After months of back-and-forth debate about whether Adobe’s Flash technology is a good fit for smartphones, Adobe is launching a full version of Flash for mobile devices, starting with Google’s Android operating system.
Adobe released a test version of Flash to the public about a month ago, but this is the real launch of the finished product. Flash 10.1 should now be available for download on phones using the latest version of Android, 2.2, which is known as FroYo. And the company says it has shipped Flash to its other device partners, so that Flash should soon be available on BlackBerry, Palm webOS, Windows Phone 7, LiMo, MeeGo, and Symbian phones — basically, all the major smartphones except for Apple’s.
The desktop version of Flash 10.1 should also be available today.
Developers and designers use Flash to build a wide range of online content, but its biggest presence is in powering Web games and videos. Flash came under attack recently from Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who blocked Flash from iPhones and iPads, calling it an outdated technology. Adobe has fired back, saying Flash works just fine on the iPhone and that Apple is playing “legal games,” but until Flash 10.1 it was really a battle of words, not products — the full version of Flash (as opposed to a stripped down version, called Flash Lite, that Adobe hardly mentions anymore) didn’t actually work on mobile phones.
I was given a review copy of a Nexus One to test out Flash, but I couldn’t get it to work properly before last month’s test release. It turned out I was given a review phone without Flash, so once everything was set up properly, things seemed to work smoothly. The mobile-optimized gaming and video sites that Adobe highlighted provided a better experience than random Flash websites, but even on sites that weren’t designed for smartphones, it was nice to no longer get error messages because Flash wasn’t supported. That seems to be the impression of analysts who tested Flash as well. (I didn’t keep the phone long enough to assess the effect on battery life.)
In its announcement, Adobe included a bunch of positive quotes from analysts, content partners, and device partners, but perhaps it’s best to end on a comment from Google — a company that is moving its video supersite YouTube from Flash to HTML5, and which has been more vocal in evangelizing for HTML5, but which has also sniped at Apple for its lack of Flash support. Here’s the statement from Andy Rubin, one of the inventors of Android and now vice president of engineering at Google:
We are excited that Android is the first mobile platform to support the full Flash Player. Now mobile users can browse the full web on their smartphones, and Android developers can use industry-leading tools to create immersive experiences on the web.
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