Analysts disagree whether Apple can refuse Flash for iPhone

Adobe's plan to develop Flash release for mobile device sets up possible rapprochement

Now that Adobe Systems is promising to bring Flash to the iPhone, one analyst is predicting that customer pressure will force Apple to agree to support the Adobe media player on its fast-growing mobile device .

"I think Apple would look pretty bad if they say they don't want it," said Jack Gold, an independent telecommunications analyst at J Gold Associates.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs publicly snubbed Flash earlier this month, saying that the full version is too slow for the iPhone and that the capabilities of Adobe's Flash Lite mobile player aren't up to snuff.

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Jupiter Research, said this week that adding Flash support to the iPhone isn't an urgent need for Apple since it already has a deal with YouTube that enables iPhone users to watch videos.

And Andreas Constantinou, an analyst at London-based Vision Mobile, said that he thinks the iPhone user base -- currently about 6 million people -- are more interested in form than function. "Most Apple customers are unlikely to be interested in features (and whether the iPhone supports Flash Lite), but more on the look and feel and user interface of the iPhone," Constantinou wrote.

But Gold expects Apple's view to change now that Adobe has said it plans to develop a version of Flash for the iPhone, using the software development kit (SDK) that Apple announced two weeks ago for use by third-party developers.

"I think Adobe looked at [Apple] and thought, 'Apple's being a pain in the butt. They're not going to come to us. So let's be the nice guys, take the high road and build a player anyway,'" Gold said.

Even so, there are potential complications to Adobe's plan. For starters, Apple needs to approve all iPhone software before it can be distributed and sold through a new online App Store, starting in June. And Adobe said in a statement Wednesday that it needs to work with Apple "beyond and above what is available through the SDK and the current license around it" in order to provide the full capabilities of Flash on the iPhone.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld

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