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Adobe AIR 2.5: Cross-Platform Mobile Applications in Flex

Nikolay Nosan

In October, Adobe announced that its AIR run-time environment now supports smartphones and tablets based on BlackBerry, Android, MeeGo, and Apple iOS. As a result, the new AIR SDK can minimize time and effort taken to develop cross-platform Flex mobile applications.

To see how it works, I decided to publish a Web-based Flex application, which was developed by our team, on the mobile platform.

1) I successfully published the existing Flex application on iPhone and Android.
2) Though there was a natural decrease in performance, I made sure that the application functioned properly.
3) I checked that all of the libraries that were declared by Adobe do exist and function seamlessly.
4) I tested an accelerometer, multi-touch, and gestures—the software did support them.

Cross-platform support

With this new release, it seems like Adobe wants to gain their share in the mobile software development market. Mobile developers can now publish a single Flex application to the variety of platforms. You don’t have to use different languages, as you did before (Objective-C for iOS, Java for Android, C++ for MееGo, etc.). You can now create a single code base and re-use it across several platforms.

As for Web developers, they can now build both desktop and mobile versions of their Web applications faster. You do not need to design a new application from scratch to adapt it to mobile platforms. In many cases, the adaptation of a desktop application can be performed in just one day. If you want to build a mobile version of your Web application, it is also pretty simple, as you can entirely re-use the business logic and partially re-use the presentation layer (UI and handlers).

When this new feature is not a winner

On the other hand, some applications may require using platform-dependent libraries. If you have such an application, Adobe AIR won’t help you create a cross-platform application. In addition, if you have to directly access hardware resources, such as CPU, GPU, etc., it is recommended to use native applications. Finally, some applications require to be indexed by Google—in this case, you’d better use HTML.

However, in my opinion, for the majority of software projects—especially for Web applications—Adobe Flex/AIR may help increase the development productivity and cut costs.

I’m not sure about its efficient technical implementation, but the very idea is amazing. The best thing about AIR is that it is a time-saver when designing applications across different platforms, including smartphones, TV sets, and tablets. It is most likely that its functionality will be extended to support other mobile systems and the AIR run-time will be pre-installed there.

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