Mobile Flash apps get better distribution, more money

In advance of this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Adobe is making several announcements to encourage developers to build applications using its Flash and AIR platforms. The biggest announcements are a new distribution method for Flash Lite (the mobile version of Flash) and a new $10 million fund for the development of Flash and AIR apps.

Mobile devices seem to be the next big frontier for Adobe’s Flash, which powers much of the media and applications on the web, and AIR, which does the same for applications that work outside the web browser. More than one billion devices are estimated to have shipped with Flash Lite by the end of this quarter, but Adobe has yet to make Flash as dominant in the mobile world as it is on standard desktop and laptop computers. That’s one of the goals of the Open Screen Project spearheaded by Adobe, which is supposed to help developers make Flash and AIR applications that work across many devices.

The new distribution comes in the form of the Adobe Flash Lite Distributable Player. Adobe says the player makes it even easier to get Flash Lite and its applications on your phone. Developers can now deliver their applications directly to certain mobile devices, and users can download both the application and the latest version of Flash Lite at the same time. The player works with a number of application aggregators, including GetJar, Thumbplay, and Zed, and is launching in testing mode today on Windows Mobile and Nokia S60 devices. That’s a serious improvement over the old model of downloading Flash Lite first, then downloading the application.

Adobe and Nokia have also created a $10 million Open Screen Project fund to support companies that build applications that work on Nokia devices and use Flash or AIR. Here’s what they’re looking for: “Applications will be reviewed for how innovative and compelling the user experience is, how robust the application or planned implementation is, and how well it exploits the capabilities and features of Nokia devices, Adobe Flash, and Adobe AIR.”

There’s still no real word, however, on bringing Flash to Apple’s iPhone, which has been a constant source of speculation for the past year. Last November, Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch said the company has created an iPhone version of Flash but is waiting for approval from Apple. Meanwhile, Apple has been encouraging developers to create applications using JavaScript rather than Flash or Microsoft’s competing platform Silverlight. So Apple clearly isn’t embracing Flash on the iPhone, but we don’t know if it will close the door completely.

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