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Behind the Flash delay for iPhone: Pandora?

Apple's smartphone does not yet support the Adobe Systems technology, upon which the popular Music Genome Project service is reliant. Is there a connection?

Apple may have many reasons for preventing Flash applications to work on the iPhone and iPod Touch, but I can't think of one more compelling than Pandora.

The free Music Genome Project-based service, which is fast gaining a cult following similar to that of Apple products for its simple user interface and innovative edge in music consumption, is sure to present some serious competition to iTunes on any mobile device.

Which will come first to the iPhone: Pandora or an Apple-branded music subscription service? Pandora Media

Sure, Pandora technically is Apple-friendly, letting users bookmark songs they hear on their customized radio stations, then buy them through iTunes. But when you've customized your "Paul Simon Radio" station to the point that you consistently hear more songs you really like--and ones you'll grow to love--through natural Pandora play than through listening to songs in your iTunes library in shuffle mode, there isn't much of a compelling reason to pay to further clutter your handset memory with more tunes.

It's no surprise that Pandora users are excited about the idea of using the service, through which users can hone what they hear by suggesting artists and songs, and giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down (or bookmark) to any song they hear, on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

"Only problem with Pandora on iPhone is that iPhone doesn't support Flash," user Jase commented on the Pandora blog in June, referring to the Mac maker's resistance to letting its mobile iteration of the Safari browser support the Adobe Systems technology, upon which Pandora's service relies. "Maybe Pandora can come up with an iPhone-compatible interface. Now that would really rock!"

Months later, other users chimed in on the comments thread: "Pandora and the iPhone were made for each other," Bill said in August. "I NEED PANDORA ON MY IPHONE...I'm dying...Please design a simple interface that can be accessed online by iPhone--or a plugin, as per the YouTube/iPhone setup. Apple better help," Rab said in September.

"I would pay for this service," Ben Grey said. "Pandora on an iPhone would make me buy both! The iPhone already has the car interface and unlimited data plans. All we need is a compatible Web app. Please, please, please!" Thomas W. Watson said.

You get the idea: in terms of common enthusiasts, at least, this would be such a good match that Apple must be thinking to itself, gee, maybe we can create a Pandora-like magic for the iPhone on our own. And charge for it. After all, though recent research indicates that having a sheer scale of users helps iTunes generate a decent amount of cash, CEO Steve Jobs says iTunes--as well as the App Store--is not set up to make money.

So it's interesting to me that the same day Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen is publicly pushing the idea of Flash compatibility for the iPhone, we hear rumors of Apple negotiating with the record labels to create an all-you-can-eat subscription service for the iPod and iPhone.

Is there a connection within Apple's executive ranks? Perhaps not. But it seems logical that Apple would want to endorse its own subscription service before enabling a popular Flash-reliant music service such as Pandora to grace its mobile hardware.