opinion


Flash for iPhone may exist, but it’s not there yet

 
 
 
 
The iPhone community is foaming at the mouth yet again, in the wake of reports that software developer Adobe has confirmed the existence of a Flash player for the Apple device.

At the Flash on the Beach developers conference, which is taking place in Brighton, UK this week, Adobe’s senior director of engineering, Paul Betlem, gave the game away.

In response to an audience question during a panel session, Betlam said that the company was working on getting Flash onto the iPhone. Although he also acknowledged once again, that the Apple device is a closed platform and Apple holds all the cards.

Essentially, this means Adobe is still in much the same position it has always been in. It may well have developed a Flash player for the iPhone, but unless Apple gives it the green light, it’s not going anywhere, as the App Store is the only (official) channel to market.

The absence of Flash on the iPhone has been criticised as one of the device’s main failings. The vast majority of video available on the internet is encoded in Flash, and although Apple struck a deal with YouTube to get the popular video sharing site onto the iPhone, users have still been locked out of a boatload of content.

YouTube itself uses Flash, and in order to get onto the iPhone, it had to re-encode all its videos in an iPhone friendly format.

The constraints of Apple’s SDK licence for the iPhone have caused a number of big name companies to come unstuck besides Adobe. Notable are Sun and SAP, which pledged to bring Java and SAP respectively to the iPhone, only to find it would have broken Apple’s licensing conditions, which don’t allow for the level of integration these applications need.

The whole brouhaha over Flash was kicked off earlier this year at the Apple shareholders meeting, when Apple frontman Steve Jobs reportedly said that Flash was “too slow to be useful” on the iPhone and Flash Lite was “not capable of being used with the web”. Flash Lite is the version of the video player that ships with many mobile phones such as the Nokia N series.

Ironically, the Californian gadget maker caught flak from the UK’s advertising watchdog during the summer, after its TV adverts claimed that ‘all’ of the internet is accessible from the iPhone.

In its ads, Apple says “all the parts of the internet are on the iPhone,” but consumers complained that the claim is misleading because the device does not support Flash or Java, which are required to access many web sites.


One comment

  1. SS 02/10/2008 @ 2:29 pm

    I think everyone understands that the lack of Flash on the iPhone is a protectionist stance, as Apple have a ‘vested interest’ in QuickTime. I know of the core video technology in Flash (8+) video, and it’s not the commercially and technical-committee bloated MPEG-4 based codec that is both processor and memory hungry, but a cpu/memory/battery/dollar efficient technology that the iPhone is more than capable of running.

    Apple is demonstrating the classic behaviour of a vendor that doesn’t understand that to give a little in one area (support Flash & Java) is to gain a lot overall (a happy and larger customer base).

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