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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.

28 Responses to “ARM-Optimized Flash: Adobe Serious About iPhone”

  1. What I have noticed from most of the comments is that the pointless raging anti-flash fellows presume that flash would be apart of the firmware when it could be an optional choice via the Appstore. In my opinion Apple should quit whining about flash and gradually stop their greed for money and complete control. Flash in general would be a great feature to the iPhone for many reasons.

  2. Too bad Apple will NEVER make or approve any flash software. Think about what would happen to their App Store games. No one would buy because they could play 1000’s of games for free like on Why pay anything when you can get it free?? Sure people do navigation and video (and sometimes entire sites) in Flash, but Apple doesn’t care… they can make a mobile site that will work with all devices.

    It is the same things as with the Stereo Bluetooth. Why would Apple activate that if they don’t make any stereo bluetooth devices? It is ALL about Apple and not a single bit about the consumer…

  3. Boris Cano

    I really would love to see flash on the iphone, I google it atleast once a week to check on the progress. I get frustrated because I’m an avid sports fan and flash is needed to run things MLBtv and NBA all access. Also, every time I go the my favorite teams’ websites something there always has to deal with flash so that I am not able to view it (websites like and for example). I say apple makes it an option of wether you want it or not on your iphone so that the people on here that don’t can also get what they want, I’m not very knowledgeable on this subject but correct me if I’m wrong on a seemingly very diplomatic solution?

  4. As a Flash develloper I miss the lack od Flash support on the iPhone, especially on my iPhone. But as a develloper in other programing languages, and a wise guy I can understand that Apple doesn’t want Flash to enter the iPhone as an “auxiliary” OS. Let’s face it, we entered a couple of years ago in the OS war, not only on mobile devices. Everyone knows that Flash and AS3 could act as an OS on any device.
    To take an automotive comparaison, would chevy allow Lexus sell hybrid enabled electric motors to chevy owners? Chevy owners would soon ask GM to sell them cars without engines in order to by Lexus hybrid combos…

  5. Flash should have never encapsulated video content when there were already open standards (except for promoting themselves). The only time lack of flash ever is a real problem on the iPhone, is when some webmaster insists on the home page of a site being some bloated flash interface monstrosity.

    Unfortunately, the embedded video play worked, and kept Flash going for exactly the wrong reasons.

  6. @Caret:

    No, a much better analogy is Ford refusing to sell its cars to a taxi business operated by Chevy. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it better captures the anti-competitive nature of Apple’s maneuvering.

  7. The tubes are buzzing with this “controversy”. One locked-down company refusing to use the proprietary technology of another locked-down company on its own proprietary product? Hmmm…

    Maybe a good analogy would be Ford refusing to put a Chevy transmission in one of their cars. The whole thing is about controlling the future of a product and also controlling the future of parts and tools. It’s not about the merits or deficiencies of said transmission.

    Meanwhile some little kids only see their selfish little desires. Yelling I want it, I want it, I want it, is neither useful nor likely to solve the major issues, which clearly are not technological in nature.

  8. I guess I’m missing the point, but flash in the browser seems to come in three flavors:

    1) YouTube video
    2) Games
    3) Ads

    #1 Can be done in H.264 without a browser plug=in.The iPhone already does that. There’s no reason for a video site not to have an AVC version.

    #2 Are flash based games needed when there are App Store games? Remember when everyone wanted an SDK because they didn’t _want_ browser games?

    #3 I want no part of ads on my pages. Why add a flash plug in, just so you can add an AdBlockFlash plugin to disable it?

    I hear a lot of “You must have Flash” retoric, and a lot of bashing of folks who don’t see the need like #8 Jason’s comments. What I don’t see a lot of is reasons for what flash brings to the table that can’t be done another way.

  9. I wonder if an online petition from the people would help encourage Steve Jobs to put aside his ego and listen to what the people want for a change. The internet is broken on the iphone and touch until it gets flash. Hopefully with the google phone getting flash it will provide incentive for flash to finally come to the iphone.

  10. “I also wouldn’t miss Flash. Now that animation/transitions can be done in Javascript (through a few different techniques), there isn’t really any point…”

    Obviously this kid downloads jQuery and suddenly thinks he’s some sort of JS-jedi who can do anything with javascript. These are the kids who talk about the capabilities of flash as if it were restricted to only showing pictures or or making the navbars that only a rook would make in flash anyway! And they’ll tell you – “I know all about flash, I use flash all the time”…they mean in the CS interface

    Kid, go read a book and ACTUALLY learn a programming language.


  11. I also wouldn’t miss Flash. Now that animation/transitions can be done in Javascript (through a few different techniques), there isn’t really any point. And H.264 can pull the slack in video.

    Just a moment ago, I had to wait a minute and a half for the Star Trek movie site (built on Flash) to load, only to get a link to the Apple trailer site for the trailer I wanted to see. Kind of a waste.

  12. I agree with Galley, but I’d also say that it’s going to require more than Apple simply approving a “Flash Player” application on the App Store. For the kind of integration Adobe needs for it to be viable, Apple would have to modify Mobile Safari so that it could either A: support inline plugins, or B: have the ability to launch another iPhone application to handle inline content (like Flash). Neither one of those seems likely to happen. Mobile Safari barely runs on the iPhone as it is (it is clearly CPU-limited), and running another app on top of it seems unlikely to work. On the other hand, Apple can’t build Mobile Safari to support plugins and justify not supporting plugins other than Flash.

    In the end, this is all immaterial. Flash runs an ActionScript interpreter and that’s expressly forbidden by the SDK agreement.

    Personally, the only time I miss Flash is when I visit a link with Flash video. So far as I’m concerned, Flash video needs to die. Give me real video files in a standard format like H.264 any day.