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Adobe leaves Linux AIR users hanging with surprise cancellation

Today Adobe announced AIR 2.7 is out, but also that they will no longer be supporting AIR on Linux.

Given that it's also official that Adobe will not be supporting hardware acceleration in Flash Player on Linux any time soon this concerns me - and it should concern you too.

Flash Aside

But, as a brief aside, with Flash it's apparently the video card drivers fault, though Adobe don’t say if that’s just the closed-binary vendor drivers or the open replacements, or for what driver/card combinations. And, frankly, the only 3D application that kills my main steam Intel Xorg driver is Wine, for which I can easily blame Windows, so it’s all a bit bizarre that Adobe can’t get something fixed.
If there was a blocker bug in a Windows graphics driver, do you think they’d say ’you know what, we have a deadline, lets release any way and sort it out later’ ? Sigh.
I know unexpected bugs occur late in the development process, but what really excited me was that Flash was going to be a proper unified cross platform 3D environment, unlike other add ons like Shockwave that only run on two O/S. Oh well. Sigh.

AIR as Platform

AIR was going to be the single cross platform desktop runtime, running everywhere much like Flash does.

But now it feels like Adobe would prefer to focus on mobile and are happy to drop Linux, despite promises that it was a first class citizen when first (modern) Flash and then AIR were delivered to Windows, Mac and Linux all at the same time on an integrated release schedule.

And now, with zero advance notice, AIR will be everywhere except Linux :-/ And the lack of a public roadmap from Adobe has burnt me again :-/

Where are details for the ’partners’ who could make ’complete implementations of AIR for Linux-based platforms' to keep AIR on Linux ? I for one would be interested to know how much work that would involve. Could the community provide that for instance, or do you need to be some sort of assembler-level guru programmer ?
I even applied to the Open Screen Project with a view to at least gauging the size of the task, but after a week Adobe hasn't bothered to get in contact.

The lack of a clear roadmap for 'what now' for AIR on Linux, including a named OSP partner such as Canonical or RedHat makes me think they don't have one. And if Adobe wont stand behind their own software, why should anyone else ?

Incidentally, does this mean Adobe is now only writing the AIR core, then only two integration tiers (MacOS and Windows) ? So every new platform (Android, Linux, RIM,LG,...) will need to provide it’s own engineering resource ?

The Free/Open source community are already having a field day over this. All the hard work me, others, and Adobe have done building good will in this area (open .swf format spec,, open language, open compiler, cross platform, cross device, ...) will probably now drop away like a stone.

The Future and You

As I said at the start, I now fear for the Flash Player, genuinely, on Linux. Will it be left to bit-rot, as it was in the past (before version 9) and is now the future for AIR ? If the trust we placed in Adobe over AIR was misplaced, how can we be reassured over Player, especially as it’s no longer an equal citizen anyway ?
As far as I know Adobe haven’t even said they’ve raised upstream bugs for the video driver crashes in Player, for instance. Intel’s are on freedesktop.org and one I’ve logged there about WINE was just picked up, but I don’t see an @Adobe.com person there. They should be all over https://bugs.freedesktop.org/show_bug.cgi?id=26937 etc. but are no where in sight.

Should we worry about the roadmap for other Adobe products now, like Photoshop Express on Android ? What about BrowserLab ?

Can I really commit to using these knowing that at any time, with minimal notice, it can be withdrawn or made inaccessible (by requiring features Adobe wont put in to Flash on Linux, for instance) ? And web services from Adobe ? Looks risky there too...
I'm certainly unlikely to suggest something to work that I can't also play with at home.

Oh, and it’ll be fun over here in the UK when the BBC iPlayer stops working on Linux... there was a big enough fuss when they went to Flash...

Now we know that platforms like those from RIM do not depend on Adobe to develop the Flash Runtime for their platform, we also know it's official Adobe policy to let platform-specific implementations of AIR (and Flash, I suspect ?) rot if Adobe have to pay for development themselves.
So if (say) RIM decided they didn’t want to invest in AIR any more, Adobe really would hang all the AIR developers (we are Adobe customers, not RIM or Google customers) on that platform out to dry, just as is happening on Linux now ?

What about if Google decides it wants to go all out HTML5 and stops developing AIR/Flash for Android ?

This is now worse, isn’t it ?

 

I can not shake the feeling that there must have been a better way forward. Maybe there isn't. I'm sure it's very very complicated, and not as simple as Adobe just waking up one day and deciding to drop Linux support off the deep end.

But I would have liked Adobe to stand behind their platforms. I accept it looks like Adobe are going through a transition right now from Adobe doing all the work to farming out to partners for each platform. But I would have hoped that if Adobe don't have a partner found for an existing platform they'd not drop it on the floor.

I mean, are Microsoft helping Adobe build for their platform (who would rather you used Silverlight or HTML5) ? Or Apple (who hate you) ? So why drop Linux like a hot potato ?

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Note, that my understanding is that Adobe does a lot of the work on getting their runtimes on various platforms. So for example, Adobe spends a lot of their own resource along with RIM to get Flash and AIR working on the PlayBook. From what I've heard, ever since Adobe started working on Flash Player 10.1, the Flash and AIR team has really expanded so that it's many times the size it used to be, in order to handle all of these platforms. The AIR Linux FAQ mentions Adobe working on AIR for WebOS, so I guess Adobe continue to need more resources for more platforms and I guess got to a point where they decided to pull resources off of desktop Linux to move to mobile Linux distros like WebOS.

As much as Google is a supporter of HTML5, they continue to be a strong supporter of Flash, including it with the Chrome browser and ChromeOS. As long as there continues to be competition with other mobile platforms, I think Google will want as a big of a developer base for Android and will continue to support AIR for Android.

That said, this news still sucks and I wish Adobe had some partners lined up when they had announced this. Also I hope they manage to get some Linux partners out of this as I would like AIR for Linux to continue.

As I mentioned, turns out the BBC are 'concerned' at least at some level: http://goo.gl/mZBJ8

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