Adobe developed iPhone tool without Apple's help

Adobe Systems said it developed its tools that allow Flash developers to create native iPhone applications without help from Apple, but it hopes the iPhone maker will be glad of its efforts.

Adobe announced on Monday that the next version of Flash Professional, due in beta later this year, will allow developers to export their Flash code in a format that allows it to run on the iPhone as a native application. Adobe is keen to offer Flash Player for the iPhone but says it needs more cooperation from Apple to do so. The solution it announced this week is a workaround.

It’s not the Flash Player for the iPhone that many are hoping for, and the applications won’t be able to browse the Web in the way that programs running in Flash Player can. But it does mean that Flash developers won’t have to rewrite their applications from scratch for the iPhone, which should expand the pool of applications for Apple’s device.

“We believe these apps are good for Apple and good for the iPhone,” Adrian Ludwig, a product marketing manager with Adobe’s Flash Platform group, told reporters on Monday. “We have no reason to believe that Apple won’t love this.”

The fact that Adobe doesn’t know the answer to that question already suggests there is some tension between the companies, and that a Flash Player for the iPhone will probably not be appearing imminently.

Asked if Adobe worked with Apple to create the new tools, Ludwig said they are “entirely based on technologies that any other developer would have access to.”

The tension was also apparent during Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch’s keynote at the start of Adobe Max, where he gently mocked the iPhone for not running Flash by comparing it to an old, rotary-dial telephone.

The company is still hopeful it will get a Flash Player on the device eventually, however. Adobe and Apple are close partners in other areas of their business, particularly with creative tools for designers. Observers have speculated that Apple is concerned that Flash Player will offer less that optimal performance on its device.

Adobe submitted seven applications to the App Store that were built with a pre-release of Flash Professional, and all were accepted, Ludwig said. “They all got approved without modifications.”

Having a plug-in API to Apple’s Safari browser isn’t the only thing Adobe needs to offer a Flash Player for the iPhone, he said. Apple also restricts programs that execute code at runtime, he said, and Adobe needs help optimizing Flash Player for Apple’s hardware, as device makers such as Nokia have provided.

In fact Adobe has worked hard to get its software running well on other devices. It announced Monday that it will release beta versions of Flash Player for Windows Mobile and Palm webOS before the end of the year, and for Google Android and Symbian next year.

“One of the biggest challenges was smartphone memory,” Lynch said during his keynote speech Monday, when he demonstrated a pre-release of Flash Player 10.1 running on several smartphones.

Adobe did some work in Flash Player 10.1 to reduce the amount of memory required for applications. Adobe’s Flex photo album will require 25MB of RAM, down from 69MB with the prior version of the player, while a typical Yahoo ad will require 4MB, down from 13MB, according to a slide he showed.

“As you build your content, keep an eye on how big your RAM is, it will make it easier for us to do our job,” Lynch told developers.

The demonstrations didn’t always go smoothly, either because of the wireless network in the Nokia Theater or because the software still needs work. When Lynch tried to show some roll-over content pop up on a device, it didn’t work, and the screen froze while he showed Google Finance running on another device.

But he was able to show how Flash Player 10.1 should provide a similar experience on phones as on the desktop, including running HD video, using touch-screen controls to switch to full-screen mode, and using the accelerometer to switch a video to landscape mode when a phone is turned sideways.

One of the big benefits for users of Flash Player on phones will be the ability to run video sites such as Hulu. Flash Player 10.1 will be able to run 3.5 hours of video on a typical smartphone battery, or 6.5 hours of animation, Lynch said. “Now you can watch a full feature film on a smartphone,” he said.

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