Adobe Mobile Flash Blitz Includes iPhone Support

Adobe Systems' popular Flash platform will soon run on every major mobile device including Apple's iPhone.

The company made the surprise announcement of its iPhone support today at the end of a 90-minute opening session kicking off its annual Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles, where it launched a version of its Flash Player with a common runtime for both desktop and mobile device platforms.

A forthcoming public beta for developers of its new Flash Player 10.1 will support Microsoft's Windows Mobile, Palm webOS and early next year on Google Android and Nokia's Symbian OS.Also, Adobe and Research in Motion have agreed to co-develop a version of Flash that will run on the Blackberry. "Getting Flash on all these mobile platforms is quite a coup," said IDC analyst Al Hilwa, in an interview.

The iPhone support will be more limited than the cross-platform compatibility with the other mobile platforms announced today. Adobe's Flash Platform tooling will not let iPhone users run Flash-based content within a Web browser. Instead developers using Adobe's Flash Professional CS5 will be able to port their apps to run on the iPhone platform to run natively. 

"Within Flash Pro, I [will] have the ability to compile to the ARM processor within the iPhone," said John Loiacono, senior VP of Adobe's Creative Solutions business during the keynote presentation, attended by 4,000 designers and developers and streamed online.

"It's sort of a shim approach to be able to cross-compile native applications," IDC's Hilwa said. "If you are a developer, you can build something for the iPhone by leveraging the code you have for Flash- or Flex-based applications but that's not the same as browsing sites and being able to run that automatically."

Hilwa believes Apple will ultimately support a Web-based version of Flash for the iPhone. "I get a sense that once all those devices begin supporting Flash and everybody's behind it, it's going to be very hard for Apple not doing it," he said.

The new Flash Player 10.1 represents a key upgrade of Adobe's near ubiquitous rich Internet application runtime that includes support for HTTP streaming of video across the Flash platform.

In addition to the Flash runtime, which is nearly ubiquitous on desktop systems, Adobe is looking to give its AIR desktop runtime more appeal. The company previewed AIR 2 and said a beta will be released later this year. Adobe said 200 million have downloaded AIR to date.

The new AIR 2.0 release will add support for peer-to-peer and UDP networking and support for mass storage devices via access to the APIs of USB devices. That will enable a user to plug in say a USB-based camcorder and upload video into an application. Like Flash, Adobe's next goal is to get AIR running across both mobile and desktop devices.

"Our mission ahead with AIR is to support standalone applications for mobile so you will be able to build an app once and have it work across a variety of devices and via many application stores," Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch said during the opening session.

Adobe officials said its Open Screen Project, which now includes 50 members, should facilitate that effort. The company credits its year-old OSP in helping develop the new Flash runtime for mobile devices, desktops and optimized performance on netbooks.

"We are opening all these devices with the Flash platform, continuing to expose new capabilities on Flash Player and AIR," Lynch said.

Looking to advance the Flash developer tooling, Adobe also released the second betas of its Flash Builder and Flash Catalyst IDEs. The company released the first betas back in June (see Adobe Revamps Flash Platform). Based on the Flex Framework, Flash Builder is Adobe's Eclipse-based IDE for developing RIAs that run in Adobe's Flash and AIR environments.

Flash Builder 4 is intended to offer drag-and-drop editing, support for data-centric applications by allowing for the binding of components and grids and a more conducive tooling environment for handling workflows between developers and designers. That is enabled by Flash Catalyst, Adobe's forthcoming platform designed to let designers build user interfaces without coding.

"We made a number of improvements to the IDE to help developers better understand the component models, how to use them and what they can do," said Dave Gruber, a group product manager in Adobe's Platform Business unit, in an interview. "We' also made important refinements for the new data centric capabilities which included the data services browser where you can intersect different services in the back end, and then be able to drag, drop and bind those services directly to visual components on the surface."

The new Catalyst beta offers new feature sets designed to let developers implement video within projects. Gruber said the new beta also sports a refined user interface and an improvement in performance. "It's a much more stable release," he said.

Also today, Adobe launched LiveCycle ES2, a framework for building customized RIA interfaces to business applications and the release of ColdFusion 9, along with the beta release of a new ColdFusion Builder client and a private beta of a cloud-based version of ColdFusion Builder.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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