Adobe will be going on-stage today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, with some announcements aimed at keeping the company’s Flash and AIR platform technologies relevant in an increasingly mobile and application-centric world.
Specifically, Adobe said it will demonstrate the use of Adobe AIR on mobile phones, starting with a device running Google’s Android operating system. Previously, Adobe offered AIR as a platform for apps that are installed on users’ laptop or desktop computers, usually with a strong online component. (For example, I’m currently using an AIR app to receive notifications whenever a member of the VentureBeat team posts a comment in our room on FriendFeed.) Now Adobe is also pitching AIR as a tool for building mobile apps that run outside the web browser on multiple phones.
The idea is that a developer will be able to build a Flash-based application and release it in Apple’s App Store using Adobe’s already-announced iPhone exporter. Then, using the AIR format, they could release the same app in stores for other mobile devices. On each phone, the app would be slightly different to adapt to different screen sizes and other device features, but developers could reuse a lot of the same code.
The company has talked vaguely about bringing AIR to mobile devices before, but this will be the first public demonstration of what that will look like. Android will be the first platform supported, with Motorola (maker of the Droid and other Android phones) and BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion expressing public support for the project.
Adobe has endured a lot of negative speculation recently as Apple expanded its shutout of Adobe technologies. Flash doesn’t work on the iPhone, and last month Apple revealed it wouldn’t work on the upcoming iPad, either. The iPhone exporter that I mentioned is basically a workaround, so Flash developers can still get apps onto the iPhone, and soon the iPad, but Flash websites like YouTube and Hulu won’t work in the devices’ browsers. Combined with the improved capabilities in HTML 5 (the latest version of the web’s basic markup language), there’s been more and more talk of Flash’s irrelevance.
This announcement should help Adobe push back, because it positions Flash and AIR as technologies that can help developers get into the mobile app stores that are hot right now, and helps them build apps for multiple devices without having to start from scratch each time. (Something that Google’s Vic Gundotra declared even his company is “not rich enough” to do.)
Adobe is also emphasizing its plan to make Flash Player 10.1, which will work in the browser of pretty much every major smartphone except the iPhone, available sometime during the first half of this year. Adobe cited research by Strategy Analytics estimating that there will be 250 million phones available with Flash 10.1 by the end of 2012.