ARM-Optimized Flash: Adobe Serious About iPhone

The ongoing back-and-forth between Apple and Adobe over Flash on the iPhone is well-documented. First it was, then wasn’t, then was, then probably wasn’t again a possibility. If we take Apple CEO Steve Jobs at his word, then the problem lies with Flash being too heavy and Flash Lite being too insubstantial. And as it stands, Flash appears to violate the existing terms of the SDK, an area where Apple seems unwilling to be flexible.

The latest move in this complicated chess game is by Adobe, and it’s not a direct retort. Instead, MacNN reports the multimedia powerhouse is announcing today that they will be rolling out an ARM-optimized version of Flash 10 in 2009, while not mentioning any specific phones by name. Of course, iPhone followers will know that the current processor for Apple’s cellular device is the Samsung ARM 1176, meaning that it would benefit from Adobe’s proposed optimization.

Flash Lite, which until now has largely stood in for Flash on handheld platforms, doesn’t pack anywhere near the punch of its full-fledged sibling, which is itself sluggish on the iPhone. The proposed new ARM-optimized Flash would use OpenGL ES 2.0-capable hardware and newer, faster processors to allow complex apps and advanced video to come to portable devices, without sacrificing speed and usability. The move could also see the introduction of Adobe AIR applications on smartphones, which would be a first.

While it is positioned as a move which encompasses a wide range of devices, the optimizations described fit the iPhone’s current hardware capabilities perfectly, and seem tailored to Jobs’ comments regarding Flash’s suitability for implementation on the device. Adobe seems not only willing to make concessions, but to eliminate any possible excuse Apple may have not to use the updated software. Combined with the decision to offer AIR and Flash to developers without royalty, which will definitely increase adoption, the optimized version will be hard for Cupertino to pass up. Or, if they do, they’ll have an even harder time explaining why to consumers.

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