An Adobe technology to deliver Flash apps to Apple's iPhone has no future. But Adobe isn't going down without a very vocal fight.
Stephen Shanklandprincipal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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"As developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at any time, and for seemingly any reason," Chambers said. "The primary goal of Flash has always been to enable cross browser, platform and device development. The cool Web game that you build can easily be targeted and deployed to multiple platforms and devices. However, this is the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms."
In a response, Apple indicated its preference for a variety of up-and-coming standards that collectively compete with what Flash can do.
HTML5 is a revision to Hypertext Markup Language used to describe Web pages; CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are used to format Web pages; and H.264 is a video compression technology used in streaming video among other areas. Adobe isn't totally removed from these technologies, however: its Flash Player includes H.264 support, and its AIR technology has built-in HTML and CSS support through inclusion of the WebKit browser on which Apple's Safari is based.
Adobe isn't limited to lashing out on blogs. It's got a big ally in any competition against Apple: Google.
"Fortunately, the iPhone isn't the only game in town. Android based phones have been doing well behind the success of the Motorola Droid and Nexus One, and there are a number of Android based tablets slated to be released this year. We are working closely with Google to bring both Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe AIR 2.0 to these devices, and thus far, the results have been very promising," Chambers said.
Google is a willing ally, too, as evidenced by a Wednesday blog post from Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering for the Android effort, on Adobe's Web site.
"Google believes that developers should have their choice of tools and technologies to create applications. By supporting Adobe AIR on Android we hope that millions of creative designers and developers will be able to express themselves more freely when they create applications for Android devices. More broadly, AIR will foster rapid and continuous innovation across the mobile ecosystem. Google is happy to be partnering with Adobe to bring the full Web, great applications, and developer choice to the Android platform."
The alliance fits a common pattern of convenience in the technology industry, with challengers working together to take on an incumbent. Apple, with tens of thousands of iPhone applications available and strong sales of the phone, the iPod Touch, and now the iPad, holds a lot of power over developers. Even those who feel Apple is riding roughshod over them likely will think twice before choosing not to participate in a market that is vibrant and in many cases lucrative.
Rhetoric can have teeth, and Adobe clearly hopes to give Apple a bad reputation among programmers. Chambers, a programmer himself, is directing his own attention toward Android.
"I think that the closed system that Apple is trying to create is bad for the industry, developers, and ultimately consumers, and that is not something that I want to actively promote," Chambers said. "We are at the beginning of a significant change in the industry, and I believe that ultimately open platforms will win out over the type of closed, locked-down platform that Apple is trying to create."