Flash Headed to Mobile Devices Say Manufacturers

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It’s all about Adobe's Flash today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. As Adobe shows off its latest version of the multimedia add-on Flash 10 in Spain, the company’s PR team has released a flood of information to coincide with the event.

Here’s what’s going on:

Flash 10

Adobe plans to put the latest iteration of Flash on every screen it can find including smartphones. The main vehicle for this is Adobe’s Open Screen Project. The project is a community development project aimed at using its Flash and AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) technologies to create a consistent application interface across all devices -- whether they are smartphones, PCs or set-top boxes.

Adobe and Palm have announced that Flash will ship on the Pre at the end of 2009. That’s big news for the Palm Pre, touted as the latest “iPhone killer;” then again there’s still a question of whether or not Apple will try to sue Palm over the Pre. Palm has also joined Adobe’s Open Screen Project as it tries to get Flash on its new operating systems just in time for MSW.

The first smartphone systems expected to ship with Flash 10 for the smartphone include Windows Mobile, Android, Nokia S60/Symbian and Palm’s webOS.

Flash Lite Distribution

To make it easier and faster to get Flash Lite on mobile devices, Adobe today announced the Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 Distributable Player. Basically, developers can bundle Flash Lite with their program. So instead of grabbing Flash from Adobe’s site and then coming back to the third-party site for the actual program you want, new Flash-enabled programs will install Flash on your device automatically.

Flash Lite is more popular than ever according to Strategy Analytics Inc. The market researcher says Adobe will have put Flash Lite on one billion phones by the end of March 2009. That’s one year ahead of Adobe’s own target, and shows just how popular Flash is. Nevertheless, Flash is still not as popular as J2ME, Sun Microsystems Inc’s version of Java for mobile phones.

Open Sc reen Project Fund

Nokia and Adobe have created a $10 million fund to help promising developers create applications using Adobe Flash and AIR that will run on Nokia units as well as other devices including mobile and desktop devices. To participate, developers submit their idea the Open Screen Project. The concept is then reviewed for its creativity, innovation, how well it capitalizes on Nokia devices and Adobe’s Flash platform.

Mobile Reader SDK

Remember all that talk of the iPhone as an e-reader recently? Well, Adobe wants a piece of that pie too. The company hopes the Adobe Reader SDK will gain wide acceptance and make it easier for device makers to display PDF files and eBooks. Sony already uses the technology in its Reader Digital Book, but the eReader market seems to be dominated by Amazon’s Kindle at the moment. Will this SDK change that? If the price of the Kindle doesn’t drop it just might.

So where does this leave you

As it stands right now, Flash is the preferred method to deliver video and other animations on the web. It’s also gaining popularity as a basis for applications both inside and outside of the web browser, and this has only grown since the introduction of Adobe Air last year. For video players there are competitors out there like Microsoft’s Silverlight or the open source Ogg. For applications and mobile devices there’s Java from Sun Microsystems. However, Adobe seems to be gaining on its competitors, and shows no sign of slowing.

…and the iPhone?

Flash on the iPhone is still the big question for Apple watchers. While it’s widely believed that Flash will eventually come to the iPhone, nobody seems to know when that will be. Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously dissed Flash last year, and since then there’s been growing speculation about what’s going on behind the scenes. Is Flash stalled for business or technical reasons? Every pundit has a different theory (including me), but sufficed to say it’s something of a joke that such a nuts-and-bolts program for the web isn’t yet functional on the iPhone. Will the addition of Flash on the Palm Pre spur Apple to get Flash on the iPhone or will the folks at 1 Infinite Loop keep advocating alternatives? Only time will tell.

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