Flash to Brighten Most Smartphones – iPhone, BlackBerry to Stay Dim

With the news that its omnipresent-on-the-desktop Flash player will be available in more mobile forms before the end of the year, Adobe is finally following through on its goal of joining the smartphone party — but the two biggest names in that market are still missing from the invitation list.

Apple’s iPhone and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry won’t be getting the beta version of Flash Player 10 at the Adobe Max conference in October. Flash will be making its official debut on the Google Android, Symbian, webOS (Palm) and Windows Mobile operating system platforms, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen announced during his company’s latest earnings conference call.

Adobe and Apple are still negotiating to make Flash — which powers many a media-rich Web site — a part of the iPhone’s highly touted Web-browsing experience, Narayen said.

The news will no doubt spur developer interest in the next round of devices running the Android open source operating system. It’s also likely to add more juice to what’s been viewed as Palm’s modestly successful smartphone entry with its just-launched Pre device.

Still, questions linger regarding Adobe’s aborted dance with Apple and RIM; are the companies not in step with Flash because of technical or political reasons?

Flash-Forward to Smartphones

It might be both, according to IDC analyst Al Hilwa.

“A technology like Flash is pretty demanding on the actual client device,” Hilwa told TechNewsWorld.”Apple is very protective of how many cycles a particular app takes when it runs. [Apple is] not particularly clear on the Web style of applications, and Flash allows a richer type of app to be built than is typical on a browser. I think Apple would much rather promote its own native apps, which wouldn’t be Flash-based anyway.”

That leads to the political part of the discussion. Apple may be very happy with its successful App Store arrangement, Hilwa suggested, and may want to keep developers busy there and not with a browser-centric technology. In the meantime, other smartphone OSes — particulary the open source models — may gain a little ground with their Flash versions.

“I think the most promising one is Android, because that’s where we’re going to see a whole bunch of devices coming out in the next 12 months,” noted Hilwa. “It’s a big win for them. Android, by definition, is a kind of platform that isn’t going to be heavily controlled — even by Google — and for Adobe to work out relationships with the device makers for better support for Flash, I think that’s a good thing.

This Flash App Brought to You by . . .

There’s another potential reason for an Adobe impasse with Apple and RIM: security issues.

“The ability to remotely execute malware or bad code through a Flash application through the Web could be a potential vulnerability,” ABI Research analyst Jeff Orr told TechNewsWorld. “It’s hard to say. I think it’s more a function of Apple trying to control the user experience, and by introducing a potentially additional programmming environment, such as Flash, they lose control over what the applications might be able to do.”

The smartphones that will have developers working on the Flash platform might gain a significant advantage when it comes to advertising, Orr said. Flash is already a favorite among Web marketers, and users frequently encounter Flash-based ads when browsing on a desktop.

“It allows for more immersive content,” noted Orr. “You play a game and if you win, you can enter it in for a prize. Click on a map or other graphical elements, and you can locate retailers or a store and can receive an offer by clicking a button. Those types of apps that are enabled by Flash become more readily available for a broader set of mobile devices because of the promise of what Flash can do for developers.”

It’s likely that Adobe, Apple and RIM will eventually settle their differences surrounding Flash; it just may take some movement forward by competitors to spur them into action.

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