Adobe Systems wants so desperately for its Flash media player to run on the iPhone that it's apparently willing to further jeopardize its dicey relationship with Apple to make it happen. Last week Adobe announced Flash is finally coming to the iPhone, albeit not in its customary web browser plug-in format--instead, Adobe will enable coders to create iPhone and iPod touch applications via its Flash Professional CS5 developer tool. According to Adobe, Flash Professional CS5--scheduled for release in public beta later this year--leverages the same source code used to deliver applications across desktops and devices for Flash Platform runtimes, enabling developers to create applications using Flash authoring tools for subsequent export to the App Store. "Adobe's doing an end-around because it's in their interest," Gartner analyst Van Baker told ComputerWorld. "This is two guys butting heads. Adobe does an end-around to get Flash into the App Store, so from their developers' standpoint, that's a good thing."
Adobe Flash group product marketing manager Adrian Ludwig took exception to Baker's summation: "I don't think 'end-around' is accurate," he said. "Flash developers want their content available through the browser, and we're working with Apple to see what we need to do as a software company, and as developers, to make that possible." However, Ludwig declined to comment when asked whether Adobe had informed Apple that a series of applications already submitted for App Store approval were built with a preliminary version of Flash Pro CS5, and not Apple's own iPhone development environment.
Adobe has long aspired to bring Flash to the iPhone--this summer, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch told The Wall Street Journal that the software firm has assigned engineering teams to all major smartphone operating systems, but its absence from the iPhone platform had little to do to with technological challenges: "We need to have Apple's agreement before we can do it," Lynch said. In March 2008, Apple CEO Steve Jobs infamously contended the iPhone requires a media player more robust than the existing Flash mobile solution, and has not softened his stance over the year and a half to follow. Developers indicate that Adobe's latest move will do little to improve its relationship with Apple, noting iPhones still won't be able to successfully download the majority of web pages heavy on Flash-based graphics.
"Adobe's not putting Flash into the iPhone, no matter how hard you try to read between the lines," Hottrix CEO Steve Sheraton told The Wall Street Journal, adding "If it sounds too flashy to be true, it probably is." Pangea Software CEO Brian Greenstone was even more critical of Adobe's approach, telling the Journal "it just means we'll have a flurry of C-grade apps suddenly appearing on the App Store." It's far too early to pass such a sweeping judgment on the quality of these new Flash Professional CS50-based apps, but it does look like they will be coming in droves. "Whether the iPhone can bolster a good enough performance to do intensive mobile Flash games, we are unsure of," John Cooney, head of development at Flash gaming firm Armor Games, said to Wired. "But if it can, it's going to open up doors for several Flash game developers, including myself personally, to become iPhone developers." -Jason