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Android Becomes Flash Mobile's First BFF

Android Becomes Flash Mobile's First BFF

Adobe has put the finishing touches on Flash Player 10.1 for Mobile, a new version specially designed for advanced smartphones. FP 10.1 emphasizes power and CPU usage, making it fit more comfortably on a handheld. Major smartphone platforms, manufacturers and media content providers have thrown in their support for the new Flash version, though Android 2.2 tops the list.

By Richard Adhikari
06/22/10 11:30 AM PT

Adobe on Tuesday unveiled Flash Player 10.1 for Mobile together with a slew of announcements from partners and content providers.

The new Flash edition has been optimized for efficient battery and CPU usage, addressing two of the key criticisms Apple CEO Steve Jobs had made of the platform.

With its new capabilities, Flash Player 10.1 for Mobile may make some smartphones more adept at browsing the Web.

Moving With FP 10.1 for Mobile

Flash Player 10.1 for Mobile was redesigned from the ground up with new performance and mobile-specific features, Adobe said.

It offers accelerometer support, letting mobile device owners view Flash content in landscape and portrait modes. Its Smart Zooming feature lets users scale content to full-screen mode.

Adobe has also optimized the platform jointly with "virtually all" major mobile silicon and platform vendors to optimize CPU use and battery performance.

A new Smart Rendering feature ensures that Flash content runs only when it becomes visible on the screen, to cut CPU use and battery consumption. FP 10.1 for Mobile has a Sleep Mode that automatically slows it down when the mobile device it's running down goes into screen-saver mode.

An Advanced Out-of-Memory Management feature lets FP 10.1 for Mobile effectively handle non-optimized, resource-hungry content. An automatic memory reduction feature cuts the RAM usage of by content by up to 50 percent. Further, FP 10.1 for Mobile pauses automatically when a phone call comes in or the device user switches from the browser to other functions. It resumes where it left off when the user switches back to the browser.

The Remaking of the Smartphone

"This addresses one of the big problems Flash has faced -- that it hasn't run very well or at all on cellphones," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. "It opens up an era of cheap computing for cellphones," he said.

"Now, the PC will have to redefine its value, because the vast majority of the standard things we do for mainstream computing involve the Internet and don't require the PC anymore," Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, pointed out.

"Mobile apps, which are changing the structure, the usage models and everything we've associated with the Internet, replace the browser, the website and content applications you're trying to get to," McGregor told TechNewsWorld. "With Flash Player 10.1 for Mobile, smartphones are drastically changing what we thought of the Web."

FP 10.1 for Mobile will enable smartphone owners to download rich Internet applications, games, data presentations and visualizations and other rich content on their devices. This will boost the fortunes of graphics processing unit (GPU) makers.

"This is a pretty big day for the companies that build graphics chips for smartphones like Qualcomm and Nvidia," Enderle said.

Support From a Cast of Thousands

Several partners, including ARM, Google and Microsoft, have announced support for FP for Mobile 10.1.

Content publishers including HBO, Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers have begun optimizing their Flash content for mobile.

However, FP 10.1 for Mobile will only run on Android 2.2, also known as "Froyo." Currently, only the Google Nexus One smartphone runs Froyo; other Android smartphones run older versions up to and including Android 2.1.

Adobe said FP 10.1 for Mobile will be available as a final production release for devices once users can upgrade their mobile device operating systems to Froyo.

Devices that will support Froyo and FP 10.1 for Mobile will include the Dell Streak; HTC's Evo, Desire and Incredible Android smartphones; Motorola's Droid and Milestone smartphones; and the Samsung Galaxy S. The BlackBerry, webOS, LiMo, MeeGo and Symbian operating systems, and future versions of the Windows Phone operating system, will also support FP 10.1 for Mobile, Adobe said.

"HTC will be bringing Android 2.2 to handsets, but timing and which phones will get the update have not been announced," Rickey Bird, of HTC's public relations agency Waggener Edstrom, told TechNewsWorld.

Google has not yet made Android 2.2 available for manufacturers, spokesperson Anthony House told TechNewsWorld. Further, Google has no control over when device manufacturers implement Android upgrades in their products, House said.

"As with all Android updates, the vendor, in most cases the mobile operator, has control over whether and when to update their customers," House explained.

So for many mobile devices, it's still not clear when Adobe FP 10.1 for Mobile will be available.

What About HTML5?

Adobe may have designed FP 10.1 for Mobile with improved efficiency in battery and CPU resource consumption in response to criticism by Apple chairman and CEO Steve Jobs. In an open letter published on Apple's website in April, Jobs said Adobe Flash did not perform well on mobile devices and uses too much battery power.

Adobe Flash's position as the de facto standard for multimedia graphics on the Internet is being challenged by HTML5, which is being backed strongly by Apple and Microsoft.

However, HTML5's backers will have their work cut out to take on Flash, IDC analyst Al Hilwa remarked.

"In some ways HTML5 is a competitor, but the browser makers, who have to implement it, will have to do the same optimizations on the standard to bring it up to speed as Adobe did on Flash Player for Mobile," Hilwa told TechNewsWorld.

"Flash and Microsoft Silverlight will remain the choice for high-end rich Internet applications for a long time to come," he added.


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