Remember that old saying, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”? Well, Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have forgotten those words of wisdom as he was publishing an anti-Flash rant last week. Many iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad users; BlackBerry addicts; and Android fans have long thought of Adobe Flash as a sort of Holy Grail. Flash is an internet plugin that’s required by many websites for viewing videos, playing games, and interacting with content. In fact, entire pages can appear blank on devices where Flash is missing!
A “lite” version of Flash has been available for awhile on some Android smartphones, such as the HTC Hero, but that software has its share of problems and isn’t fully compatible with all of the Flash content out there. Also, Flash Lite is inexplicably unavailable for other Android devices, like the Motorola Droid. Well, Android owners are about to get some special attention from Adobe in the form of a full version of Flash 10.1, scheduled for general release in June. Owners of older Android devices beware: navigating to http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ on my Droid gave me a message saying, “Adobe Flash Player 10.1 is coming to Android 2.0 and future releases in the first half of 2010.” Adobe will also be releasing full versions of Flash for BlackBerry and other platforms… none of them Apple. Mr. Jobs has made it quite clear that he won’t allow Flash on iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Macintosh hasn’t exactly been a priority for Apple lately, so it’s a safe bet that Flash will continue to work on Macs into the foreseeable future.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Adobe will soon be giving FREE Android phones, with Flash capabilities, to its employees. Some are asking which Android device Adobe will choose to give its workers. An equally important question is, which cellphone service provider will Adobe choose? Even if Adobe limits the free phones to a small group of employees, this kind of contract could be a big PR coup for the winning provider. It’s true that newer technologies like H.264 and HTML5 are challenging the dominance of Flash in some areas, especially video, but Flash is here now and isn’t going away any time soon.
Some apps, such as the SkyFire web browser, currently offer limited Flash support. The legality of such apps is unclear, but they might be useful on Android devices where Flash Lite is unavailable and/or for those users who cannot wait for Adobe to finish developing full Flash support. Indeed, ABH News and others are reporting that developers are in the process of porting SkyFire to iPhone — since it looks like customers will never see “real” Flash on any of Apple’s mobile offerings.