Updated: Adobe says it will need Apple’s support to bring Flash to iPhone (see end of post).
Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen says that, with or without Apple, the company plans to develop a Flash player for the iPhone/iPod touch platform.
During yesterday’s earnings call (see SeekingAlpha transcript), Narayen told investors that that Flash was “synonymous with the Internet and frankly, anybody who wants to browse the web and experience the web’s glory really needs Flash support”.
Having evaluated the iPhone’s official Software Developer Kit, Adobe can “now start to develop the Flash player ourselves”, says Narayen. “…we think it benefits our joint customers, so we want to work with Apple to bring that capability to the device.”
With new research suggesting that the iPhone has already established itself as the No.1 mobile browser in the U.S., and No.2 in the UK, Narayen would say that.
However, only a week or so ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs poured cold water on the idea of Flash on the iPhone/iPod touch, saying that the version designed specifically for mobile devices – Flash Lite – wasn’t good enough, and that Adobe’s more powerful desktop offering runs too slowly on the iPhone. What was needed is a “missing product in the middle”, argued Jobs.
Is Adobe committing itself to building the missing version of Flash that Jobs demands?
Or does Adobe really believe it can go-it-alone?
Without Apple providing the hooks to enable Adobe to tap into the iPhone’s Safari web browser, it’s hard to see how a Flash plug-in could be implemented. Instead, Adobe might be able to create a work around: some kind of stand-alone Flash Player that opens full screen to play certain content. This would work best for playing Flash video but would be useless for viewing websites that integrate Flash with regular HTML components.
Therefore, presuming that Adobe needs Apple’s support – which I think is almost certain – and that users want the kind of experiences that Flash supports, how long can Steve Jobs hold out before agreeing to work with Adobe?
The answer: quite a long time, if not indefinitely.
Firstly, the biggest user of Flash video – YouTube – already offers a non-Flash version of the site designed specifically for the iPhone/iPod touch.
Secondly, rather than utilizing Flash to build “rich” Internet-aware applications (RIAs) for the iPhone/iPod touch, Apple is providing developers with an official SDK that will enable them to build native clients for a range of Internet services (as an example, think of the Google Maps application for the iPhone).
And thirdly, in Safari, Apple has already raised the potential of web-based applications by providing a very capable mobile web browser that supports modern so-called Web 2.0 coding standards. In fact, Adobe’s own Rich Internet Application Evangelist, Ryan Stewart, recently described the latest desktop version of Safari (3.1) as Apple’s own RIA platform, “complete with video and animation support (and offline storage).” Since Safari mobile is built on top of the same codebase as the desktop version, we can expect to see those same improvements brought to the iPhone/iPod touch very soon.
Update: In a written statement, Adobe has clarified Narayen’s comments, saying “Adobe has evaluated the iPhone SDK and can now start to develop a way to bring Flash Player to the iPhone. However, to bring the full capabilities of Flash to the iPhone Web-browsing experience we do need to work with Apple beyond and above what is available through the SDK and the current license around it.”
Photo illustration by Gizmodo.