Flash Coming to iPhone, Maybe… If Apple Says Okay

By Josh Catone

At the Flash on the Beach conference being held right now in Brighton, England, Adobe Senior Director of Engineering Paul Betlem reportedly told the audience that Adobe is working on a version of Flash player for the iPhone, and said that if Apple approves it, it will be available “in a very short time,” according to Flash Magazine. The Flash-for-iPhone rumor mill has been churning hard for the past eight months, but now it seems that Adobe is placing the ball in Apple’s court and essentially saying it’s up to them whether Flash on the iPhone ever becomes a reality.

In February, Flash was “just around the corner.” In March, though, it was “too slow” for Apple’s Steve Jobs, and Flash Lite was too limited. A couple of weeks later, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said that despite Apple’s reluctance, Adobe was pushing forward. “We believe Flash is synonymous with the Internet experience, and we are committed to bringing Flash to the iPhone. We have evaluated (the software developer tools) and we think we can develop an iPhone Flash player ourselves,” he said during a conference call. Then in June, Narayen again fanned the flames by saying during an earnings call that Adobe had a version of Flash for the iPhone working in emulation.

There’s no doubt that developers want Flash on the iPhone (and for that matter, Java). Flash is one of the key RIA technologies, with 99% adoption on Internet-enabled desktops, according to Adobe’s internal statistics. The Adobe numbers also supposedly include the rather cryptic “wide range of devices,” but since the iPhone accounts for greater than 10% of the smart phone market, and Apple projects that it will sell 10 million phones by the end of this year, Flash on the iPhone is clearly important for Adobe.

The real question is, if Flash is on its way, when will AIR come to the iPhone? We reported last week about two iPhone applications currently under development that would allow web developers to take their web applications “offline” on the iPhone and access iPhone native features — such as the GPS, camera, and accelerometer — using a JavaScript API. We’d love to see Adobe come up with versions of Flex and AIR for the iPhone, as well as Flash, that would allow web app developers to easily package up their web apps for the iPhone App Store. We’d also love to see Apple let that happen.

  • This sounds like great news!

    I know of a company that has been holding off on any iPhone development due to a lack of Flash, but if it does come along that will open up a whole new pathway.

    And, free iPhones for ‘testing’ purposes. :)

  • aj[fp]

    Very, very, very good news!!!

  • Maybe apple have a competing techology they are working on? Can’t figure any other reason for allowing their devices to look silly when they spit a ‘missing plugin’ icon where a Flash app should be.

  • Adam Cleaver

    This is great news for anyone wanting to deliver brand experiences on mobile phones – it’s just a shame we still don’t know when it will happen. The powerful combination of the iPhone interface with the rich interactivity of Flash is something agencies, marketers and consumers will find hard to resist. Interestingly, we can also envisage a potential cost saving for clients as pre-existing Flash content is repurposed for mobile.

    At present, it looks like there is only talk about the Flash plug-in on the Safari web browser. As such, Flash widgets per se are not really on the cards yet. Native iPhone widgets/applications in Flash are still a good while away, but we wait with anticipation for the opportunity to use this new technology.


  • Breton

    Maybe apple have a competing techology they are working on? Can’t figure any other reason for allowing their devices to look silly when they spit a ‘missing plugin’ icon where a Flash app should be.

    Of course they have a competing technology! it’s called safari, and they’ve been loading it full of all the features that typically differentiate a “flash-based” site from standard html. We’ve now got css animations, transformations, masks, gradients, 9-slice buttons and borders, hardware accelleration, Canvas, both as an img tag and as CSS backgrounds, font embedding, really nice font rendering, super fast javascript with squirrelfish extreme, which now jits javascript to native code. audio tag, video tag, svg. The only thing that flash can do that safari can’t (natively), id flash 10’s 3D apis, but it’s only a matter of time. Flash 10 doesn’t have any penetration yet, so apple has plenty of time to catch up with that one last feature.

    Wait a second you say, there’s no authoring environment? Oh? then what’s dashcode then? Truth is, technologically speaking, the iphone doesn’t need flash to do interesting things like IE6 does. And I have a feeling that apple is going to favor its own hard work on all these technologies over Adobe’s. It’s just about getting mindshare at this point, and the iPhone is the key to that, so honestly, why would they let flash onto the iPhone? It duplicates functionality that already exists in the native app, and we know how apple feels about that.

  • David

    I agree with the statement above from Breton. Apple does not want to make Flash for the IPhone. It makes no sense. The current wave of development being designed for IPhone’s is in Objective C and C++. This maximizes the efficiency of the applications. I can see Apple moving towards a proprietary version of a “Flash” like plug-in that is more compatible with the existing hardware on the IPhone. The 2D API on the IPhone is considerably more extensive then Flash and when harnessed properly it will out perform flash in every aspect. My vote is to keep Flash off the IPhone and start building applications that maximize the hardware on board.

  • ZenPsycho

    Hi it’s me- breton from above. You seem to have missed my point. Apple doesn’t need to make a plugin. Any features they want in the browser, they will just add to safari itself, not to a plugin.

Get the latest in Front-end, once a week, for free.