Adobe Blinks First in Flash Battle with Apple

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Includes: AAPL, ADBE
by: Joel West

On Monday, Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) announced Flash 10.1 (not Flash Lite) will be available in beta for Windows Mobile and webOS in 2009, and Android, BlackBerry and Symbian in 2010. Adding support for the Research in Motion (RIMM) platform to the previously announced list leaves only one smartphone conspicuously absent.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been conspicuously rejecting Flash for a variety of reasons, both implicitly and by explicit Steve Jobs pronouncements. It uses its terms of service to ban such technologies. PC World argues that Apple is fighting Flash to protect its App Store business model against encroachments by direct Flash downloads.

In the Apple vs. Adobe battle of wills, Adobe seems to have blinked first: also on Monday, Adobe announced it is making a Flash to iPhone App translator, so that individual applications can be translated one at a time. This solves the iPhone performance issue but does not provide Flash-infested websites for iPhone/iPod Touch owners.

I once predicted that Apple could say no to Flash as long as RIM stood with it; by this time next year, iPhone users will stand alone. Will Apple announce Flash for the iPhone by then? If it’s a performance issue, eventually Apple will say yes. I think the odds are 1:3 that the iPhone still won’t have Flash on its 5th anniversary.