I was reading the article Installation and deployment options in Adobe Air 3, and then I started thinking about what it does really means. At first, the captive runtime is a great tool to test new Air versions on devices that has an older version installed. When using captive runtime you can basically bundle the Air runtime with your application and don’t bother whether the target device has a different runtime already (or no runtime at all). The article shows the advantages and downsides for the solution, so I won’t repeat it here.
What actually has caught my attention is the fact that Air-based applications for Desktop computers aren’t many so far, and it doesn’t seem to be even considered as development platform for most “non-Flash” developers. One roadblock, in my opinion, was the need to install Air runtime as a separated task when you deploy an Air application. Although this is not a complicated task, it is an extra step that usually developers tend to avoid. I still recall all the complains about the same thing, when Microsoft started using .NET runtime and you have to install it to be able to run .NET made applications.
So, although captive runtime is mandatory for iOS devices, and a nice choice for Android and Playbook, I believe the real beneficiary will be the desktop OSes (aka Windows and MacOSX) developers, since now the developers can “sell” their application as a native one, from an installation standpoint of course.