Palm Pre Will Run Flash, Adobe Finally Admits


When Palm announced the Pre smartphone at CES in January, Newsweek‘s Dan Lyons — briefed in advance on Palm’s new product — had one detail no one else did: That Palm’s phone would run Flash, Adobe’s animation and video software. Since then, neither company has talked about it. Until now.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Adobe announced that Palm is joining its “Open Screen Project” — basically a bunch of companies that will support Flash on devices like phones, PCs, and TVs. Adobe also announced that a Flash player for Palm’s WebOS — its new operating system for smartphones like the Pre — is in the works.

What does this mean? It could be easier for people to build apps for Palm phones than some other platforms, such as Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone. Lots of people know Flash — Web designers, developers, the ad world, etc. — while a different, likely smaller set of people write Objective-C, the programming language for iPhone apps.

What don’t we know yet:

  • When Flash will launch on the Pre. The Pre is expected to go on sale in the first half of this year. But Adobe says Flash for smartphones won’t be available until “the end of 2009.” (Update: It seems that Flash 10 will be the first Flash available for the Pre. That won’t be until 2010.)
  • Whether Flash will be built into the Pre’s Web browser — like it is on a computer, so you can watch YouTube videos right on the page — or if it’ll launch in a separate app. The former is ideal, the latter would be acceptable but less useful. (Update: It seems like it will be baked into the browser, which is the point of Flash 10. That’s good, if it works well.)
  • How good it will be. Flash hasn’t taken off on mobile phones so far because it’s been a limited experience — not as good as Flash on a PC.
  • Whether Flash apps will be able to take advantage of the phone’s location features, accelerometer, etc., or if they’ll just be slightly slicker Web apps.

What took Adobe and Palm to make their announcement official? Probably nothing technical — it seems this was a PR game to get maximum exposure during the Barcelona trade show.