AIR, like Sun’s Java before it, is Adobe’s “write once, run anywhere” platform for applications that run outside a Web browser. It’s based on Flash (which runs inside a browser) and lets developers use the same tools, and has gained some traction for lightweight software–a lot of Twitter applications are based on it.
Apple famously refuses to support Flash in the version of the Safari browser that runs on the iPhone and iPad. Until recently, it also tried to prevent developers from using AIR to create iPhone apps. Apple relented in September, but Adobe was already forging ahead with the next version of AIR with full Android support.
AIR 2.5 also has a way to display apps on TV sets, which could be useful for entertainment apps like Pandora and Netflix. It’ll come first to TVs and Blu-ray players from Samsung.
In other words, as of today developers can use Adobe’s latest platform to create apps that run on Windows, the Mac, Android, BlackBerry, and even TV sets…but not the iPhone or iPad. Adobe says it’s working to bring a previously released technology for iPhone apps to “feature parity” with AIR 2.5 for Android. But for now, Apple’s stubbornness has caused Adobe to treat it like a second-class citizen.
Adobe couldn’t resist a little dig at Apple on the page announcing the platform update: “Android has recently become the top mobile operating system in the United States, ahead of the Apple iOS, which powers the iPhone.”
Adobe also announced a new online distribution channel for AIR apps called InMarket. Right now, it only feeds into Adobe’s own AIR Marketplace, a Samsung app store for TVs, and an Intel app store for netbooks. (Seems like everybody has an app store these days.) But it could eventually become a useful feed into the Android Marketplace and elsewhere. Although probably not Apple’s App Store.