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Adobe AIR 2.5 not only provides new features for desktop developers, it also introduces support for the Android operating system and TVs, transforming the way designers and developers create multiscreen applications. 
Note: For details on the changes in AIR 2.5, refer to the release notes.

Adobe AIR for Mobile

With AIR 2.5, developers are now able to package their ActionScript applications into Android Packages (APK files) to distribute to Android devices. Also, RIM's latest announcement to use AIR for the user interface of the BlackBerry Tablet OS means you can now create AIR applications for one of the most anticipated tablets, the new RIM PlayBook.
This is an especially exciting time for AIR developers because of the proliferation of new Android devices in the market. The Android platform has gained amazing momentum with both developers and consumers; according to the latest Nielsen's survey, Android has recently become the top mobile operating system in the United States, ahead of the Apple iOS, which powers the iPhone. It seems as though every week new innovative Android devices are released to the public.
AIR developers will be able to upload AIR applications to the Android Market to be distributed for free or sold to users. These users will be able to download AIR applications just like any native Android application. If the AIR runtime is not already installed on the Android device, users will automatically be directed to download the AIR runtime from the Android Market. We are currently working with Android device OEMs to preinstall AIR to further improve the user experience.
In the AIR 2.5 mobile device profile, we've added many new features to enable developers to create awesome mobile applications that take advantage of mobile device features. These features include access to the device camera for still image capture, video capture, microphone, and StageWebView. These features are added to the geolocation, accelerometer, multitouch, and gestures APIs that we enabled in the Packager for iPhone (which is really AIR 2 for iOS). With these features, developers can use AIR to unlock the full potential of mobile devices.
As we expand AIR to additional mobile platforms, there has never been a more exciting time to be an AIR developer than today. After Apple changed its App Store policies, we have revived our efforts to bring AIR onto iOS. It's our intention to enhance the previously released Packager for iPhone to reach feature parity with AIR 2.5 support for Android and BlackBerry Tablet OS. Additionally, RIM announced at the BlackBerry Developer Conference that their new PlayBook tablet will support both AIR and Flash Player. To learn more about developing for BlackBerry Tablet OS, view the video Developing Adobe AIR apps for the BlackBerry Tablet OS. We're committed to expanding the reach of AIR applications to multiple screens and additional platforms.  

Adobe AIR for TV

In the last few years, many of the major manufacturers in the TV space have started to bring applications to the TV screen, including video and audio streaming applications such as Netflix, Pandora, Vudu, Blockbuster, Rhaposdy, and Napster, but also news and infotainment applications. Almost from the beginning, Adobe has been engaged in this market, first with Flash Lite for the Digital Home, which was announced in early 2009, and now with AIR 2.5 for TV.
We've built a tuned and optimized version of AIR that is designed to work on TV hardware. The evolution of CPUs and GPUs on TVs differs quite a bit from that of desktop computers and smartphones. TV hardware is built and designed for two purposes: playing back HD content and showing UIs on top of it. To that end nearly all TV sets have system-on-chips (SoCs) that combine two components in one piece of silicon: a high-powered HD decoder and a very fast 2D graphics chip. AIR for TV takes advantage of those capabilities, enabling H.264 1080p video playback at Blu-ray quality as well as superfast 2D graphics. In some of our platforms we are able to push simple 2D animations at over 200 FPS!
The trade-off in this evolution, however, is that the general purpose CPUs have evolved at a much slower rate. Thus, developers have to be aware of a few things when creating applications for AIR for TV. First of all, TV CPUs differ widely in terms of their speed, anywhere from 500 MHz to 800 MHz and in some cases even faster. Compare that to many of the smartphones and tablets that are available today, which often run over 1 GHz. Over time, TVs are getting equipped with faster and faster CPUs but the TV ecosystem is not a high CPU horsepower ecosystem. To build high-performing applications to run on AIR for TV, developers will need to build their apps to take advantage of features such as cacheAsBitmap and cacheAsBitmapMatrix, and avoid animating large vector content. For vectors, capturing and animating the bitmap of the vector is a fine way to allow artists to create their art and for designers and developers to animate it. For more information refer to the ADC article Optimizing Video and Content for Flash Platform on TV.
To make the optimizations in AIR 2.5 for TV available to developers, we added new APIs and enhanced others, including enhancements to the Keyboard APIs, the new StageVideo API, new Native Extension capabilities for hardware manufactures, and our new content protection solution called Flash Access 2.0. Flash Access enables content creators to deliver high value content right to the living room by having a protected delivery path from source to playback, including hardware security on the device using the device's hardware accelerated AES and RSA cores and secure key stores. By providing this high level of security, content creators and studios can have the comfort they need to delivery the highest-value Hollywood content directly over the Internet to a living room device.
With the introduction of AIR 2.5 for TV, Adobe is super excited to have Samsung as a launch partner, bringing the best platform for building rich content together with the largest TV and Blu-ray maker. Samsung is a leader in opening up the TV, starting with their Free the TV Developer Day in August 2010. Adobe has been working with Samsung throughout the year, porting and optimizing AIR for TV to run exceptionally well on their platform to allow developers to create best-in-breed applications. For developers to distribute their content, Samsung Apps is a platform that enables consumers to download and purchase applications on their TVs and Blu-ray players that come from many sources and use many technologies. Note that Samsung Apps is also connected to the Adobe InMarket service, which gives Flash and AIR developers a one-stop-shop to distribute their content to all the different platforms and devices that are enabled by Adobe AIR.

