Google's decision to embrace Flash for Chrome OS will help ease the platform into the emerging midmarket device segment, but an industry analyst says it is a "stretch" to consider the Adobe technology a killer app.
Adobe last month announced a partnership to take Flash into future builds of Chrome. This means users will not have to download a third-party plugin to make their multimedia players work on the browser-based OS.
Chrome OS is built on Linux and based on the search giant's Web browser, Chrome. The OS was designed to run only Web apps on custom-made thin-client devices.
This places Chrome OS-based systems in the midmarket or "in-between" device segment, joining the numerous netbook and tablet models expected to be released this year.
But while other manufacturers have already announced tablets that are scheduled for launch soon, Chrome devices won't be expected until late-2010, leaving industry observers wondering what advantage these offerings will have over the competition, namely Apple. The Apple iPad was officially released Apr. 3 in the United States, selling 300,000 on the first day.
One differentiating factor for Chrome offerings may be the platform's integration with Flash.
Following Apple's decision not to support Flash, competing tablet manufacturers have been trumping their support for the Adobe technology as a differentiating factor.
In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Springboard Research COO Chris Perrine acknowledged the impact of Flash integration for Chrome OS devices but said it is unlikely to be the deciding factor for such devices.
"Only specific users would view Flash integration as the number one reason to buy a specific tablet.
"It is [a feature] and of course it will be promoted heavily due to the problems Apple and Adobe are having now, but I think it is a stretch calling it a killer app," said Perrine.
One tablet manufacturer that has championed its support for Flash is Fusion Garage, makers of the JooJoo. The company said, in a previous interview with ZDNet Asia, the Adobe platform would present a "full Web surfing experience" to users in contrast with the iPad.
However, industry reviewers have noted a lackluster performance on JooJoo, prompting Adobe to issue a statement saying it does not have a "direct relationship" with Fusion Garage.
In an interview with ZDNet Asia, Adobe's Asia-Pacific vice president Julian Quinn touted the benefits of joining Adobe's Open Screen Project, an industry alliance it established in 2008 to drive the adoption of the Flash Player on mobile devices.
Manufacturer partners in the alliance get access to beta code and Adobe's engineering team support, said Quinn. Adobe has noted that Fusion Garage is not a part of the Open Screen Project.
Quinn added that the inclusion of Flash would ensure users get the "full experience of the Internet" on devices because of the wide use of the multimedia plugin.
He said the company's push to be integrated into devices will see 250 million smartphones supporting Flash 10 by the end of 2012.
On the company's tumultuous relationship with Apple, he said the ball is in Apple's court.
"It's up to them. The ability [to package Flash apps into iPhone apps] is there in [Adobe's] Creative Suite 5 (CS5) product," he said. The CS5 suite was launched in Singapore this week.
Perrine said manufacturers should gauge user demand for Flash to decide how much resources they want to invest to optimize integration with the technology. For now, however, Apple's exclusion of Flash on its popular tablet device will push manufacturers closer to Adobe, he noted.
A Google spokesperson said in an e-mail to ZDNet Asia: "The Adobe Flash Player is one of the most widely used plugins and powers a large amount and variety of content on the Internet, so we want to ensure our users have the best possible experience while using Flash and Chrome."
The spokesperson added that Google is also "strongly committed" to HTML5, which is widely perceived as a competitor to Flash.
According to Google, Chrome OS netbook devices can be expected from a host of manufacturers such as Lenovo, Acer, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba by the second half of 2010.