Adobe Systems Inc's announcement that it has made available the pre-release alpha version of its Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) to the Linux community will be "a huge benefit" to application developers, said one developer.

Yesterday's announcement follows the launch of the production version of AIR earlier this year for Windows and Mac operating systems. At the time, the company had said a version supporting Linux would eventually follow but hadn't specified a release date.

AIR is a cross-operating system runtime for building Rich Internet Applications using Flash, Flex, HTML and Ajax. With the Linux-supported version of the runtime, RIA developers can extend the reach of their applications to Linux users without having to write additional platform-specific code.

The ability to quickly and easily create an application and know that it will work over Windows, Mac and Linux is very powerful, said Jonathan Snook, Ottawa-based freelance developer. "Previously, a developer would have to rely on more complicated environments like Java to accomplish the same thing. Being able to use technologies like Flash or JavaScript to build desktop applications can be liberating for the casual developer," said Snook.

However, sentiments within the Linux community are varied, with some seeing Adobe's platform extension as a threat, said Snook. "On one hand, Linux users want big companies like Adobe to port their applications to Linux but many Linux users are also hardcore members of the open source community and the ideals that go along with it," he said. But because it's free to use the runtime and develop on it, Snook feels the community's concern is unfounded.

David Wadhwani, general manager of Adobe's platform business unit, said the release illustrates the company's commitment to enabling all developers to build RIAs. "This allows us to have an open conversation with users during our development process, which will give us very valuable developer insights," said Wadhwani.

Software developer Brajeshwar Oinam, has close ties with both the Linux developer community and Adobe as an Adobe Community Expert based in India. Oinam said although many of his Linux friends were initially unhappy with Adobe's decision to release AIR only for Windows and Mac earlier this year, they're now quite excited with the Linux version. Oinam expects there will be "lots of applications" emerging from the open source community as a result of the release.

While Snook doesn't intend to go out of his way to use AIR on Linux, he is comforted to know that any application he develops will also work on Linux. "Ultimately, when I build something, I want to know that I'm reaching the largest audience possible and having AIR work cross-platform does just that," he said.

Adobe also made available the alpha version of Adobe Flex Builder 3 for Linux, the integrated developer environment (IDE) for creating Flex-based RIA applications and allows developers to use the same Flex framework to build for AIR.

The Linux versions of AIR and of Flex Builder 3 are available for download in English on Adobe Labs. The final version of Adobe AIR for Linux is expected later in 2008 and will be available in other languages.