Flash on the iPhone? Don't hold your breath

Flash on the iPhone? Don't hold your breath

Summary: Adobe has confirmed that Flash capabilities won't be coming to the iPhone anytime soon due to the technical difficulties in deploying it on America's most popular smartphone.Silverlight, anyone?

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Adobe has confirmed that Flash capabilities won't be coming to the iPhone anytime soon due to the technical difficulties in deploying it on America's most popular smartphone.

Silverlight, anyone? (Just kidding.)

At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen discussed the difficulties in bringing the company's most well-distributed product to the iPhone.

"It's a hard technical challenge, and that's part of the reason Apple and Adobe are collaborating. The ball is in our court. The onus is on us to deliver."

One of the most common programs on computers worldwide, Flash is most commonly used to play video on the Web (such as YouTube and Hulu) and support interface elements (such as the Myspace player).

If you recall, Apple CEO Steve Jobs sparked controversy last March when he said Flash was not good enough for the iPhone -- the full version being "too slow" for the iPhone and mobile-ready Flash Lite as not "advanced enough".

Futhermore, Flash technically violates the iPhone's Terms of Service.

But Apple's release of its iPhone Software Development Kit cleared the way. Now it's simply a waiting game to see if the iPhone can actually deliver a true Internet experience, without crutches.

The competition's heating up, too: Adobe announced that other mobile platforms such as Google's Android and Windows Mobile are about to be Flash capable, and will also run the Java Virtual Machine by Sun Microsystems, which is also absent on the iPhone.

The iPhone may have been the first fully-fledged Internet experience in the mobile world, but competition (T-Mobile G1, BlackBerry Storm, Palm Pre, etc.) may soon overtake its feature set if it doesn't address the issues.

In other words: The time for Apple to stop resting on its laurels is now.

Narayen indicated that Adobe and Apple are now working together to bring Flash to the iPhone. But as Ian Paul at PC World put it so appropriately, is Flash on the iPhone more a technical hurdle or a political one?

Topics: Enterprise Software, iPhone, Mobility

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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3 comments
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  • "Flash technically violates the iPhone?s Terms of Service"

    .. Why do ZDNET bloggers bother posting stuff like this?

    Seriously.

    The terms of service are Apple's to change at their whim, and has no bearing on whether or not Flash gets on the iPhone.

    For all we know, if Adobe could deliver a nice "touch-friendly" flash experience, Apple might license it and distribute it with the OS, much like Microsoft distributes Flash with versions of Windows.

    If Apple incorporated it, Flash would also have the added advantage of being able to run in the background like the other "Core" apps.
    croberts
  • RE: Flash on the iPhone? Don

    "The iPhone may have been the first fully-fledged Internet
    experience in the mobile world, but competition (T-Mobile
    G1, BlackBerry Storm, Palm Pre, etc.) may soon overtake its
    feature set if it doesn?t address the issues."

    There's something more important to consider. If feature
    sets alone were the deciding factor, we'd probably all be
    using higher end Nokia phones. What matters most is the
    implementation of those features. What would Flash web
    sites look like on a mobile device? How about interaction?
    How about performance? Right now, Apple is missing
    nothing by not including Flash lite. Adobe isn't capable of
    writing an optimized Flash player on the Mac platform as
    is (with 2+ Ghz machines). Why would anyone think they'd
    be able to do it right on a mobile device?

    If Adobe is able to come out with a killer implementation
    for Android and Windows Mobile, etc. then I'd agree Apple
    would be under some pressure to make sure it happens for
    the iPhone. As it stands now, Flash is simply a poor choice
    for targeting any mobile platform.
    techconc
  • RE: Flash on the iPhone? Don

    Hi Andrew and Jennifer,
    I recently blogged on this topic in a post called "No Flash on the iPhone? I'm cool with that" In my piece I outlined the historical, cultural and practical context of the matter:

    1. After many years closely working with Apple (when the Mac was the graphics & DTP creatives? / digital media producers? computer of choice), Adobe Systems grew initially on Apple?s support of Postscript, and later of programs like PhotoShop, Illustrator and Premiere. It can be said that Adobe is taking that relationship for granted. Adobe did not update its Mac software for more than a year after Apple switched to Intel processors in 2007. This must have hit Apple?s revenue pretty hard, as potential users stuck to their PowerPC Macs until they could acquire the compatible Adobe software
    2. Traditionally, Flash has performed badly on Macs. Add to that the aforementioned ?badly-constructed Flash garbage.?
    3. The iPhone is not a powerful computer: it is a Web-enabled Portable Digital Assistant (PDA). I would suggest that in many consumers? minds that to be able to surf the internet in a full-featured Safari browser on the iPhone means that it?s a ?real? computer. Apple surely want to manage users? expectations.
    4. Apple is very aware of these issues. The company went as far as to include a clause in their iPhone developers' Terms of Service agreement (.PDF) that prohibits Flash from appearing on the iPhone

    However, as an iPhone owning e-learning professional, I?ve come to rely on the device to manage my e-mail accounts, utilize my time, play music, video, take notes (text and audio), and generally be more productive. I?ve Twittered, Quittered, Facebooked, YouTubed and blogged.

    In a cost / benefit analysis of Flash vs. The Rest, I've decided that I'll take the rest; it's up to developers to innovate approaches to deliver information via the platform.

    Regards,

    Michael Hanley

    Reference:
    (http://elearningcurve.blogspot.com/2009/02/no-flash-on-iphone-im-cool-with-that.html)
    --
    mhanley1