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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

March 19, 2008 at 10:54 AM

Adobe CEO ‘committed’ to Flash for iPhone; touts benefits over Microsoft Silverlight

Adobe CEO Narayen.

Two weeks after Apple CEO Steve Jobs made waves by saying Adobe’s widely used Flash multimedia technology wasn’t up to snuff for the iPhone, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said Tuesday his company is “committed” to developing a Flash Player for the device.

Narayen was asked about the issue during a conference call after his company reported first quarter profits that rose 52 percent and beat Wall Street’s expectations. (Third item here.)

A Wachovia Securities analyst asked, “How important is it to you to get greater Apple Flash support on its mobile devices?”

Narayen: “We really believe that Flash is synonymous with the Internet and frankly anybody who wants to browse the Web and experience the Web in all its glory really needs Flash support. We were very excited about the announcement from Windows Mobile adoption of Flash on their devices and the fact that we shipped half a billion devices now, non-PC devices. So, we are also committed to bringing the Flash experience to the iPhone and we’ll work with Apple. We have evaluated the SDK. We can now start to develop the Flash Player ourselves and we think it benefits our joint customers. So we want to work with Apple to bring that capability to the device.”

Microsoft has been ramping up its Flash competitor, Silverlight, with both Microsoft and Adobe trying to get their multimedia platforms distributed as broadly as possible. The iPhone is a hot property for these technologies, especially given the amount of video iPhone users view. Microsoft earlier this month did not rule out a play to get Silverlight on the iPhone, but there’s also no indication that’s in the works right now either.

(Update, 1 p.m.: I’m adding this comment from Glenn Fleishman, a Seattle-based Apple expert who regularly contributes to our coverage — see his piece today on the end of analog TV: “Apple’s SDK terms specifically prohibit interpreted languages, which means Java and Flash are out. Flash is essentially a program that executes other programs. Adobe can’t just develop Flash for the iPhone and release for that reason, unless Apple changes its mind. Apple won’t allow any software to be installed that they don’t approve of, either, and have built a software delivery method that lets them enforce that,” Fleishman noted.)

(Update, 2:10 p.m.: Tom Krazit at CNET expands on Fleishman’s point in this post, which includes a statement from Adobe clarifying Narayen’s comments. It reads, in part, “[T]o bring the full capabilities of Flash to the iPhone Web-browsing experience we do need to work with Apple beyond and above what is available through the SDK and the current license around it.”)

Narayen was also asked yesterday to comment on the key differences between Flash and Silverlight.

“With respect to Silverlight, it’s clear that Microsoft also views the same opportunity that we have been spearheading with respect to video on the web. Among the key differentiators for Adobe is first our Authoring suite. It’s clear that our Authoring suite, the video business for Creative, grew over 50 percent Creative Suite 3 over Creative Suite 2, so people are adopting our video products in order to output Flash video for the Web. The adoption of the Flash client, we have virtually 98 percent of all PCs that are connected with Flash. [Emphasis added.] The new high-definition Flash Player that we have delivered is also seeing just tremendous adoption. …

“And finally, the fact that we are now delivering a media player as well as the ability to have DRM; we are really the only company that provides an end-to-end solution that’s cross-platform. We have delivered Flash Lite to all of our mobile partners as well. So, that’s one key competitive differentiation.

“The other one that I would say is that our media partners have been using Adobe products for decades and creative people who are creating this content are very, very familiar with Adobe products which also I think enables us to be a differentiator. But none of those preclude us from continuing to innovate, which is what we are focused on.”

That last point is not lost on the people working on Silverlight and Expression Studio — Microsoft’s answer to Adobe’s Creative Suite — many of whom worked on those very Adobe products, or their predecessors, decades ago.

I talked with Eric Zocher, general manager of Microsoft Expression Studio at the company’s Mix conference for Web designers and developers earlier this month. He said Microsoft’s strategy for driving adoption of its design tools is is to focus first on customers already using Microsoft programming tools. Then he sees the product gaining traction with a broader audience of people developing for multiple environments.

“We’re starting to have an impact on those types of people,” Zocher said.

It will take more time to reach the entrenched Adobe/Macromedia users. Here’s how Zocher sees it unfolding:

“When we’re really established, when there’s a lot of books and training and there’s … more of a community around Silverlight, then we’ll actually get the people that are looking at a fresh new project and going, ‘Here’s what I want to do. What do I use to do that?’ The awareness will be there. The tools will be there [with] a reputation that we want them to have. And we’ll be the choice a lot of times. We’ll actually be converting people. We’ll be the first time they used Microsoft technology because they’ll pick Silverlight to do something.”

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