Adobe is about to release Flex 4.5 and Flash Builder 4.5 – both are sharpened for the mobile development. On May 3rd you’ll get the version supporting Android, and the June’s release will support iOS. In other words, developers will be able to create standalone AIR applications for Android, BlackBerry Tablet OS, and iOS. From the technical perspective, Flash Builder 4.5 becomes the best and the most productive development environment that currently exists for mobile development. It’s also the only development environment offering enterprise-grade cross-platform development environment for the modern mobile devices.
Open Flash Builder 4.5 and create a new Flex Mobile AIR project. You’ll see the following popup window:
Yes, you are just one checkbox away from creating an application that will be seamlessly deployed on Apple iOS, Blackberry Tablet OS, or Google Android. Adobe did a great job in getting as close as possible to Sun Microsystems’ promise “Write once, run anywhere”. Don’t expect miracles though. The software developers still need to create different versions of the same views depending on the available screen size, which can be figured out during the runtime. For example, if you have a luxury of the huge iPad’s real estate, you may switch to a view state that displays not only the data grid, but a chart too. With the retro-fitted for mobile Spark components plus the powerful customizable Flex skins it won’t be a rocket science.
I was really impressed with performance of the AIR application even on the old iPad. The same application is simply flying on iPad2. Adobe’s technical evangelist Christophe Coenraets somehow managed to get a hold of the white hot iPad 2. Find six minutes and watch this video showing the Mobile Trader application on this device. If you have seven more minutes, watch this video by Serge Jespers about new features of Flash Builder 4.5. James Ward has published his 8-minute video on the subject.
You’ll have two models of deployment of mobile applications with Adobe AIR: 1. A single application that figures out the mobile device during the runtime applying the appropriate code base and skins 2. Separate versions of the application for the major mobile devices.
Most likely the latter model will dominate for a while. One of the main reasons is that Android and Blackberry tablets will come with AIR runtime preinstalled, which is not the case with iOS. So expect to have the iOS version of your AIR application to be 5-7MB heavier than it’s counterparts on Adobe-friendly platforms. This extra little weight is not a big of a deal, but hopefully the day will come and AIR runtime will come preinstalled on some future version of iOS.
Another interesting news in this release is the bi-directional workflow between Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. This may change the role of the Flash Catalyst from yet another prototyping software to an important tool in designer-developer routines.
I’ve been using the pre-release versions of Flash Builder 4.5 for a while and can attest that it’s stable software. Its production release will receive a warm welcome in the Flex community.
About Yakov Fain Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain
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