There are very similar products, such as PhoneGap, Xamarin, Unity, React Native, etc.
Why I choose AIR over those? Here's a list:
- It's free and it doesn't asks you for a share of your profits (they tried to do that but it didn't worked out).
- You can deploy to iOS without a Mac.
- It's fast and performs well enough compared to pure native apps.
- It uses a solid programming language.
Some people just want to make apps as a hobby but they don't have the monetary resources to invest on expensive software and hardware.
AIR allows you to create apps with virtually no cost. Just download the AIR SDK, a trial of Flash Builder / IntelliJ IDEA and you are set.
What it's interesting is the possibility to deploy to iOS without a Mac. Most other middleware platforms require that you have installed Xcode in your Mac to be able to compile. Some offer compilation on the cloud to get around this but it's a hassle to not have total control of your development environment.
ActionScript 3.0 is starting to get a bit stale for these modern times but it still does the job just fine.
AIR has also its flaws, I will list the ones that annoy me the most:
- Adobe has certainly limited the resources they allocate to the product. It is understandable since they don't really profit much of it. I wouldn't mind paying a monthly license for personal support or they had a marketplace where they can get a cut of the sales.
- Continuing the previous one, fixes and enhancements take a bit longer to resolve since they are understaffed.
- Lack of exposure, Adobe is not promoting developer technologies. You can see the trend that Adobe is moving to its roots as a design/creative company.
Some people may say that they don't like that extra functionality is only available on external plugins which are mostly paid.
I agree at some point that some features should be included in the runtime by default but I also like the idea that the community can extend the runtime and make an economy based on it.
Regardless of that I feel very comfortable developing business applications with the AIR runtime in 2016.
Performance is very good, I really like the Starling and FeathersUI approach of using the GPU to render everything. You quickly get addicted to run apps at 60 fps.
In conclusion, I wish the AIR runtime would be more popular and people to not dismiss it just because its based on Flash. In the meantime I will enjoy this ride.