Browser Wars Get a Boost with Google-Adobe Partnership

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Google's partnership this week with Adobe Systems, which has the Flash Player being bundled with the Google Chrome browser, has the potential to take relatively vigorous competition in the browser market to an even more-heated level, an IDC analyst said in a bulletin this week.

Artwork: Chip Taylor
The Google-Adobe move has produced mixed reactions, with some questioning Google's commitment to Web standards like HTML5, since Flash Player is a proprietary plug-in for rich Internet applications. But IDC analyst Al Hilwa sees broader implications and calls the partnership a win for Adobe.

[ InfoWorld's Paul Krill reported on the possibility that HTML5 could kill Flash and Silverlight. | Fine-tune your network in two weeks -- for free! InfoWorld's Networking Boot Camp will help you double-check the fundamentals and show you how to optimize your infrastructure. The email classes start Monday, April 12, 2010. Sign up now! ]

"The consequences of this announcement may affect how PCs, smartphones, and a slew of next-generation content consumption devices like tablet computers evolve as platforms for applications," Hilwa said. "Browsers are not just gateways to the Internet, but they also present a platform for developing and deploying user applications."

Hilwa noted Flash's ubiquity, with 99 percent of all Internet users having downloaded it to their browsers. "The integration of Flash Player into one of the major browsers is a small win for users who may reap simplicity of operation and agility in getting up to speed to the Web," Hilwa said.

"At its most basic value, it avoids the extra step to download the Flash player when a new system is purchased, installed or a new browser is installed. While users can turn the plug-in off, by default Google will update this version of Flash Player through its automatic Chrome update processes thus ensuring that security holes in the browser and its plug-in are patched promptly and kept up-to-date," he said

The principle of a plug-in integration should make for a more secure environment, said Hilwa.

Google's accommodations for Flash show that the company is able to demonstrate a more pragmatic side, Hilwa said. Other browsers may follow suit to integrate with Flash, said Hilwa. Microsoft might be inclined to bundle its own Silverlight plug-in with the internet Explorer, Hilwa said.

He noted Adobe and Google also are participating in an effort to build a new plug-in API for browsers, an effort that Hilwa said could be stymied without broader industry support . This project will bring benefits in resource consumption, usability and user experience, Hilwa said.

"But to be truly useful for the industry, other browser vendors like Microsoft, Apple, and Opera must show willingness to implement it," said Hilwa.

Apple, meanwhile, is keeping Flash off iPhone and its new iPad device, arguing Flash consumes too much resources, Hilwa said.

"The Apple position is clearly a significant wrinkle in Adobe's strategy but it is also a problem for iPhone and

iPad users who are unable to view Flash Web content or run Flash Web applications on their devices," said Hilwa.

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