Adobe Systems announced today that its Flash Player 10.1 software for mobile devices is now being released to its platform partners. The plugin-based technology, which allows for a range of interactive elements including video, games and even advertising, is already available for Google Android phones running the latest operating system revision, code-named "Froyo," but technically known as Android version 2.2. This OS now runs on Google's Nexus One and is expected to arrive on other Android phones like the Motorola Droid, Motorola Milestone, HTC Evo, HTC Incredible, HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S.
Adobe has also now shipped Flash Player 10.1 for mobile to its device partners who will then prep the software for launch on Blackberry (RIM), webOS (Palm), Windows Phone 7, LiMo, MeeGo and Symbian smartphones.
The one notable exception to this list is, of course, Apple's iPhone.
To Flash or Not to Flash?
For some Android users, the promised ability to run Flash on their mobile phones was just as big a selling point in their purchasing decision as the lack of Flash on Apple's iPhone was to others, or so they claim.
The debate about the technology and its place in the mobile ecosystem has been publicly aired, dirty-laundry style, with a long-form memo posted by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who said the Adobe technology "falls short" in a mobile era that's all about "low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards." Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen then shot back via an interview with the Wall St. Journal calling Jobs' missive at times "patently false," and "a smokescreen," and then concluded that the Apple CEO and himself simply have very different world views. "Our view of the world is multi-platform," he explained.
With today's "multi-platform" shipment of Flash for mobile, it appears that view is close to being realized.
But will consumers really want Flash, once it arrives?
Flash for Mobile: Not a CPU Hog, Says Adobe
Adobe claims they will. The company says this new version of the Flash Player has been completely redesigned for mobile use, making "efficient use of CPU and battery performance," a direct shot against one of Jobs' complaints that Flash was, in layman's terms, a CPU hog that too quickly drained a phone's battery.
To showcase what mobile users have been missing out on, Adobe has also launched a mini-site at m.flash.com, which features dozens of sites optimized for Flash, including those from Warner, Sony Pictures, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids, TBS, Sundance, USA Today, BBC, Macy's, Prada, FAO Schwartz, MLB, NBA, NHL, Sky Sports, Formula 1, FIFA World Cup and others.
Then, in what feels almost like press release overkill, the company sent out details of the announcement to news outlets such as this one with no less than 32 attributable quotes from a range of analysts, content partners and technology and device partners. There are no small names on this lineup, which includes the likes of HTC, Google, RIM, ARM, Samsung, Dell, Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, Brightcove, HBO, Viacom, Turner, MSNBC, CNET and several others.
The message, or at least the one Adobe wants you to hear, is that many if not most of today's biggest names support Flash.
Flash to Impact Sales?
Despite not running Flash technology when it was well known that Flash support was arriving soon for Android and others, Apple's mobile device lineup has been selling well. And that's putting it mildly. According to recent data from the Nielsen Company, the iPhone retains a 28% smartphone market share in the U.S. to Android's 9%, and is still growing.
And recently, a Piper Jaffray analyst upped his estimate for iPhone 4 sales by 1 million units, pegging the Cupertino-based company to now sell 9.5 million units before the quarter's end on June 30th.
The message here, in the numbers at least, is that a phone's ability to support Flash may or may not really matter when it comes to OS choice. Picking a smartphone is a more complex decision, one based on carrier contracts, design, available applications, ease of use and thousands of other user requirements. Will "does it run Flash?" ever make it on the list that exists in the consumer's mind? And even if it does, will it matter in the end? Will Flash sell phones?
Now that Flash has arrived for Android and soon elsewhere, we'll finally be able to answer that question. And the answer will impact Adobe's mobile strategy for years to come. Today is truly a make-it-or-break-it moment for the company. They've put up. Time to see if Flash will deliver.