The new version differs from previous beta versions of AIR for Linux by fully supporting Flash 10 which includes such niceties as 3-D effects, high resolution text rendering, custom filters, and support for digital rights management (DRM). These features are important for media intensive applications like photo and video editing tools, and applications like Adobe's AIR-based media player software, which make use of the DRM support to serve up protected content.
The update is also an important step toward unifying AIR across all three major computing platforms. The Windows and Mac versions of AIR were able to take advantage of certain features that the Linux version could not--it fragmented which apps Linux users were able to run. Most recently this happened with the popular Twitter client Twhirl, which became unusable for Linux users after requiring the latest spec of AIR to run special Flash 10 features.
Adrian Ludwig, Adobe's product manager for platform, says his company intends to keep all three versions up to date, and roll out future updates at the same time. In practice this will let developers write an application that does not require any special coding to get it to run on all the platforms. More importantly, it would keep situations like the one with Twirl from ever happening again.
Additionally Ludwig says one of the hurdles of developing for Linux has been compatibility. "Less than 2 percent of clients are using Linux," he said. "It's challenging to deliver applications to such a small market." Ludwig says he thinks that having such a platform that offers cross compatibility like AIR offers will bring in new developers that might have previously never thought of building their applications for something other than Windows.
Ludwig says the next frontier for AIR is getting it into handheld devices, starting with "mid-mobile" devices, something that was outlined at last month's Adobe Max Conference. Also worth noting is that this new Linux version is only compatible with three variants of the operating system including Ubuntu 7.1 and higher, Fedora 8.1 and higher, and Open SUSE 10.3 and higher.