Adobe: no AIR planned for Windows Phone 7

I’m at the Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles, and last night attended a couple of the “Meet the team” events where a bunch of Adobe engineers, product managers and others field questions about the products they are working on.

One of the events was on Adobe AIR, where an attendee asked whether we will see the AIR runtime on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. It is an interesting question, particularly at an event where mobile AIR has been highlighted. There is much talk of AIR for Android, and at the conference we have also discovered that the forthcoming Blackberry Tablet, the Playbook, uses AIR extensively for its user interface. AIR does not run on Apple’s iOS for iPhone and iPad, but Adobe has come up with a packager that compiles AIR apps to native code.

I have asked Adobe spokespersons before about AIR for Windows Phone 7 and have even been told that it will come, but it is a delicate matter. In fact, when I discussed this in a pre-MAX briefing with Adobe, I was informed was that Adobe would like to do it but that Microsoft will not permit it, though I doubt this is the whole story. The Flash runtime is known to be making its way to the device, though I have yet to see a date announced.

Last night the “Meet the team” presenter was clear. Adobe has no plans to deliver AIR for Windows Phone 7. We were told that Adobe sees Windows Phone 7 as a .NET device. The spokesperson (whose name I missed unfortunately – I’ll update if someone can tell me who it was) added mysteriously his belief that “it wouldn’t be the most successful endeavour for us.”

I would not assume from this that AIR will never appear on this platform; but it seems safe to say that it will not be soon.

The tension here is that supporting AIR would immediately increase app availability on Windows Phone 7, which would be to Microsoft’s advantage; but would also drive developers towards Adobe’s platform and away from Silverlight and .NET. The attraction of a cross-platform runtime is that you can develop once and deploy on a variety of devices, though there are always compromises involved.

Adobe may also have mixed feelings about supporting Windows Phone 7. Android is being heavily promoted here at MAX, even to the extent of handing a free Motorola Droid 2 to all attendees. If Windows Phone 7 becomes popular, Adobe will want its stuff to run there; but it might suit the company even better if it turns out to be a niche device.

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