Three reasons why iPhone won't get Adobe Flash

Flash is arriving on the iPhone's competitors; why doesn't this spur Apple to action?

Adobe delighted on Monday the smartphone world, when it announced that Flash Player 10.1 will be available by the end of the year on BlackBerry, WinMo, Palm WebOS, Google Android, and Symbian phones.

But the millions of iPhone users out there are left fuming over the announcement because their beloved gadget isn't showing any signs of Adobe Flash adoption.

Research In Motion, Microsoft, Palm, Google and Nokia will all embed the Flash Player 10.1 into their handsets by the end of this year or in early 2010, but Apple is ignoring the wishes of the masses of iPhone owners across the world and did not announce any plans to integrate Adobe Flash support onto its line of smartphones.

It has been more than a year now since the industry was speculating the appearance of Adobe Flash on the iPhone, and since October 2008 we've seen Apple introducing a more powerful iPhone (the iPhone 3GS) and an improved operating system (iPhone OS 3.X), but still, no Adobe Flash -- so here's why I don't think it will happen any time soon either:

3. Apple Doesn't Want Flash on the iPhone

Let's face it: when Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayan said in February that Adobe Flash on the iPhone is "a hard technical challenge, and that's part of the reason Apple and Adobe are collaborating," we all thought that the iPhone's hardware wasn't powerful enough to support this technology.

Eight months later though, the iPhone 3GS doubled the processing power and RAM memory over its predecessor, the iPhone 3G, and the hardware barriers are gone. But still no Adobe Flash. Meanwhile, HTC managed to graciously support fully Adobe Flash on the similarly-spec'd HTC Hero, so Apple is running out of reasons to dismiss Flash.

2. The iPhone is Created so it Won't Support Flash

The virtual limitations imposed by the iPhone software, as in only one application open at all times (except for a couple of Apple's own apps), means that an environment like Adobe Flash won't be able to install or launch other executable code by any means, including the use of a plug-in architecture (iPhone SDK EULA clause 3.3.2).

For you and me, this translates that the ways Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight were designed to work are forbidden from running on the iPhone -- unless Apple decides to make an exception (which sends us to point No. 1). In relation, this means that third-party browsers such as Firefox or Opera (besides being banned from the App Store because of duplicate functionality) won't be able to use Safari's built-in Java engine either.

1. Apple is Betting on a Different Standard

Although Adobe Flash powers most of the interactive Web applications for full-featured computers, Apple has set its eyes on HTML 5 with the introduction of the iPhone 3.0 OS. HTML 5 makes obsolete plug-in-based technologies such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, because it's open source and has similar multimedia capabilities to Adobe's and Microsoft's solutions.

Apple is quite involved in the development of the HTML 5 standard as well, and the technology is already being implemented into browsers before the standard is final. Oh, and the editors of the HTML 5 standard are David Hyatt of Apple and Ian Hickinson of Google. As a side note, Flash is not supported on standard Google Android installations, but only custom ones, such as on the HTC Hero.

But there is hope: Apple could change its mind at any time regarding Adobe Flash support. As far as no one knows, Apple might be working on a solution right now, but as usual, the Cupertino Company is keeping mum on details. Just don't bet your money on Adobe Flash on the iPhone yet.

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Daniel Ionescu

PC World (US online)
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