Mobile Tech

Android 2.2 Goes All the Way With Flash

Android 2.2, code-named “FroYo,” will fully support Adobe’s Flash platform, Andy Rubin, Google’s vice president of engineering, told The New York Times’ Bits blog Tuesday.

Google’s show of Flash support came weeks after Apple, Android’s rival, announced changes that made it more difficult for Flash application developers to create apps for its iPhone. However, Google’s promise of full Flash support in an upcoming edition of Android puzzled some HTC Hero smartphone users, whose Android handsets have supported Flash since the device’s launch last year.

FroYo’s Possible Features

Rumors about the features that Google will include in FroYo are plentiful.

There is speculation that FroYo will have automatic updating so users can choose whether to let installed apps update themselves instead of updating them manually.

Other rumors are that FroYo will feature new application programming interfaces (APIs); will be tweaked so touchscreens respond better to a user’s touch; and may offer additional RAM.

Asked whether any of these rumors are correct, Google spokesperson Anthony House declined to comment.

Android and Flash: The Prequel

Last June, HTC announced the Hero, then its third Android smartphone. This was the first Android device to support Adobe Flash ( ).

This followed from Adobe’s announcement at last year’s Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona in February 2009, that it would unveil the first full-fledged Flash multimedia player for smartphones by the end of that year.

However, Adobe delayed putting out Flash 10.1, reportedly because it wanted to include some of the APIs from Android 2.1, also known as “Eclair.”

It released its second release candidate for Flash Player 10.1 or PCs and netbooks April 19, but has yet to issue a beta version of that platform for Android.

Adobe said Flash Player 10.1 would be released for Android 2.0 and later versions in the first half of 2010.

Full Frontal Flash

Since Android already supports the Flash platform to a certain degree, what could Rubin mean by promising”full support” for Flash?

“There are different Flash platforms set up for mobile devices and PCs, and I think he’s saying Android will support Flash on all of them,” Chris Hazelton, a research director at the 451 Group, told TechNewsWorld. “[Apple CEO] Steve Jobs’ issue with Flash was that he didn’t like the mobile version and the full-blown version took up too many processor cycles, and there’s nothing in between for Apple.”

Or could it be that Android will ensure full compatibility with the Flash standard? “Right now, Android support for Flash isn’t consistent,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.”For instance, the Dell Streak prototype doesn’t yet support it fully.”

The Dell Streak is a touchscreen mini-tablet expected to ship later this year. It will reportedly run on Android 2.0 (possibly upgraded later to 2.1), it have a five-inch WVGA screen, and it will be based on Qualcomm’s 1GHz Snapdragon processor.

The problem with the Streak isn’t with its hardware but with the software, Enderle said.”Some changes in the operating system were needed,” he remarked.”Those changes are evidently coming.”

Jabbing at Jobs?

Perhaps Rubin was also taking a dig at Apple in announcing full support for Flash. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has made no secret of his antipathy to Flash, and Google and Apple appear to have gone from amicable partners to fierce rivals over the last few years due to their competing smartphone platforms.

Rubin has pointed to a mobile metrics report by Admob that stated Android gained market share in March. Google now owns AdMob, a company that Apple was reportedly also quite interested in acquiring.

Meanwhile, Verizon is slated to unveil the much-anticiated HTC Incredible Android smartphone Thursday.

“Google had always intended to do Flash; they’re just pushing the fact for competitive advantage now,” Enderle said.

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