Adobe's announcement that it would enable applications developed in Flash to also run on Apple's iPhone may lead to a flood of new applications for the popular handset.
But it also came with a frank warning that the iPhone's days in the sun may be numbered.
As reported yesterday, Adobe has been unable to persuade Apple to allow Flash applications to run natively on its handset or in the Safari browser. This is despite Adobe signing agreements with both Research in Motion (Blackberry) and Google (Android) to bring Flash to their smart phone operating systems.
Speaking at Adobe's annual user conference in Los Angeles, chief technology officer Kevin Lynch warned that Apple's tactics may see it lose its strong position in smart phones.
Lynch said the current situation is reminiscent of the early days of personal computing, with many companies bringing innovative devices to market.
"That means ... market segmentation is going to be changing," Lynch says. "And like the early days of personal computing, people who are playing better with others, integrating with others, and participating in that ecosystem effectively are the ones who over time are going to get the larger share."
Lynch says that while Apple was the first company to bring the mouse to mainstream computing, it was not the eventual market leader.
"Windows came along and managed to actually get a lot more share, largely by working with others in the ecosystems," he says. "And I see some very similar dynamics playing out now. You've got a lot of the same factors, a lot of the same people involved, and we're seeing a similar story."
Lynch said he remains hopeful that Adobe will also get Flash to run in the Safari browser on the iPhone. "But it really will require Apple working with us to enable that," he said. "We've gone as far as we can on that particular device."
Local agencies welcome Adobe announcement
The promise of being able to convert Flash applications in Adobe's ActionScript 3.0 scripting language to run as native iPhone applications is nonetheless opening new possibilities for web development agencies such as Melbourne-based IE.
IE chief executive Rhys Hayes said he would no longer need to hire expensive C developers to create iPhone applications. Previously IE had completed iPhone application design and outsourced the development work.
"We can actually start to build iPhone apps in house, so it opens up the platform for us," Hayes said.
Hayne expects the new capability will lead to a flood of new iPhone applications from Flash developers.
"Every one of us agencies will be going out and rapid-fire deploying brand-based apps, that Apple has to filter, approve and push out," Hayes says. "And all of a sudden their app store is full of another 30,000 apps for every brand and campaign under the sun."
Developers such as IE will have to wait until at least December until they can get their hands on the beta software required for compiling Flash applications for the iPhone.
Questions have also been raised about the performance of Flash applications on the iPhone, with the seven prototype applications currently in the iStore being derided by some developers as slow and unresponsive.