Adobe AIR for desktop

Although this release was focused on enabling support for Android and TVs, we've also added new capabilities to the AIR 2.5 for desktop runtime. For a detailed list of changes in AIR 2 for the desktop, please review our release notes. However, there are several new desktop features that developers may find especially valuable including CSS @font-face support, CSS shadow support, StageWebView, and H.264 video hardware decoding for Windows.
CSS @font-face support
It is increasingly common to see websites make use of the CSS @font-face rule  now that many of the latest web browsers provide this support. Beginning with AIR 2.5, designers and developers can leverage web fonts to for even more creative control of the HTML-based applications that they develop for the desktop. Figure 1 shows the Adobe font Adobe Garamond Pro, hosted and served by Typekit, rendered in a news reader desktop application built using AIR 2.5. (To learn more about this sample application and download the source code and application, refer to Using web fonts in Adobe AIR 2.5.)
Adobe AIR 2.5 for desktop includes support for the web fonts standard.
Figure 1. Adobe AIR 2.5 for desktop includes support for the web fonts standard.
One of the challenges of using fonts on the web is ensuring that you have the correct license to use the font. By working closely with the team at Typekit, developers can easily obtain a license to use hundreds of fonts from various foundries, including over 120 fonts from the Adobe collection. For additional information, refer to the Adobe Web Fonts website, Typekit's blog post and the article Using web fonts in Adobe AIR 2.5.
CSS shadow support
As many web developers know, building simple drop shadows on text and boxes using purely HTML and CSS often required special, unreliable tricks. To play it safe, developers and designers often must resort to using bitmap images. With AIR 2.5, we are pleased to announce support for the CSS box and text shadow properties. For example:
p { text-shadow: #036 20px -12px 4px; } .box2 { width:600px; background:#eeeeee; color:#444; border:1px solid #DEDEDE; padding: 5px 20px 5px 20px; -webkit-box-shadow: 10px 10px 2px #999; }
Figure 2 shoes the result.
Box and text shadows rendered within an AIR application.
Figure 2. Box and text shadows rendered within an AIR application.
StageWebView allows developers to render HTML content inside mobile AIR applications using the native web browser provided by the platform. To support simulation of mobile applications, the new StageWebView API is also implemented in the desktop profiles using the AIR WebKit.
H.264 video hardware decoding for Windows
Flash Player 10.1 introduced support for H.264 video hardware decoding. For the AIR 2.5 release, we enabled this capability for AIR for Windows. AIR applications can now use the GPU to decode video and run with significantly less CPU usage. For example, our internal testing with the NVIDIA Ion netbook shows that a 1080p video can now run perfectly smooth with GPU acceleration and an average of 19% usage of the CPU (compared to 65–70% before).
Currently this feature is not available for Mac and Linux. However, we do plan to make significant improvements to our video rendering across all operating systems in an upcoming release of AIR. To learn more about what is coming to Flash Player and AIR, see Flash product manager Thibault Imbert's post Video Improvements, a sneak peek from Flash on the Beach keynote.
Be sure to grab the latest version of the AIR runtime and SDK and let us know what you think!