Flash not ready for the iPhone, but not hurting Apple

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When Apple introduced the iPhone, CEO Steve Jobs claimed the ability to surf the “real Internet” as one of its strongest features. However, one technology missing from the iPhone since day one is Flash. Although many users want Flash support, analysts don’t see the missing feature as harming Apple’s position.

“There is no question the iPhone delivers a compelling Web experience and there are good reasons to want Flash in there, but Flash Lite [Adobe’s scaled-down version for mobile devices] wouldn’t give you the Web experience you’re looking for,” said Avi Greengart, Research Director for market research firm Current Analysis.

Apparently Jobs agrees. During the annual shareholders meeting earlier this month he said the iPhone “needs something much better than the current Flash player that Adobe makes for cellphones. The Flash Player option that fits the bill is made for devices like laptops that are larger than the iPhone; as a consequence, it performs too slowly on the iPhone.”

In fact, Greengart points out that Flash Lite will work with some Web sites that use basic Flash, but it won’t work with YouTube or any other site that extensively uses the technology. Flash Lite will not load content that is made with the most recent incarnation of Flash, version 9, either.

Companies such as Vodafone and Nokia have used Flash Lite to build interfaces for their handsets, which the technology is well suited for.

However, not everyone agrees with Apple’s position of eschewing the technology altogether. Microsoft, just this morning, announced that it would support Flash Lite in addition to its Silverlight multimedia framework in its Windows Mobile operating system.

Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and LG are all shipping Flash-enabled devices, but it doesn’t appear Apple will join them anytime soon. But Adobe isn’t giving up — the company is looking to the recently released Software Development Kit (SDK) as a way of delivering the technology.

“We’d love to see Flash come to the iPhone,” said Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing for mobile and devices at Adobe. “Hopefully when we have the opportunity to review the SDK, and if it’s a vehicle to deliver a solution, we would look forward to working with Apple.”

In the meantime, Apple isn’t likely to be losing any customers because it doesn’t have Flash Lite implemented on the iPhone. According to Greengart, most consumers look at the touchscreen and don’t dig down into included technologies.

However, as long as Apple continues to bill the iPhone as having the “real Internet” people are likely to complain about the lack of Flash support.

“What people are upset about is that the iPhone makes promises to be the full Internet and that includes Flash — the iPhone does not deliver that today,” said Greengart.

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