Adobe on June 1 revealed an application for viewing digital magazines, seemingly the next stage in a multicompany battle over the ebooks and digital media market. In a bit of competitive irony, the technology was used to build Wired magazine’s June iPad edition-despite Apple’s refusal to support Adobe’s Flash, which is used to display many popular Websites’ rich content but which Apple CEO Steve Jobs has condemned as slow and buggy.
The application aims to imbue digital magazines with rich content, including video and 360-degree images, as well as a heightened degree of interactivity; with Wired’s iPad edition, users can navigate through content via tough gestures, rotate the page into horizontal or vertical modes, and zoom out to see the entire issue at a glance.
According to Adobe, the initiative is only in its beginning stages.
“We aim to make our digital viewer software available to all publishers soon and plan to deliver versions that work across multiple hardware platforms,” David Burkett, vice president and general manager of Creative Solutions at Adobe, wrote in a June 1 statement. “It’s safe to say that if you are already working in InDesign CS5, you’ll be well on your way to producing a beautiful digital version of your publication.”
Despite Flash driving rich content for much of the Web, Adobe has nonetheless found itself in something of a tooth-and-nail battle against Apple over the past few months. Apple prohibits Flash from its popular mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad.
“Flash has not performed well on mobile devices,” Jobs wrote in an April letter titled “Thoughts on Flash” and posted to Apple’s corporate Website. “We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it.”
In response, Adobe launched a substantial public relations effort, sending executives to talk over the matter with tech publications and even responding with some online missives of its own. In February, those executives told eWEEK that Flash would remain ubiquitous to the Web, and that the porting of Adobe Flash Player 10.1 onto Android and other smartphone operating systems would ensure the brand’s relevancy as the tech world focuses increasingly on mobile.
Adobe also offered eWEEK a beta version of Flash Player 10.1, loaded onto a Nexus One smartphone running the prerelease version of Android 2.2, dubbed “Froyo.” In testing, Flash Player 10.1 beta seemed to offer robust battery life and smooth streaming video and animations, but at the cost of long load times for some Websites.
The Apple iPad has sold some 2 million units in its first two months of release, officially making it a short-term success. However, some content providers have begun pushing back against Apple, with larger conglomerates such as Time Warner and NBC Universal refusing to reformat their media libraries into an Adobe Flash-free format.
According to a May 27 article in the New York Post, one media executive indicated that the upcoming Google TV, which ports Internet video content onto a user’s television, could weaken Apple’s position as a high-tech media portal.
Other media companies, including Disney (where Jobs sits on the board) and CNN, have been more willing to build content in an HTML format supported by the iPad.