Adobe recently announced the ‘Open Screen‘ initiative which further opens up the SWF format along with the FLV / F4V video specifications along with . The Open Screen FAQ explains the core deal:
- Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
- Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
- Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast? protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
- Removing licensing fees ? making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free
The FAQ also explains why Adobe is opening up these specifications:
Publication of an unrestricted SWF file format has long been requested by the Adobe Flash developer community. The longstanding publication of the SWF specification has fostered a vibrant ecosystem of companies and developers who create experiences with Adobe Flash technology and by removing the SWF licensing restrictions we are allowing that growing ecosystem to use the file format for any purpose, including the ability to playback SWF content
Additionally, Adobe intends to make Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free, starting with the next major releases for devices, along with publishing the device porting layer APIs. As a result of these moves, OEMs, software developers, and content owners will be able to deliver content and applications built with Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR technologies without concerns about device restrictions. By removing the licensing cost and restrictions, as well as opening up the protocols and porting layer, Adobe is making it easier for developers and partners to deliver more engaging experiences to more of their customers, and ensuring that audiences can engage with content no matter what device or medium they use.
So, with that background detail out of the way I’ll get onto my main question:
Will Apple get involved in the Open Screen project and provide support for Flash, or at least Flash video, on the iPhone / iPod Touch?
Steve Jobs was recently asked about Flash support on the iPhone by saying ?there?s this missing product in the middle?. What he was referring to is that you’ve got the full Flash Player which is very processor intensive and best suited for desktop PCs and laptops and then you’ve got the streamlined Flash Lite intended for mobile devices. Steve Jobs’ opinion is that the full version is too intense for the iPhone whilst Flash Lite lacks a lot of important functionality.
Could Apple provide at least some form of Flash support on the iPhone / iPod Touch by getting involved in Adobe’s Open Screen initiative and implementing only the parts they wish to have for Flash playback but all within the confines of the Quicktime framework itself I can see how this could fit in on regular Mac OSX as well as on the iPhone / iPod Touch too. I think it presents a really interesting possibility.
I have another reservation about Apple’s willingness to support Flash though, perhaps it’s not in Apple’s interest to further the spread of Adobe’s Flash platform? Apple certainly don’t intend to allow companies to develop runtime environments of their own for use on the iPhone / iPod Touch as the terms of the iPhone SDK specifically state:
"No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple?s Published APIs and builtin interpreter(s)…"
So, that certainly seems to close the door for Java, Flash, Silverlight, etc, etc. Despite this possible reason I still think it is possible that Apple could provide native support for Flash video playback, at the very least, on the iPhone / iPod Touch.