Monday, March 17, 2008

Microsoft licenses Adobe Flash Lite, turns up heat under Apple and iPhone?

Look for Flash applications to be coming to more mobile devices near you, just not an iPhone. Adobe Systems announced today that Microsoft has licensed Adobe's Flash Lite software to enable Flash-compatible content in the Internet Explorer Mobile browser.

This will mean that people using those devices will be able to access the building avalanche of rich content available via Flash clients. Microsoft has also licensed Adobe Reader LE software, which will allow users to view email attachments and Web content in PDF format.

Maybe Microsoft really does get the benefits of open, for fun and profit ... or at least to take some oxygen from the market competition.

[UPDATE: Looks like Apple and Abode have been of a like mind on this. See Computerworld story.]

Microsoft will also make Flash Lite and Reader LE available to OEMs who license Windows Mobile software.

Flash Lite already runs on numerous devices, and Adobe estimates that over half a billion have already shipped with Flash capability. However, the latest news now puts more pressure on Apple, whose popular iPhone doesn't support Flash, something that has had the blogoshpere bubbling since the iPhone made its debut. The recent iPhone SDK did nothing to make Flash a feature either.

I mean, I don't get it. Apple will deal with Microsoft to bring Exchange to iPhone, but resists Flash content. I know Apple has been a persnickety partner, but this is not necessarily putting the customer first.

Last July, Walt Mossberg went out on a limb and predicted that iPhones would see Flash "within the next couple of months."

Chris Zeigler at the Endgadget Mobile blog refers to the "spat" between Apple and Adobe as being part of a Goldilocks syndrome. Last week, he quoted part of Steve Jobs' remarks at a recent shareholders meeting:

Basically, Steve doesn't like Flash Lite -- the pared-down version Adobe has designed for small screens and lightweight processors -- and the full-fledged version has too much bloat for the iPhone's resources.

Whether Jobs is right remains to be seen, but the half billion devices that already use Flash technology may put a few holes in his argument. It would seem that Apple is in kind of a bind. The early adopters and gadget geeks have all gotten their iPhones, and now competitors are lining up with similar products, some coming in at a much lower price than the iPhone.

Later adopters, and even some gadget geeks, may place less value on novelty and slick features, and pay more attention to the rich media experience they're already used to on desktops and laptops. A lot of smart phones and PDAs already use Windows Mobile. Adding Flash to those would create a lot of pressure in the market.

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