Apple vs. Flash: The InfoWorld peace plan

Wars like the conflict between Apple and Adobe over Flash seldom yield a productive outcome. InfoWorld proposes a way forward

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Adobe has based its Flex Builder development environment on Eclipse Foundation code and has Flash development plug-ins for Zend and other Eclipse frameworks. However, if it truly wants its Flash technology to be ubiquitous, it should go all the way and embrace the standards and open source approaches to promulgating its technology.

3. Create an iPhone-certified SWF exporter for Creative Suite. The new Creative Suite 5 released this month offers two tools for creating Flash content for mobile devices: a Flash-to-iPhone export option for app creation in Flash Pro CS5, and a SWF export capability for animations and interactive content in InDesign CS5. Apple moved quickly to ban the first one by changing the iPhone SDK rules to disallow use of any APIs other than those it approved and to forbid the use of translation tools to access those APIs -- the code has to be native Apple Xcode. The second is barred de facto by the ban on Flash content on the iPhone.

The InDesign SWF exporter is limited to files that have common actions, such as "go to page," "play video," "display animation," "loop video," and "open PDF." All of these are canned routines, not code that individual developers write. Apple could easily work with Adobe to examine the resulting code and certify it for the iPhone OS -- essentially, implementing an App Store-style review for security, stability, and the like. Once certified, the SWF exporter would add a signature to the file that the iPhone OS would use to validate they are approved. There would be a corresponding SWF Player plug-in developed by Adobe and certified by Apple. This could be done fairly quickly, so InDesign CS5 users could get an update that certifies their SWF files for iPhones.

The next step is for Adobe and Apple to work together on gesture UIs for SWF interactive content, so InDesign-based SWF creators can use mobile-oriented interface elements. That would be great for iPhone users -- and it would give Apple another way to promote the UI goals that Jobs continually cites. (We'll leave it up to Apple and Adobe to decide whether that capability would be available for non-iPhone devices and, if so, whether any money changes hands.) This effort probably would take a year or more, and thus not be available until Creative Suite 6's likely 2012 release.

4. Explore a Flash app certification process. There's no way in the foreseeable future that Apple is going to open up the iPhone OS so that anyone can create apps for it, as is the case on other mobile devices -- there will be an app approval process. Adobe needs to accept that fact and cease its end run around Apple, which is what it did with its Flash-to-iPhone exporter in Flash Pro CS5.

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