Adobe Delivers Flash Player 10.1 But Most People Can’t Use It

Adobe today released Flash Player 10.1 for mobile, just barely meeting prior expectations for a mid-year delivery. The final version of the software, previously available in several beta releases, runs on Google Android 2.2 — aka Froyo — devices, which is currently limited to a small subset of Google Nexus One handsets. Adobe says that other platforms — BlackBerry, webOS, future versions of Windows Phone, LiMo, MeeGo and Symbian OS — are expected to support Flash in the future.

The key word in Adobe’s press release today being “expected,” which appears three times. Platforms other than Android are expected to¬†integrate¬†and work with Flash Player. All of the latest Android handsets are expected to see Froyo, which is required for Flash Player 10.1. The production version of Flash is expected to be available as a final production release for Froyo devices. Translation: Adobe hasn’t delivered anything to most handsets today and the fate of Flash Player is increasingly out of Adobe’s hands.

Adobe has clearly moved forward its mobile version of Flash over the past several years, but it faces a time crunch. Just as Flash Player 10.1 is beginning to slowly find its way on mobile devices, content creators have started to hedge against a Flash-less future by encoding videos for HTML 5 playback support. Indeed, while Flash is used for far more than viewing video, that’s long been a main reason end users have craved support for it on mobiles.

But Apple has forsaken Flash on the new iPad — a device primarily geared for content consumption — in favor of HTML 5, yet still sold 2 million units of the tablet in the first two months. And 600,000 pre-ordered Flash-less iPhone 4s will make their way into their new owners’ hands any day now.

I have Froyo on my Google Nexus One, so I’ve had a beta of Flash Player on my handset for several weeks. (Note that I don’t yet see the final version of the software in the Android Market.) I can view or interact with Flash-based charts and I’ve watched the occasional Flash video as well. My handset heats up a bit for those videos and I haven’t used the software enough to determine the full impact on battery, but this is beta software, so it’s unfair to be too critical of the product. The final release promises high-performance features, per today’s announcement:

Flash Player 10.1 delivers new interaction methods with support for mobile-specific input models. Support for accelerometer allows users to view Flash content in landscape and portrait mode. With Smart Zooming, users can scale content to full screen mode delivering immersive application-like experiences from a Web page. Performance optimization work with virtually all major mobile silicon and platform vendors makes efficient use of CPU and battery performance.

Unfortunately, promises and expectations are all that most smartphone device owners have seen so far. It’s all well and good to manage expectations, but the best way to do so is to deliver tangible results. The longer Adobe takes to get Flash on mobile devices, the more convinced content creators will be to give up on the platform.

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