Adobe’s recent “We love Apple” campaign will have caused more than a few raised eyebrows in Cupertino. But if that was a red rag to a bull, then the news that the software giant has teamed up with Google to stick Flash right at the front of Android 2.2, also known as FroYo, is a dead cert to cause Steve Jobs to turn apoplectic with rage.
The new version of Android is due to land on the Google Nexus One and Motorola Milestone imminently. That’s enough to get Apple worried with Android sales surging past the iPhone across the pond. But now Google has got Adobe on board to showcase Flash 10.1’s mobile skills the minute you install the updated OS.
When you fire up FroYo, you’ll get the chance to to check out a direct link to Adobe Mobile, where you’re presented with a list of sites that use Flash to their advantage. This includes the BBC, Warner Bros and Sony Pictures and is a direct riposte to Apple’s list of iPad-ready sites that give Flash the heave-ho.
So why should Apple care? Well clearly it already does. Steve Jobs’ now infamous “Thoughts on Flash” open letter has become one of 2010’s biggest tech stories. The man himself claimed that: “Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touchscreens using fingers.” But clearly Google doesn’t seem to think so. Flash has always been niggly on mobile devices, often slow and awkward. However, early reports suggest FroYo has worked around this problem, offering slick, judder-free playback.
That means not only that Adobe has a chance to claw back some respectability after its Jobsian teardown. It’s also now at the vanguard of what is fast becoming the go-to mobile OS for many of the world’s new smartphone adopters. Apple might hate on it in public, but behind the scenes it must be livid that Adobe has cosied up so close to what is now its biggest rival in the smartphone space.
There is the question, however, of whether Adobe is simply being used. Is Google doing this just to hit back in its rather bitter fight with Apple? And does it really believe that Flash can make its devices, many of which already best the iPhone, even better? It’s tempting to say this is the case, but Google is hardly likely to use software it doesn’t feel is up-to-scratch just to make Steve Jobs mad. If that happens to be a byproduct of this tie-up, then so be it.
We should have a clearer idea in a week or so of just how Adobe Flash works on Android. If it’s any bit as good as reports say, then the run up to the iPhone 4’s planned WWDC launch on June 7th will be dominated by Flash sticking it to Apple. Will Steve Jobs bite back when he delivers his keynote? Possibly. But if this works out, Android will continue its march to the very top of the smartphone mountain.