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

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.


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

  1. Great guest post! Rarely have I seen such a salient analysis of the business risks created by the technology choices made by some digital signage software firms.

    I know MediaSignage runs on AIR, so this news might make Dave smile a little next time he gets spammed by them.

    In a similar vein, Novell was recently sold to Attachmate, who promptly laid off all the Mono developers. This means that every .NET based DS application (like Ayuda and others) no longer have a long-term viable way to run on Linux (via Mono) or iOS (via MonoTouch) or Android (via MonoDroid).

    Some of the same concerns have raised their heads recently over the future of the java runtime as well now that Oracle is running the show, not sun. Apparently the community is not happy with the new leadership and direction the platform is taking.

    Ultimately, nothing beats native code in terms of performance and long-term supportability.

    Look at every major application out there: Photoshop, MS Office, Outlook, Firefox, Skype etc. It’s all written in native code. You’d think that should tell these developers something.

    As far as I know, only Scala and BroadSign use native code for their applications.

  2. Now this is what I call disruptive news.

    Its interesting to note LG is just this month beginning to sell EzySign, an LG TV that runs content from a USB that was generated by an AIR app that is downloaded to a Windows desktop.

    I wonder how this announcement will effect that type of AIR deployment as their TV is no doubt running some type of Linux.

  3. Wow, DS developers must be the only people on Earth using Air on Linux.

    I’ve used it extensively on OSX and Windows and Flash in the Air runtime has become a rich and stable platform well suited to Digital Signage – apart from a few problems.
    Air is only JUST becoming stable and acceptably bug-free and it still sucks processor cycles like nothing else.
    Adobe took a a bet with Actionscript on the direction the ECMA scripting standards authority would jump. They bet wrong. Actionscript and Javascript are going to be diverging further and further in the future and I know which version will definitely be around in 10 years.
    It can get pretty expensive keeping the Adobe software upgrade machine fed with dollars.

    In the end Flash/Air really doesn’t feel like the future of DS. The future feels like native and HTML5 apps running on Android and IOS

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