Microsoft Adds More Flash to Windows Mobile

Adobe and Microsoft strike a deal allowing Flash and PDF software to run on smartphones with Windows Mobile OSes.

Developers of applications for Microsoft Windows Mobile-based smartphones no longer have to wonder whether they'll be compelled to develop applications for Microsoft's Silverlight technology.

Microsoft and Adobe Systems Inc. announced a licensing deal last month that paves the way for Adobe's Flash Lite and Reader LE Portable Document Format (PDF) software to run on smartphones using the Windows Mobile operating system. Flash Lite is a rich Internet application (RIA) runtime specifically designed for mobile devices. Adobe Reader LE helps users read PDFs on small screens.

RIA Battle
In and of itself, such a licensing deal isn't big news, especially given Microsoft's long history of supporting Flash. But it comes as Microsoft just released its Silverlight 2.0 beta, which is its alternative to Flash -- by far the most ubiquitous RIA runtime. Adobe last month said Flash Lite shipments passed the half-billion mark.

The Flash Lite licensing agreement also comes as Microsoft has quietly brought on board a new distinguished engineer in its Mobile Communications Business Group: Len Kawell. A former protŽgŽ of Microsoft's Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, the two worked together at Iris Associates, which developed Lotus Notes in the late 1980s. Kawell was CEO of Pepper Computer Inc., ironically a supplier of mobile communications devices that are Linux-based. Kawell was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, Apple Inc. has not embraced Adobe's Flash Lite technology for its rapidly growing iPhone mobile platform. In fact, Apple CEO Steve Jobs rejected Flash Lite as inadequate for that task. The two companies are reportedly working behind the scenes -- Apple released a beta of its own iPhone SDK last month.

A New Partnership
Apple's intransigence with respect to Adobe has had unexpected repercussions within the broader RIA platform space, including bringing together Microsoft and Nokia Corp., according to Burton Group analyst Peter O'Kelly. "I wouldn't have seen that coming," he adds.

As reported last month, Nokia announced that Silverlight will be enabled on a number of Nokia's mobile systems.

In spite of Microsoft's continued support for Flash, Silverlight's .NET technologies may tip the scales in the overall Silverlight versus Flash competition, according to O'Kelly.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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