Adobe takes Flash to smartphones

The update is set to arrive as a beta on phones early next year, and aims to extend Flash's popularity on the desktop to mobile devices
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor

Adobe has introduced Flash Player 10.1, which will allow people to view Flash videos and games on their smartphones and netbooks, as well as on desktop PCs and laptops.

The announcement was made on Monday, to coincide with Adobe's MAX 2009 developer conference, which runs this week in Los Angeles. A public developer beta of the software is scheduled for release later this year for Windows Mobile and Palm WebOS on mobile devices and for Windows, Mac and Linux on the desktop.

While it is common on the desktop, Flash has not made much headway in the mobile world. Tom Barclay, Adobe's senior product marketing manager for Flash Player, said he was optimistic about the uptake of Flash Player 10.1 for mobile.

"It's come out of the Open Screen Project, where we worked with partners to provide a player from the desktop to a whole new generation of smartphone."

The Open Screen Project industry alliance was set up in May last year with the aim of streamlining the provision of rich internet content and on-demand video across all devices. Its members include Nokia, Nvidia and Palm, which have come out in support of Flash Player 10.1.

Adobe said it expects Flash 10.1 to arrive as a public beta on some devices in the first half of 2010, and noted that many products already shipping are capable of using the new Flash runtime. They should include most Windows Mobile 6.5 phones, as well as the Palm Pre.

Barclay is looking forward to Palm's webOS supporting Flash. "It has the necessary hardware, and Palm has already proven it has the ability to deliver updates to their users very quickly," he said.

Adobe expects Flash 10.1 to be supported by most of the major mobile platforms, including Google Android, Symbian, Palm WebOS and Windows Mobile. A reference platform and porting kit will be offered to partners who wish to port Flash to other smartphone platforms.

Keeping Flash Player updated on devices will be important, Barclay said. "We want to avoid fragmentation of the runtime," he pointed out.

Updates should be triggered by content downloads, he said. However, device manufacturers will have overall control, and will be able to update Flash with system updates and using their device software catalogues.

Flash 10.1 will take advantage of new user interface technologies, especially the touch features used in the current generation of smartphones, Adobe said. Screen reorientation, accelerometer support, gestures and virtual keyboards are also built into the Flash runtime.

Performance remains important, and Adobe has been working with both Nvidia and Qualcomm to take advantage of the GPU capabilities in their respective Tegra and Snapdragon chipsets. The company also plans to announce that Flash will work with Nvidia's ION, bringing high-definition video to the latest Atom netbooks and desktops.

In addition, Adobe announced that Google is joining the Open Screen Project. Despite Google's emphasis on the proposed video tag in HTML 5, Adobe's Flash product marketing manager Adrian Ludwig says Flash matters to Google for its own content and for user experience.

"We are seeing Google being very committed to using web technologies, but we have also seen they consider a Flash Player one of the technologies that's very important for them to be successful in building web technologies," Ludwig said. "As they continue to build, they start to bump into the limitations of the web browser, and they see the openness of the Flash player as very important."

With Google investing heavily in smartphone and netbook operating systems, Flash support is likely to be increasingly important to it. "We think their participation is going to be more and more critical, to make web a more open and consistent place to access content," Ludwig said.

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