Flash on iPhone hopes dashed

CEO confirms that Apple and Adobe are collaborating on the technical challenge, but Flash capabilities won't be coming to the iPhone anytime soon

Adobe has confirmed that Flash capabilities won't be coming to the iPhone anytime soon. Company CEO Shantanu Narayen recently discussed the difficulties in bringing Adobe's most well distributed product to the iPhone. "It's a hard technical challenge, and that's part of the reason Apple and Adobe are collaborating," Narayen told Bloomberg Television at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "The ball is in our court. The onus is on us to deliver."

Flash is one of the most common programs found on computers across the globe. For the Web, Flash is most commonly used to play videos on Web sites like YouTube and Hulu, and is the force behind those annoying dancing ads found on many Web pages. Despite its popularity, however, Flash has been conspicuously absent from the iPhone.

[ Follow the rocky and continuing struggle to get Flash on the iPhone: "Apple in no rush for iPhone Flash, says analyst," "Adobe backtracks on Flash for iPhone," and "No Java, Flash on iPhone for Christmas" | Get the latest on mobile developments with InfoWorld's Mobile Report newsletter. ]

Apple CEO Steve Jobs created a mini-controversy in March of last year, when, during a conference call with reporters, he said Flash was not good enough for the iPhone. Jobs dismissed regular Flash as too slow for the iPhone, and Flash Lite -- Adobe's version for mobile phones -- as not "advanced enough" for the Jesus Phone. There has also been some speculation that the biggest barrier to Flash is that it technically violates the iPhone's Terms of Service.

Nevertheless, a few weeks after Jobs publicly dissed Flash, Apple released its iPhone Software Development Kit, and Narayen said that a path was now cleared for Adobe to develop Flash for the iPhone.

Since then it's been a guessing game as to when Flash will be iPhone ready. While many mobile devices may get along fine with Flash Lite, the iPhone was the first smartphone to claim it could display the actual Internet and not a dumbed down, mobile version. Problem is that since so many Web sites use Flash for video, the iPhone has not been able to truly deliver the complete Internet experience. Developers have worked around this problem by developing dedicated applications that can deliver video to the iPhone, but that forces iPhone users to be selective about which video services they want to access through their device.

Recently, Adobe announced that other mobile platforms such as Google's Android and Windows Mobile are about to be Flash capable -- these phones will also run the Java Virtual Machine by Sun Microsystems, another program absent on the iPhone. That fact may not necessarily drive customers away from Apple in the short term, but if other smartphones can claim they truly deliver the complete Internet experience then the iPhone may have some serious competition on its hands.

Adobe and Apple are now working together to bring Flash to the iPhone, according to Narayen. However, it seems inconceivable to me that almost a year later the public is still waiting for such a commonplace program to be released. That begs the question, is this really a technical issue or is Flash for the iPhone held back by boardroom wrangling?

PC World is an InfoWorld affiliate.

This story, "Flash on iPhone hopes dashed" was originally published by PCWorld.

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