SAN FRANCISCOOne of the universal criticisms levied against smart phones like Apple Inc.'s vaunted iPhone and the G-1 from T-Mobilethe first device based on Google Inc.'s open Android platformhas been their lack of support for Adobe Flash. At least part of the reason for this is the degree of difficulty involved.
"It's hard to do Flash on a constrained mobile device," said Rich Miner, co-founder of startup Android (now part of Google). Miner noted that Adobe has marketed its Flash Lite runtime environment for mobile devices, but said it is difficult for web sites to tell which of the two the device accessing the site is using. "These platforms [handsets] are starting to have enough performance and memory that I think the time is right to start addressing Flash in mobile."
On Monday (Nov. 17), Adobe Systems Inc. and ARM Holdings plc are expected to announce a partnership to optimize Adobe's Flash Player 10 for mobile phones, televisions, automotive platforms and mobile computing devices based on the ARM platform. The technology optimization is targeted for the ARMv6 and ARMv7architectures used in the ARM11 and Cortex-A processor families and is expected to be available in phones in the first half of 2009, according to the two companies.
In addition to Flash Player 10 for the ARM architecture, the companies say they will work to optimize Adobe's AIR cross-platform runtime environment. The work also aims to develop industry-standard API support for graphics chips and hardware accelerators, and lower power consumption for mobile devices running Flash10 and AIR content. The companies said the agreement grew out of the Open Screen Project, an effort established in May to bring full-featured Internet experience to mobile devices and others.
Adobe Flash is used on tens of thousands of web sites to provide animation and interactivity. ARM technology powers most smartphones, mobile internet devices, set-top boxes, digital TVs, portable navigation and personal media devices.
Representatives from Adobe and ARM declined to discuss the specifics of the engineering effort involved in optimizing Flash Player 10 for ARM-based devices, or reveal the number of engineers involved in the work.
Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing for mobile and devices at Adobe, said getting the Flash player to work well on ARM-based platforms is challenging because mobile platforms in general offer substantially fewer resources than a typical desktop PC and deal with concerns over battery life and power consumption that desktop PCs do not. "Getting the same experience from a mobile that you get on a desktop is a major undertaking," Murarka said.
Kerry McGuire, ARM's director of strategic alliances for operating systems and browser technologies, said the optimization work should pay immediate dividends for developers. "On the software side, I think we will see unprecedented flourishing of applications in the mobile space," she said. On the hardware side, she added, ARM is will join with its hardware partnersincluding Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. and Nvidia Corp.to develop technology underneath the Flash player.
Murarka and McGuire did not comment directly on the implications of the joint development for specific smart phones like the iPhone, G-1, or forthcoming Android-based handsets. It has been previously reported elsewhere that Apple has shown resistance to working with Adobe to bring the Flash Player to the iPhone.
Murarka declined to comment directly on whether the Adobe-ARM work would have any bearing on future iPhone support for Flash. He pointed to a prepared statement that said Adobe is committed to bringing the Flash Player to the iPhone and that development work on this front has begun. The statement said Adobe cannot share details but the company said it does need to work with Apple beyond what is available through the iPhone software development kit.