Google Backs Adobe Flash Support for Android

Apple and Google both fervently believe the future of Web content development lies in the emerging HTML 5 standard, but while Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) sees Adobe's popular Flash software as a dead end and refuses to allow it on the iPhone, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is making it clear that it readily embraces Adobe's software.

"Google is happy to be partnering with Adobe to bring the full Web, great applications, and developer choice to the Android platform. Our engineering teams have been working closely to bring both AIR and Flash Player to Google's mobile operating system and devices," said Andy Rubin, vice president of engineering at Google, in a recent blog post at Adobe's site. "The Android platform is enjoying great adoption, and we expect our work with Adobe will help that growth continue."

The latest slap to Adobe's face from its long-time ally came earlier this month in an update to the developer guidelines for the next version of the iPhone operating system, due out this June.

Essentially the new software development kit (SDK) states developers can only use a limited range of tools for iPhone application development, and that excludes a number of tools including not only Flash but a workaround Adobe had developed to addressed Apple's concern.

"We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5. However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature," said Mike Chambers, product manager for developer relations for Adobe's Flash Platform, in a blog post.

"To be clear, during the entire development cycle of Flash CS5, the feature complied with Apple's licensing terms. However, as developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at anytime, and for seemingly any reason," said Chambers.

Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) was an early supporter of the Macintosh and the two companies teamed to help launch the so-called desktop publishing revolution in the 1980s. Other key Adobe applications, including Illustrator and Photoshop, were released first on the Mac.

Apple did not return a request for comment.

Analyst Jack Gold said Google's decision to support Adobe is both practical and savvy. "It's in their best interest to support Flash as a mobile browsing platform because it runs on such a significant portion of the Web. The other side of it is that supporting Flash is a poke in the eye at Apple," Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com.

Smartphones based on the Android software are considered the leading threat to Apple's wildly popular iPhone. Gold said it's possible Apple's restrictive policies could result in a suit by the European Union which forced Microsoft to open its Windows platform to competition. "I could see the EU getting involved, especially if the iPhone starts to sell in numbers that make it a major player over there," said Gold.

Meanwhile, Chambers detailed Adobe's plans to support Android and said Adobe's work on the iPhone was worthwhile regardless of Apple's decision not to support it:

"We proved that:

1) There is no technical reason that Flash can't run on the iPhone.

2) Developers can create well performing and compelling content for the device with Flash."

Chambers also said the development team working on the iPhone support implemented features (including hardware acceleration and Ahead of Time compilation) that Adobe can leverage for other devices and platforms. Examples of developer support for Adobe's Flash and Air are already starting to appear.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Google, Android, mobile, iPhone, Adobe Flash