Adobe CEO: Flash on iPhone not so easy

Shantanu Narayen acknowledges that even after months of striving, a workable version of Flash for the iPhone remains a tough nut to crack.

Jon Skillings Editorial director
A born browser of dictionaries and a lifelong New Englander, Jon Skillings is an editorial director at CNET. He honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing for tech publications -- including at PC Week and the IDG News Service -- back when the web was just getting under way, and even a little before. For CNET, he's written on topics from GPS to 5G, James Bond, lasers, brass instruments and music streaming services.
Expertise language, grammar, writing, editing Credentials
  • 30 years experience at tech and consumer publications, print and online. Five years in the US Army as a translator (German and Polish).
Jon Skillings
2 min read

The work at Adobe Systems toward getting its nearly ubiquitous Flash technology onto the Apple iPhone goes on...and on, and on.

Speaking with the Bloomberg news service on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen acknowledged that even after months of striving, a workable version of Flash for the iPhone remains a tough nut to crack.

Apple iPhone
No Flash for you--not yet, anyway. CNET Networks

"It's a hard technical challenge, and that's part of the reason Apple and Adobe are collaborating," Narayen told Bloomberg Television. "The ball is in our court. The onus is on us to deliver."

How much exactly are the two companies collaborating? Some reaction to the Bloomberg report has taken Narayen's words to suggest that Apple is pitching in like never before. But we've seen that kind of generality before in regard to Flash for the iPhone, dating back to March 2008, when Adobe first confirmed that it was working to bring Flash apps to the iPhone. And even then, it was apparent that this would not be a simple chore.

As Adobe said at the time: "To bring the full capabilities of Flash to the iPhone Web-browsing experience we do need to work with Apple beyond and above what is available through the SDK (the iPhone software development kit) and the current license around it."

Two weeks before that, in early March, Apple CEO Steve Jobs had thrown cold water on hopes for a happy Flash-iPhone coexistence. The PC version of Flash, he said, "performs too slow to be useful" on the iPhone, while the Flash Lite version for mobile phones "is not capable of being used with the Web."

However far along Adobe actually is with reconfiguring Flash for the iPhone, it will need a definitive thumbs-up from Apple to bring the technology to the public.

So perhaps we should be paying more attention to this part of Narayen's statement to Bloomberg: "The onus is on us to deliver."

In November, Adobe talked up a new push to broaden the use of Flash on mobile phones. "We are in the midst of evolving Flash Player 10 for mobile," Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch said at the time. "We're taking the full Flash Player and making that run on the higher end of the mobile market." Conspicuously absent from the presentation was the iPhone.

Lynch said in the November presentation that the company was confident enough to move up its goals for making phones Flash-enabled. "We're actually going to get 1 billion Flash-enabled phones by 2009," he said.