Microsoft, Adobe Bringing Flash Support to Windows Phone 7 Series

Microsoft and Adobe are working to port Flash Player 10.1 to Internet Explorer Mobile on the Windows Phone 7 Series, according to an Adobe executive, which would allow devices running Microsoft's upcoming smartphone operating system to play rich content on a variety of Websites. Reports from February had suggested that Flash would not be supported on the first generation of Windows Phone 7 Series devices. Microsoft's hardware partners, including Hewlett-Packard, have been emphasizing their Adobe Flash support as a differentiator between their mobile products and those produced by Apple, such as the iPad and iPhone.

Microsoft and Adobe are apparently working together to ensure that Windows Phone 7 Series supports Flash Player 10.1, according to a blog posting by an Adobe executive. Enabling that support could possibly counter February reports that the first generation of Microsoft's new smartphone operating system would lack Flash, which activates rich content on a variety of popular Websites.

"One thing I wanted to clarify as it may have been lost in some of the other news is that Adobe and Microsoft are working together to bring Flash Player 10.1 to Internet Explorer Mobile on the Windows Phone 7 Series," Mike Chambers, Adobe's principal product manager for developer relations for the Flash platform, wrote in a March 9 posting on his personal blog. "I don't have an ETA or other specifics right now, but it is something that both Adobe and Microsoft are working closely together on."

That statement echoes a Feb. 15 e-mail to eWEEK from an Adobe spokesperson, which read, "While the newest version of Windows Phone won't support Flash at initial availability, both companies are working to include a browser plug-in for the full Flash player in future versions of Windows Phone. More details will be shared at Microsoft MIX next month."

During the Windows Phone 7 Series rollout at a Feb. 15 press conference in Barcelona, Microsoft executives indicated that devices running the operating system would lack Flash support at the outset. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated during that conference that "we have no objection to Adobe Flash support," which could be interpreted as a dig against Apple CEO Steve Jobs and his reported refusal to allow Flash onto the iPad.

At a January "town hall" meeting at Apple headquarters, CEO Steve Jobs allegedly suggested that Flash was buggy and that HTML5 was the Internet's future for delivering rich content to Websites. That led to an immediate response from Adobe, with a member of the company's marketing team writing in a Jan. 27 corporate blog posting that, "Without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of Web content, including over 70 percent of games and 75 percent of video on the Web."

Apple's shunning of Flash for both the iPhone and iPad has opened the door, at least in some of its competitors' minds, to create a competitive differentiator. In a March 8 posting on Hewlett-Packard's Voodoo blog, Phil McKinney, HP's vice president and chief technology officer for the Personal Systems Group, wrote that, "A big bonus for [HP's upcoming tablet PC] is that, being based off Windows 7, it offers full Adobe support."

McKinney added: "With this slate product, you're getting a full Web browsing experience in the palm of your hand. No watered-down Internet, no sacrifices."

But whether the lack of Flash actually becomes a decisive factor in the battle between Apple and its competitors remains to be seen. Windows Phone 7 Series devices are scheduled to debut sometime near the end of 2010.