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The RIM PlayBook is Riding on AIR

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Mike Lazaridis, president and co-CEO of Research in Motion, publicly demonstrated BlackBerry's new PlayBook at Adobe MAX 2010, currently being held in Los Angeles.

Along the way, Lazaridis talked about the importance of AIR to the PlayBook's capabilities.

"One of the things we focused on, together with Adobe, is how to get Flash developers to write AIR applications for the PlayBook," said Lazaridis, "and move beyond just content creation.

"The PlayBook embeds AIR right to the metal and the operating system," continued Lazaridis. "We not only have AIR in the OS, but we've made it multi-task enabled, so that multiple AIR apps can be running on the device."

Lazaridis noted that the media viewer on the PlayBook is written in AIR, and then demonstrated HD video playing in the AIR app.

"You are seeing Stage video innovation on a tablet for the first time," added Kevin Lynch, Adobe's CTO, to the audience in the L.A. Live complex's Nokia Theater. "This is possible thanks to AIR 2.5 which extends AIR applications across all screens from desktop to mobile to tablet."

With the advent of AIR apps that can be touched, as well as the use of game controllers in Flash (mentioned in keynote coverage yesterday), Adobe and RIM see the embedding of AIR and Flash on smart tablets as a milestone on the way to making mobile browsing as good as desktop browsing.

"We're not trying to dumb down the Internet for a mobile device," said Lazaridis. "We are bringing the mobile device up to the potential it needs to play the full Internet. As such, with multi-touch or precision-touch control, plus integration into back-end data, such as SAP connectivity, AIR apps can rival desktop applications.

"Today we are launching the Blackberry PlayBook Development Kit for AIR," said Lazaridis, "so that Flash and Flex developers can take advantage of the GPS, multi-touch, and other features within the OS. If you submit an app to the Blackberry App World, and it is approved, you are eligible for a free PlayBook."

At least one other competitor in the space agrees.

"Anyone not giving you Flash on a mobile device is not giving you the full Internet," said Christy Wyatt, corporate vice president, software and services product management for Motorola, who was on stage a few minutes later.

"We were the first to put Flash on a mobile device," said Wyatt, "but part of our evolution is that we now have it on seven devices with Flash and are moving to AIR."

"AIR for Android is available today," emphasized Lynch. "Flash export now creates a native packager for a particular mobile device or a full platform, such as Android. The iPhone OS packager is active again, if you want to publish on that device, as well as for AIR for Android."

AIR is also being used on tablets for digital publishing, and Joe Simon, CTO of Condé Nast, emphasized the distribution appeal of AIR, HTML5, and PDF.

"Downloads have appeared steady for our initial publications on the iPad," said Simon, "and we're interested in moving to other tablets, including Android-based tablets. AIR helps us get there. Today we're announcing that we'll be using the Adobe platform to bring our magazines to multiple tablets.

One reason that AIR and Flash on tablet devices such as the PlayBook is appealing stems from the ability to do automatic re-pagination (or re-formatting) of content to fit a particular size screen.

Using JavaScript at run-time to paginate each digital version for a particular device, Lynch showed how the automated pagination and the underlying style sheet settings of CSS3 allow a print publisher to take advantage of particular features, including multi-column layouts and touch features. In addition, Lynch mentioned and demonstrated arbitrary shapes-the ability to move a shape, such as an image, around on a Web page, allowing a user to re-order the display of images and text.

Lynch said the arbitrary shapes technology is being contributed to WebKit (which powers Google Chrome and Safari) and may potentially find its way into other W3C-compliant browsers, such as Internet Explorer 9, based on Trident.

To make all this possible-from rich-media to video to multi-tablet publishing-Adobe announced its Digital Publishing Suite beta, available today. The beta consists of CreativeSuite tools, an additional production platform, and a number of analytics and measurement tools, based on Omniture's SiteCatalyst service.

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