Adobe’s flash forward

Oct 05, 2009

Jessi Hempel was a senior writer for Fortune between 2007 and 2014.

Company wants to make its Flash technology available everywhere -- and that means penetrating mobile devices.

Flash is finally coming to your smartphone—and so is Adobe (adbe). With today's launch of the newest version its software, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, the San Jose-based company is making an aggressive push to get its product onto any gadget that allows for web browsing--Blackberry devices, netbooks, increasingly even TVs.

Crucially, Adobe has signed on a number of key launch partners for the product including Google (google) and Research in Motion (rimm). By the first half of next year, consumers can expect Flash on nearly every smartphone operating system including Google’s Android, Nokia’s (nok) webOS and Microsoft’s (msft) Windows Mobile.

This is great for developers, who have long had to use different software to make their applications work on different devices. And it’s even better for consumers, for whom web browsing will get faster and more consistent regardless of the device.<!-- more -->

Flash is the graphics-rich software responsible for many of our most alluring web experiences. Three-quarters of online videos are delivered in Flash. Nearly as many of the web games we play are created using it. And it’s also responsible for some of the best graphics online. One tech analyst who enjoys the Washington Redskins is constantly annoyed that he can’t read Washington Post coverage of the team on his ‘berry because parts of the paper's online version, washingtonpost.com, are delivered in Flash.

Until now, Adobe has offered separate products for the personal computers and mobiles. Developers had to rely on Adobe Lite, a dumbed down version that didn’t allow for the rich experience of the web.

The new version of Flash has been in the works since Adobe launched its Open Screen Project in May 2008. Started with 25 partners, the project now has more than 50 that include everyone from chipmakers like Qualcomm (qcom) to content providers like MTV networks.

With this move, Adobe hopes to transform Flash from a simple developer’s tool to a platform in and of itself. “Instead of writing for tv or phone or computer, developers can write in Flash across multiple screens and locations,” says Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with market research firm Interpret.

But just because an application will run on any device doesn’t mean it will be optimized for every device. There is still much work to be done before developers can truly create and deliver one application for any platform. And there is one Flash holdout, a company that has managed to deliver great video experiences and superb graphics on its phones so far without Adobe’s help: Apple. (aapl)

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