Adobe announced the export capability from Adobe Flash Professional CS5 to built native iPhone apps. This is the next round in the battle for market shares in the field of mobile application platforms.
Adobe tried to position Flash with their shrinked down Flash Light as a global OS independent application development platform for mobile devices. Today more than 800 million mobile devices are Flash Light enabled. It looked like they found the philosopher’s stone – but when you dig deeper, Adobe is facing a lot of issues:

  • Those more than 800 million mobile devices have different screen sizes, different buttons or keyboards and some even have a touch screen. That does not help developers to create stunning GUIs on mobiles where every little pixel needs to be arranged.
  • Flash is very performance hungry. That’s why they had to shrink it down to Flash Light – but even flash light is struggling with performance issues on many of the 800 million devices.
  • Adobe does not provide a application store infrastructure for its developers … maybe one of the biggest issues of all

But on March 6, 2008 an other threat to Flash and Flash Light appeared: Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone SDK which provided a easy way to create third party applications for the iPhone with high mobile performance and the ability to take advantage of most of the sensors – like touchsceen, accelerometer, microphone, camera. And Apple solved one of the biggest hurdles for mobile application developers: They provided an easy application store solution for the developers to sell their apps or distribute them for free. And also the market for these native iPhone applications is quite attractive: There are more than 50 million iPhones and iPod touch devices out there – all of them having the exact same screen size, all of them having a touch sceen, all of them having an accelerometer. Apple attracted a lot of independent developers as well the big names in game industry with their mobile application ecosystem.
Bringing Flash support to the iPhone Safari web browser was blocked by Apple because of those big performance issues. Apple also did not license Flash Light for the iPhone – quite logic because they built up their own developer base and their own mobile app ecosystem.
The only chance Adobe had was to built up an “injection”-strategy and develop their Flash authoring tool into an Objective-C & Cocoa code generator which allows Flash developers to create native iPhone applications by the press of a button. Then the Flash developers can upload their app to the iTunes AppStore and use it as a selling and distribution channel.
This probably wasn’t an easy job and it will be quite interesting to watch Apple’s reaction on this move. It probably will have a massive effect on the AppStore as this will flood the store with new apps: More creativity and more junk.

Louis Gerbarge spotted the technical issues of the Adobe Flash to native iPhone code generation – and takes a look on the performance and private API issues of the beta version of the CS5 solution. His post makes clear that taking the Flash way won’t offer the Flash developers the features and beauty of the uncountable iPhone SDK 3.x APIs.

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