with Adobe AIR. However, Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) still isn't ready to give Linux users all the same applications that it makes available to Windows and Mac users.

Adobe AIR 1.5 for Linux follows the AIR 1.5 release for Windows and Mac which came out in November. AIR is an Adobe technology that lets users run Web applications on the desktop. The initial public AIR release came in February of this year. In bringing AIR to Linux, Adobe is giving developers another platform that their applications will run on while expanding application availability for Linux desktop users.

"The reason why this is important is because it really changes the shape of what it means to develop for Linux," Adrian Ludwig group product manager for Adobe's platform business unit told InternetNews.com." There are already hundreds of applications that have been built on Adobe AIR. We've seen an extraordinary number of installs of the runtime with estimates that we'll hit 100 million installs of Adobe AIR by the end of 2008."

Ludwig noted that the reason why a Linux version of Adobe AIR has lagged beyond Windows and Mac versions is due to some technical complexities. For one, the Flash player on Linux for most of 2008 has lagged behind the releases of Flash player for Windows and Mac. As well Ludwig said that the image transparency model in Linux is different than the Windows or Mac operating systems and it took Adobe time to iron out.

That said, Ludwig claimed that Adobe is committed to delivering future versions of Adobe AIR for Windows, Mac and Linux simultaneously.

According to Ludwig, the simultaneous releases should help to make Linux a more attractive platform for software develops.

"Linux has relatively small penetration and so it didn't make sense to build applications specifically targeted at Linux," Ludwig argued.

But now, with Air on Linux, Ludwig said that developers simply build AIR applications and they will work on Windows, Mac and Linux. Existing applications that have been designed for AIR will work on Linux without any modification, he added.

AIR 1.5 for Linux is currently available directly from Adobe and is not yet being directly included with any of the major Linux distributions. Ludwig noted however that Adobe has been in discussions with multiple Linux distributions to get AIR distributed as part of a Linux distro.

Gaps in the Linux portfolio

While Adobe is making an effort to bring Linux desktop users into the fold with the release of AIR 1.5 for Linux, there are still gaps in Adobe's product portfolio. Among them is Adobe Flash CS4 Professional which is Adobe's key Flash design and development application, and only available for Windows and Mac.

"There is little demand [for Flash Professional] because the size of market is small," Ludwig stated. "That's why AIR is important because it expands the demand for Linux as an operating system."

Ludwig claimed that Adobe has considered a Linux version of Flash Professional before and will continue to re-evaluate its position as demand changes.

As well, though Adobe is making AIR available for Linux it is not making the project open source.

"We're delivering Adobe AIR using our own license and at this point the project is not an open source project," Ludwig stated. "Though AIR does incorporate a large number open source projects. As part of our development effort we are contributing back to projects including SQLlight and WebKit."