Adobe releases alpha of AIR for Linux, joins Linux Foundation

Is Adobe playing catch-up in the open source development field? Or is the open source community not giving it enough of that valuable feedback it's so well-known for. This morning, Adobe's giving the community an extra chance.

The stated goal of Adobe since 2006 has been to build an operating environment using its Flash technologies, that is truly cross-platform and that can run offline. To accomplish that for real, Adobe needed to embrace more platforms outside the traditional box than just Macintosh; so today, even if the current build isn't ready for prime time, the company released what it's describing as a feature-incomplete version of the AIR platform for Linux.

In so doing, Adobe stated it is officially joining the Linux Foundation. Next week, at a collaboration summit in Austin, Texas, the company will officially have something to show off, including an alpha version of the Flex Builder 3 development environment for Linux.

Critical features are indeed missing from the Linux builds for AIR as it stands now, according to the release notes this morning, including printing, the ability for AIR apps to launch other AIR apps, and support for DRM. Such features would be absolutely necessary for standalone applications, though Adobe is making no pretense about its Linux builds being initial efforts.

This move comes as Adobe has been addressing criticism among the Linux community for its relative commitment to that operating system. Historically, the problem has been one of being perceived as following up the rear with catch-up editions for Linux, especially with its Flash-related products -- and it's Flash which holds up Adobe's entire Web development world now, including for AIR.

Last December, though, when the company released its latest Flash Player 9 Update builds for Windows, Mac, and Linux at the same time, Adobe was greeted with applause from one side of the community, and jeers from the other side who commented it wasn't putting enough effort into the job.

"It'd be nice if you actually tested this stuff before release," one tester wrote in December. "It makes Adobe look pretty stupid when every, 'It works now everyone,' is followed by a series of, 'No it doesn't' posts! If there are minimum requirements, then let us know. If you can't do that, [then] post as Beta until it's confirmed."

While the Linux Foundation this morning hailed Adobe's continuing, and now enhanced, commitment to open source development, the challenge before the company now is to foster a community within the community, willing to work with the company in improving its product rather than suffer the slings and arrows of an angry throng for not having shoveled out what they were expecting.

It's amid this situation that Adobe couldn't emphasize enough the "alpha" nature of today's releases. This morning's statement from platform business unit general manager David Wadhwani reads, "With the alpha release of Adobe AIR for Linux and the Adobe Flex Builder for Linux alpha update, we're delivering early releases of a first-class application runtime and RIA creation tool to the Linux community. This allows us to have an open conversation with users during our development process, which will give us very valuable developer insights," with an emphasis on "alpha" and "early."

The alpha of the AIR runtime platform for Linux, and the alpha of the SDK for AIR for Linux, are available as separate links on this page. The public alpha of the Flex Builder 3 environment for Linux is available from this page.

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