How Will Google React to the Flash vs. Anti-Flash Smackdown?

by: Joel West

After being blocked by Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) new SDK policies, Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) seems to have officially abandoned efforts to bring Flash to the iPhone and iPad:

Developers should be prepared for Apple to remove existing content and applications (100+ on the store today) created with Flash CS5 from the iTunes store.

We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5. However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature.

In the rest of the post, Adobe emphasizes all the benefits to Adobe (but not Apple) of Flash portability:

Because this is Flash, it is rather trivial to port games created with Flash that target the iPhone to target other operating systems, such as Android. … There have already been a couple of developers who have moved their Flash based content from the iPhone to Flash on Android (couple of examples below) and I expect that this is a trend we will be seeing more and more of.

This comes the same day that Apple stock hit a new record price — and analysts boosted price targets — after quarterly profits rose 90% due (in large part) to a 131% jump iPhone sales. (The iPad hit after March 27.)

iPhone sales in the next quarter (its fiscal year Q3) may be a little soft due to the pre-announced iPhone 4. But otherwise, the rest of the year should bring additional growth and record sales for the iPhone platform — both 3.5" and 9.7" size — of users happy to buy Apple’s latest product without Flash. There is a small opportunity for Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) on the iPhone with its limited version of Silverlight.

Apple seems to be OK with open data format standards (such as the H.264 used by YouTube and Microsoft) but not proprietary middleware APIs (either by Adobe or Microsoft). The popularity of the iPhone and now iPad makes it unlikely that website owners will be willing to ignore this major market, thus encouraging them to find alternate solutions (as YouTube did) for getting their Flash content before users.

What to me is the most interesting will be Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) reaction. On the one hand, they want to promote Android over the iPhone at every opportunity. On the other hand, both legal (i.e. antitrust law) and market (customer demand) forces limit how much they can punish Apple or reward tying of their mobile platform to their search empire. There is also the issue that Google has no horse in the Flash vs. anti-Flash smackdown.

So will Google promulgate additional Flash-dependent content? Or will it continue to find work-arounds (as with YouTube) for those without Flash?