Adobe Flash Now for Android

Google has a new ally in its battle for smartphone dominance: Adobe.

The companies revealed Monday that Adobe has made its Flash technology compatible with the Android smartphone operating system developed by the Google-backed Open Handset Alliance. As a result, the enhancement may give devices like T-Mobile’s G1 smartphone and other Android-based phones access to a key feature that’s lacking from the industry’s darling, the Apple iPhone.

Andy Rubin, Google’s director of mobile platforms, and Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch announced the effort Monday at Adobe MAX, the company’s developer conference. The two presented a demo of Flash 10 running on a G1, which is manufactured by HTC.

The news comes as smartphones are in wide demand despite the economic downturn–a fact that has encouraged cutthroat competition among manufacturers, retailers and carriers, who, in particular, see the advanced devices as a way to attract new subscribers. That’s also sparked a feature war among vendors, with each developing devices incorporating flashy new enhancements like improvements in user interfaces, faster connections and greater flexibility in supporting downloadable applications.

Flash support in particular may prove to be a big draw, considering its prevalence online in enabling Web video and interactivity–key features that mobile users may be seeking.

A recent survey by mobile gaming and content firm Artificial Life found 46 percent of mobile device owners use devices for entertainment. The survey found that 87.5 percent of smartphone users access entertainment content, such as music, games and video, and that 33 percent use the phone for entertainment over any other purpose, including e-mail, GPS, and Internet browsing.

“With Android, Google has delivered a unique and terrific mobile platform offering developers the opportunity to create innovative applications and content,” Lynch said in a statement. “We are looking forward to seeing Android-based phones with Flash support in the market.”

Rubin said Flash is crucial to a rich Internet and content experience on mobile devices.

“We are thrilled that Google will be one of the first companies along with the Open Handset Alliance to bring Flash technology to the smartphone market,” he said in a release.

Apple iPhone users may be less thrilled, since they are still waiting for Flash despite the fact that Adobe’s said in early October it was nearly ready with an application.

“As we have stated before we are committed to developing a Flash Player for the iPhone,” said Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing for mobile and devices at Adobe.

The problem is that Apple has indicated that Flash is too resource-intensive to be a good fit for its smartphone.

A spokesperson from Apple declined to comment.

Along with Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices, Apple’s iPhone is one of the very few phones that doesn’t have Flash support. Those two aside, Flash is available mobile platforms including Symbian, Qualcomm BREW, Sony Ericsson, Windows Mobile and Linux. Adobe said Flash has shipped on more than 800 million mobile and is expected to be on more than 1 billion handsets by early next year.

Still, Adobe said Monday that Flash development for the iPhone is ongoing, but it declined to share further details.

“We need to work with Apple beyond what is available through the SDK, its emulation environment and the current license around it to bring the full capabilities of Flash to the iPhone,” said an Adobe spokesperson.

“We think Flash availability on the iPhone benefits the millions of joint Apple and Adobe customers, and we want to work with Apple to bring these capabilities to the device.”

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