Adobe’s Flash animation/video player, missing from the 3G iPhone that Apple unveiled last week, could still make its way to Apple’s phone sooner or later, via the iPhone’s third-party apps program. If Apple lets it get there.
We have a version that’s working on the emulation. This is still on the computer and you know, we have to continue to move it from a test environment onto the device and continue to make it work. So we are pleased with the internal progress that we’ve made to date.
Sounds promising. But once the technical work is done, Adobe (ADBE) still has a big business hurdle ahead: Convincing Apple (AAPL) to let Flash onto the iPhone. Apple boss Steve Jobs has been critical of Flash for the iPhone in the past, suggesting that the mobile version of Flash isn’t powerful enough for the iPhone, and that the Mac version is too bloated for mobile gadgets.
The easiest solution, which Adobe could do on its own, is to make a standalone Flash player, which people could use to watch Flash video files or animations by themselves. To get that into the market, Adobe would just need to submit it for inclusion into the iPhone apps store.
But that wouldn’t be anything like the way Flash works on a computer, where it (mostly) seamlessly displays animations, videos, user interfaces, and advertising into the design of a Web site — because it has been integrated into a Web browser.
Adobe could independently achieve that on the iPhone, in theory, by commissioning/building its own Web browser with built-in Flash software — even one using the same Webkit guts as Safari. But assuming this is possible, it would also be very cumbersome. And there’s no guarantee that Apple would allow a Safari competitor into the apps store.
The most elegant solution: Figuring out a deal with Apple to include Flash as a plugin of sorts for the iPhone’s Safari browser. But that would require a much different business relationship than Apple has with the other companies making software for the iPhone apps platform. And even if Adobe aces Flash for the iPhone and makes it the most efficient version of its plugin ever, the business part of the process could hold things up for a while longer.
Will we ever see Flash on the iPhone? For Adobe’s sake, we hope so: We think there’s a bright future for the iPhone platform, and if Flash isn’t a part of it, Adobe is missing out. We admit that the Flash plugin on our Mac isn’t the most polished software we’ve ever used. But there’s certainly some parts of the Web — Hulu, for example — that rely on Flash, and that we’d love to use on the iPhone.