Adobe opens up Flash for the mobile world. A lesson for Microsoft

Adobe is opening up Flash, but not fully. Still, it offers valuable lessons for Microsoft.

Adobe is proving that it can walk the openness walk, this time by opening up its Flash protocols to facilitate mobile adoption via its Open Screen Project:

...[T]he Open Screen project has five basic elements. Adobe will remove license restriction on the .swf file format [which had required the licensee to promise not to create a competing player]....Adobe will also remove licensing fees for embedding Flash Player on devices....Adobe will also publish a variety of APIs and protocols related to Flash.

Royalty free. Open publication of protocols. No side-deals to ensure a dearth of competition. Maybe Microsoft could take a page from Adobe's playbook. That is, if it wants to be relevant on the web.

As Adobe's Dave McAllister notes:

The power of the web is in its reach, open exchange and access. Adobe recognizes that the extended web, reaching from devices to desktops needs to be equally open and as such is removing a barrier that will enable content creation, applications and access to spread widely. Similar to what we have seen with other open specifications, we expect that innovation and capabilities will appear that we ourselves would never get around to, or maybe even think of.

Imagine that! A company admitting that it is not the be-all, end-all for innovation. Again, something for the Microsofties to consider, given Microsoft's Borg-like insistence that all roads lead to Redmond.

The one thing Adobe could have done to ensure good intentions infallibly are guarded by good licensing is to open source Flash. That's not on the cards today, but with Adobe taking incremental steps toward openness, we can be patient. The company is clearly moving in the right direction.

Microsoft, too, is moving in fits and starts toward openness, but I can't shake the feeling that it doesn't really understand why it should do so yet. Microsoft's moves feel more like marketing than substantive attempts to embrace the financial opportunities that await those who embrace open source and open standards. Microsoft seems to open up in response to government regulators, not market opportunity.

Maybe it should stop by the Adobe booth to learn why openness is a good thing for the bottom line.

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