Apple slams the door on Adobe Flash

Adobe announced that Flash Player 10.1 will soon be gracing your mobile phone...unless you have an iPhone.

There is much excitement and celebration today in the world of mobile phones. Adobe announced that Flash Player 10.1 will soon be gracing the diminutive screen of your mobile phone...unless you have an iPhone.

Adobe Flash is relatively ubiquitous on the Web. If you have ever tried to surf the Web with a brand new computer system that hasn't yet had Flash installed you quickly find out just how many sites rely on the technology to provide interactive multimedia presentations and interfaces.

Sites like Youtube and Hulu rely on Flash technology for streaming video on the Internet. Multimedia banner ads found on most major sites utilize Adobe Flash as well.

Mobile phones have had the capability to surf the Web for some time, but the Web experience has often been clunky and lacking in comparison to full-blown desktop and laptop surfing. However, mobile device technology--the hardware, the software, and the delivery infrastructure--have all improved to the point that the mobile phone is now more of a mobile computing platform and there is little difference between a laptop computer and a full-featured smart phone aside from the size of the display and the size of the keyboard.

Even with the increased processing power and network capacity, mobile device manufacturers have been reluctant to include Flash technology due to the drain on system resources. Previous versions of Flash have hogged memory, monopolized the processor, and quickly drained the battery. The performance tradeoffs were not worth the glitz of adding Flash.

Adobe has overcome those concerns with the latest version of Flash by leveraging the GPU (graphics processing unit) to accelerate video without prematurely consuming the battery life. Not only does the new Adobe Flash address the resource consumption issues, it also incorporates support for new technologies like multitouch screens, accelerometers, and shifting screen orientation.

That is great news for everyone using phones based on the RIM Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Android mobile operating systems, but Apple has opted out of joining the Adobe Flash party so iPhone users will still be Flash-less.

Apple still maintains that Adobe Flash is too resource-intensive and has expressed concern about the performance impact it might have on the iPhone experience. Rather than embracing Adobe Flash Apple recommends that developers rely on different existing Web standards to deliver similar interactivity.

It seems like there could be an ulterior motive for Apple as well though. Apple also rejected Google Voice (or delayed indefinitely according to Apple) for reasons that aren't yet entirely clear but could be at least partly related to stifling competition for features and functions Apple is working on.

Adobe Flash doesn't encroach on any particular Apple functionality, but it could provide a means for developers to bypass Apple's App Store. Developers could create Flash-based applications and deliver them via the Web without Apple's consent or approval. Apple may simply be unwilling to lighten up its draconian restrictions or loosen its monopolistic control over the flow of apps to the iPhone.

Adobe recognizes that the iPhone represents a vast untapped market for developers. Even though Apple isn't planning to adopt Flash on the iPhone any time soon, Adobe Flash Professional CS5 enables developers to build iPhone and iPod Touch applications using ActionScript 3. These Flash-based applications can be packaged and sold through the Apple App Store.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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