What’s up with Adobe’s (ADBE) long-running campaign to get its Flash video/animation software on Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone? It could still happen, someday… maybe.
“We are working on Flash on the iPhone, but it is really up to Apple,” Adobe product manager Michele Turner told TechCrunch. Which sounds lot like the last two times we heard about Flash on the iPhone:
Sept. 30: “My team is working on Flash on the iPhone, but it’s a closed platform,” said Adobe senior director of engineering Paul Betlem.
June 17: “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,” said Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen.
What’s the problem? Presumably, Adobe should be able to figure out the technical challenges required to get Flash videos and animations playing smoothly on the iPhone. It won’t be easy — Flash video isn’t even that great on a brand new Mac. But it shouldn’t be impossible. After all, Apple’s built-in Quicktime software does a fine job playing video on the phone.
The bigger challenge: For Flash to work on the iPhone, Adobe needs diplomatic help from Apple. Especially if Adobe plans to make Flash work the same way it does on a computer — as a plugin for Apple’s Safari browser.
Apple hasn’t opened its browser up to anyone yet. It makes some sense that it’d allow Adobe in — if Flash ran well enough — because many Web sites still rely on Flash for content and navigation. But there’s no guarantee it will.
And if Adobe simply made a less-useful Flash “player” app — that could somehow play Flash video and animations separately from the browser — it still probably needs a special exception from Apple. To our understanding, Apple prohibits iPhone apps that let you run other apps within them — for security and competitive reasons. And that’s basically what Flash does.
So we’re where we were at in June: Even if Adobe does an excellent job porting Flash to the iPhone, it still needs buy-in from Apple, which has little incentive to make an exception for Adobe.
Why does Adobe need the iPhone? While Flash has excellent market share on computers, it hasn’t gotten much traction on mobile phones outside Japan. The iPhone is the best selling phone in the U.S. and is one of two or three platforms — along with Google’s (GOOG) Android and RIM’s (RIMM) BlackBerry — where coders are trying to push the limits of running software on mobile phones.
If people get going far enough without Flash — both on the mobile Web and in smartphone software apps — it’ll be irrelevant on those platforms. Which would kill a big growth opportunity for Adobe.
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