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What the Apple-Adobe war means to you

Apple has too many foes to stay true to its "my way or the highway" line forever. Moore's Law means smartphones will get more powerful with time, able to handle multiple technologies easily.

The war between Apple and Adobe is in full swing. (Picture from our friends at CNET.)

The latest move is a long letter from Apple CEO Steve Jobs (funny he didn't call it a blog post) in which he basically called Adobe old-tech, fine for the PC days of the 20th century but too kludgy, and not nimble enough, to make it in the App era.

This followed the far more-important decision by Apple not to allow Adobe Flash on the iPhone or iPad (an Adobe employee responded the way Dick Cheney did to Pat Leahy back in the day) and Google's integration of Flash into its Chrome browser. Flash is supported by Google's Android phones. Flash is also supported on the RIM Blackberry.

What this means for you is an even fight and a hard choice. Many may not believe it, but the most popular smartphone platform in the U.S. continues to be the Blackberry. In terms of total manufacturing of phones, Nokia still has more than half the market -- Apple barely registers. A forecast by the Gartner Group, however, estimates Android designs could be 14% of the market in two years.

Unlike the PC market, which settled quickly after 1981 into an ecosystem dominated by IBM (and later Microsoft) with Apple a niche player, there will be no such luck here. Not only that, there will be no basic agreement on smartphone technology for years to come.

All of which means that if you commit to iPhones now, and your competitors commit to Androids later, you may have some big, big problems. Hopefully some form of peace will break out when that happens, but if you're thinking of spending on apps the way you did on PC software back in the day, that "investment" may turn to dust pretty quickly.

It also means the most valuable thing to have may be some sort of glue that connects files from all phones together, and syncs them to some central location, which people are calling "the cloud."

There's an app for that, and it's open source. Funambol, headed by Italian-native Fabrizio Capobianco (who is hip enough to call his open letters blog posts), has been offering mobile sync to the cloud for a few years now.

Of course that only seems to function for your contacts and your calendar. Those are important, but they are not applications. Nor are they rich application data.

The Web -- good old HTML -- holds some promise for unity in mobile, but only some. The emerging HTML 5 standard (edited by a Google employee) will support "rich media" (like video) inside the browser, rather than through a plug-in.

There's another possibility for glue. Java. The RIM Blackberry is based on Java, Android is Java-friendly. But the iPhone remains a walled garden, against Java, and Jobs himself spoke against it as long as three years ago.

My guess? Apple has too many foes to stay true to its "my way or the highway" line forever. Moore's Law means smartphones will get more powerful with time, able to handle multiple technologies easily. Patent lawsuits or threats of lawsuits aside, all this will eventually settle down.

But any phone you buy now is liable to be a brick in a few years. Don't spend a fortune on one. And don't invest too much emotion on it, either.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com