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Adobe spells out iPhone apps limitations

Adobe's announcement that it has now enabled developers to create applications for the iPhone comes with some significant qualifiers.

LOS ANGELES--Adobe Systems' announcement of tools to create applications for the Apple iPhone comes with some restrictions.

Adobe announced on Monday at Adobe MAX, the company's worldwide developer conference, that its Flash Professional CS5 developer tool will enable developers to create interactive applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. A public beta of Flash Professional CS5 is expected to be available later this year.

In an interview at the conference Monday, Anup Murarka, director of technology strategy and partner development in Adobe's platform development unit, spelled out some of the limitations of creating Adobe Flash-style apps for the iPhone. These limitations exist because the Adobe Flash player is not supported on the iPhone.

Murarka clarified that Monday's announcement was not a joint announcement with Apple. "This is an Adobe announcement. This is just something that's related to our tools and what they output, which is a native iPhone app," he said.

"So, we're not running Flash directly on the device. We're actually allowing our tools to output for native iPhone apps," Murarka explained.

He then described some limitations. "Let's take it from the developer's point of view. They have a very rich environment and language. That's in Flash today," he said. "You're not going to get all of the Flash feature set that would normally be there in the run-time."

Murarka continued: "For example, high-quality video, H.264, is not available with this product because Apple does not make available the decoders. They make you use their own UI (user interface) to play back high-quality video." Apple describes the H.264 video codec as delivering "stunning quality at...low data rates."

He also cited synchronization. "Being able to do synchronization between data and video. Those can be built as Flash applications. In sporting events (for example) using flash for data overlay. Those types of things are not going to possible because we don't have access to the APIs (Application Programming Intefaces) that would give us the video decode along with all of the individual frames so we can do synchronization," he said.

And he spoke about graphics effects. "Some of the filter effects. Some of the capabilities that as a programmer you would easily do within Flash are not available as they are not natural APIs that iPhone platform makes available to us."

Murarka concluded by saying that Adobe continues to work with Apple towards getting Flash on the iPhone. "We're not there as quickly as we would like. We're not able to put Flash in the browser. We're not able to put a Flash run-time on the device directly. But this is a good step," he said.