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Remember Steve Jobs’ complaints that no version of Adobe’s Flash Player is right for the iPhone? It looks like Adobe agrees — the company is now developing a version of Flash specifically for Apple’s mobile device.
This is a big win for Apple, since an enormous amount of websites use the Flash format, and any mobile browser without Flash compatibility will seem increasingly wimpy. (Among other things, YouTube videos are in Flash, a fact the iPhone has worked around by including a special YouTube application that uses the H.264 video codec.) On Monday, Adobe announced that Microsoft had licensed Flash Lite — the mobile version of Flash — for the Windows Mobile operating system (our coverage).
This move, however, gives the iPhone an advantage over competing smartphones. For now, at least, they’re still stuck with Flash Lite.
The decision is also an obvious move for Adobe, and a blow against Microsoft, which is trying to take on Flash with its browser plug-in Silverlight. We’ve noted that Silverlight — which doesn’t work on iPhones — faces tough odds due to Flash’s market dominance, but it may have a window of opportunity while Adobe improves its mobile technology. Today’s announcement signals the window is closing.
Surprisingly, the announcement doesn’t come with a lot of fanfare from Adobe, but was instead mentioned at Adobe’s Q1 earnings conference call. (The company said its earnings increased 37 percent compared to last year.) Asked about Flash mobile developments, chief executive Shantanu Narayen said: “We are also committed to bringing the Flash experience to the iPhone and we will work with Apple. We’ve evaluated the SDK [software development kit, which Apple just released for the iPhone]; we can now start to develop the Flash player ourselves.”
(That’s pretty much all Narayen said on the subject, but you can read the full call transcript here.)
Two weeks ago, Jobs said that Flash Lite is too simple for iPhones, while Flash proper is too advanced (our coverage). Presumably, Adobe is developing something just right.
Update: Adobe has released a clarification: “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.”
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