Adobe's iPhone Plans Hang on Jobs' Opinion of Flash

To put a Flash player on the iPhone, Adobe will need to work closely with Apple.

Is shoehorning a Flash player onto the iPhone such a big issue? Given the time spent on it by the CEOs of Adobe and Apple, it may be.

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, during a conference call with investors, that Adobe is "committed to bringing Flash to the iPhone," and, "We have evaluated [the iPhone SDK] and we think we can develop an iPhone Flash player ourselves."

Narayen continued, "The [iPhone SDK] will let Adobe build a Flash player for the iPhone." However, this seems not to be the case, precisely.

An official Adobe press release, sent to eWEEK, reiterated Narayen's initial statement, saying, "Adobe has evaluated the iPhone SDK and can now start to develop a way to bring Flash Player to the iPhone."

But the release continues: "However, to bring the full capabilities of Flash to the iPhone Web-browsing experience, we do need to work with Apple beyond and above what is available through the SDK and the current license around it."

In other words, with the release of the iPhone SDK, Adobe will be able to explore its options regarding building a Flash or Flash Lite client, but using the SDK will not be enough; Adobe will need to work with Apple, in ways other developers will not have to or will not be able to. (Both Flash and Flash Lite have been dismissed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs as not a good technical fit for the iPhone.)

"I believe that Adobe would have to come to some sort of special agreement with Apple to get Flash running on the phone," said Mark Onyschuk of Marketcircle, a developer of Mac OS X and possibly iPhone applications.

"The way that applications are installed on the phone, each application gets its own 'sandbox'-a piece of the file system all to its own and made inaccessible to other applications," Onyschuk said.

He continued, "So the standard procedure for installing plug-ins into an application like Safari doesn't work in the iPhone world. There's no common /Library/Plugins folder that's accessible to third-party applications.

"I think Apple's intention is to eliminate from the iPhone one very common source of system instability and insecurity-applications and their settings being accessible to each other. So plug-ins of any sort, be they Flash or Java, will likely only appear on the iPhone with special blessings from Apple and as part of a system software update."