Guest Post: Has Adobe decision created dead-end on upgrade path of some digital signage platforms?

July 6, 2011 by guest author, Jim Nista

Adobe recently announced that they are pulling support for the Adobe AIR platform on desktop Linux, with version 2.7 being the last official version of their application development platform on the open source operating system.

That means Linux-based hardware will be cut off from future official releases, and that has a direct effect on several Adobe AIR-based digital signage systems in the marketplace. Their upgrade path just got a dead-end sign.

Interactive app developers for digital signage have always had a limited choice of development tools, and right now  Adobe Flash provides compatibility with the widest array of CMS platforms.

But interactive experiences that are built with Flash are somewhat incompatible with the “store-and-forward” approach used by many digital signage platforms for playing back content. Flash is designed with security in mind, and it prevents a number of actions including access to the local hard-drive.

This means most CMS developers have two basic choices: run Flash interactive content on a live internet connection; or setup a dummy local web server on the media player, and “trick” Flash to think it has a live connection.

This second solution isn’t great, because some Flash features get hamstrung in the process. But it does allow cached Flash playback when you can’t trust the internet connection.

Adobe Air, meanwhile, provides a great solution for desktop playback of Flash content, bypassing the work-arounds, and on its surface has always been an attractive option for digital signage software developers – particularly those attacking the small business side of the market.

But the danger has always been there for anyone developing on a “runtime environment” like Adobe AIR, Microsoft WPF or others. Anyone taking that approach is at the mercy of the parent developer. In the case of Adobe, its change of strategy leaves Linux-based systems that are using Adobe Air without a clear future.

If you have a small to medium-sized business or are middle-tier network operators running any solution based on an application development platform, like Adobe Air, you may want to look around. If a player application requires third-party software to run, EVEN if that third-party is a big software company like Adobe or Microsoft, consider all of the variables (and risks) before making your choice.

Guest contributor Jim Nista is the CEO of Insteo, a digital signage solutions provider heavily focused on social media integration that keeps digital display programing fresh and engaging.


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