Launches of iPhone SDK and Adobe AIR Foreshadow Possible Strategy
Steve Jobs “just says no” to Flash on iPhone. Well, on first glance, that’s just what he says now, and we all know, like a good episode of Lost, there’s always more to unpack and nothing is what it seems. Considering Adobe’s product line, the so-called “missing middle Flash product” suitable for the iPhone doesn’t yet exist. The middle product refers to something between Flash Player for the desktop and Flash Lite for mobile devices. But, considering the pipeline, it’s only a matter of time before Adobe AIR Mobile hits iPhone and just about every other mobile device, smack dab in the middle of the entire mainstream interactive media ecosystem.1
Despite all the nay-saying, Adobe seems determined to get Flash on OS X Touch.
The brilliance of both Apple and Adobe waiting for Adobe AIR Mobile to launch is that it addresses all issues and pleases both parties politically:
- AIR Mobile is likely to be built upon AJAX, WebKit and Flash Player with the ActionScript 3.0 VM, as it is on the desktop, so it will be robust, efficient, modern and support both Apple’s and Adobe’s standards. It will please developers, designers, open standards proponents, lovers of proprietary goodness, and every other regular user who just wants everything to just work.
- AIR Mobile will solve the installation and distribution problem inherent in Flash Lite. Flash Player for the desktop has never been about standalone application installation. AIR on the desktop bridges this gap. It’s only a matter of time before Adobe sends AIR into the mobile device space and allows creators to put mobile app icons on standby screens with a few clicks. Just think Apple AppStore, or jailbreak AppTapp for Adobe Mobile AIR.
- AIR Mobile will bridge the fading distinction between web – desktop – mobile by allowing creators to write software in one environment (eg. Flex Builder) and distribute codebase to all three of these crucial platforms in a truly hybrid sense.
- It’s really no coincidence that Apple and Adobe are both investing heavily in products named “Air” — the notion of the data-cloud, cloud-sourcing, everyware, and webware is nascent. Narrow-minded jargon-lovers will call it Web 3.0, but intelligent folks will hopefully leave this lame version number moniker behind and use the appropriately visionary language espoused here.
Multi-touch API is the key
The central unresolved issue that remains is a multi-touch API. Any version of Flash for iPhone will need to have its intrinsic APIs updated for multi-touch and that will need to translate to a higher-level ActionScript object so that designers and developers can trap events related to multi-touch gestures. Without gestures like pinch, flick, zoom and others, it’s really pointless to put Flash on iPhone.
At the end of the day, talk about politics, performance and battery life are probably just the red-herrings that both Apple and Adobe need to work out the vexing issue of multi-touch APIs. In fact, it will probably take a few years before all platforms (Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android and iPhone) all reckon with multi-touch on all levels of hardware and software.
The alleged YouTube Mobile Safari plugin in OS X Touch 2.0 beta is probably all the beehive needs to chill out and give Apple and Adobe the breathing room they need to get multi-touch worked out, and deploy Mobile AIR on a dizzying and divergent array of devices, platforms and crotchety carriers.
- This is based only pure postulation and not informed by any confidential Adobe insight. [↩]