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iPhone Lone Holdout for Flash Capability

In an attempt to fill a big hole in many smartphones’ functionality sets, Adobe Software said Monday that it will soon release a developer beta for most major smartphone operating systems, including Windows Mobile, Palm webOS and Linux this year, and Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian early next year. Conspicuously absent from the list? The iPhone.

Flash-enabled mobile devices will hit in early 2010, none to soon for online video junkies. Flash is a major enablement technology for streaming video sites like Hulu.com, which until now have been inaccessible by mobile device other than via phones with Adobe’s wireless-focused Flash Lite support, which offers limited functionality.

The mobile-friendly initiative is a function of the new version of Adobe’s Flash Player software, version 10.1 of which was released on Monday. Flash to date has been difficult to implement on smartphones because it’s a processing-intensive technology that sucks battery power in an unsustainable way. The new version of the software is built to leverage graphical hardware acceleration to reduce the demands on the processor. It also allows Flash developers to write for smartphone features like virtual keyboards and accelerometers.

As for the iPhone, Adobe said that developers will be able to convert Flash applications into native iPhone applications using Adobe’s Flash Professional CS5 developer tool, for export to the App Store. But native Flash support for the iPhone is not something that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has embraced, saying it doesn’t work well with touchscreens and that it’s too “resource-intensive” to deliver a good iPhone experience. Apple has suggested developers turn to HTML5 to enable streaming video in lieu of Flash support.

Adobe’s CEO has admitted in the past that it’s a “challenge” to make Flash work well on the iPhone.

That said, some in the industry are questioning whether this anti-Flash sentiment is actually more of a function of the fact that network congestion is already a problem, without needing to add more streaming online video to the mix.


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