September 11, 2010

Following a trend of relaxing restrictions in its app acceptance policy, Apple on Thursday announced that it would no longer ban iPhone applications written in other languages from its app store subject to certain provisions (which would exclude Adobe AIR). While Apple made a strong case as to the risks that third-party development tools made to the platform, I argued that, for many Flash developers, the choice was probably between using Flash or no app, as opposed to Flash versus Cocoa. And, of course, there’s nothing about Apple’s tools that prevent developers from making a bad app. The now more-transparent review process can be the point of quality control in either case.

In any case, it’s a win for Flash, and that means a win for Adobe, right? In its response to the announcement, Adobe reminds that Apple still does not allow Flash to run natively on iOS devices. No, the allowing of apps with the Flash cross-compiler is ultimately not the native Flash home run Adobe really wants. But, had Adobe kept in there, swinging away and pledging to continue to work with Apple to address the issues Apple has with Flash and the cross-compiler (regardless of the realism of that prospect), it would have a better story to tell now. It could have shared some level of responsibility in helping to convince Apple of the cross-compiler’s value (Adobe is, after all, an iOS developer), which opens up the the three (installed) bases of iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad to Flash developers.

But that’s not what Adobe did. In April, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch blogged that Adobe was moving forward from iOS. And in August, frustrated by the impasse, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen noted in reference to Apple, “They’ve made their choice. We’ve made ours and we’ve moved on.” Adobe was too eager to close the door when, clearly in hindsight, it had a chance to be reopened. Apple has cracked the door open to Flash developers a few months after Adobe decided it wouldn’t even drive them to the party.

Now, of course, Adobe is resuming work on the Flash cross-compiler for iOS. But can you imagine if Microsoft was so quick to shrug its shoulders when trying to advance its platform? “Sorry, guys. Mobile’s been a tough nut for us to crack. Android seems to be getting pretty popular now, though, so maybe you should consider casting your lot with that.”

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July 17, 2010

image The most significant and enduring product I ever reviewed for MacWEEK in the early to mid-Ô90s was the first version of Adobe Acrobat (sorry, Samir and Dave). It was far from my favorite, though. (That would probably be Attain’s In Control, succeeded very well by today’s OmniOutliner. Other favorites included the still-kicking QuicKeys and its once fellow CE Software property Arrange, first offered by Common Knowledge.) At the time, there were a number of products vying to become the lingua franca for document exchange and I actually preferred a competitor called Common Ground, which was eventually buried by Hummingbird, now part of Open Text.

At launch, Acrobat lacked the ability to embed fonts whereas Common Ground could create a 300 dpi bitmap of a document. That of course was unacceptable for pro use, but I liked the concept for consumers. What’s more, the Mac version of Common Ground could generate a Windows executable with the document embedded. That was a pretty slick trick in the day, but one that would be unworkable today with all the fear regarding virus and malware.

Nowadays, the competition among formats has been replaced somewhat with the competition for readers and editors for PDF. I’ve been using Foxit Reader on machines where Acrobat Reader is either too slow or has been buggy (and yes, Acrobat Reader has gotten better.) There’s a promising new entrant, though, and that’s Nitro PDF Reader. Like the Foxit reader, Nitro’s reader is available only under Windows, but it looks and feels more like a modern Windows program, taking full advantage of Aero conventions and blending right in visually with Office. For fellow Evernote users, Nitro Software signed up as a partner for Trunk, an in-app app store that will offer products that can flow all kinds of content into the multi-platform multimedia note repository.

Uniquely among free Windows PDF readers, Nitro’s PDF Reader includes a print driver to generate PDFs, something that is of course built into Mac OS X and is handled well under Windows by free products such as PrimoPDF and CutePDF Writer, but it’s nice to have the option of one-stop shopping. Alas, if you’d like to combine multiple PDFs into one document, though, you must step up to Nitro Software’s full, professional package. Still, if you’re a Windows user, it’s worth considering as your main PDF reader.

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March 17, 2008

Today Microsoft and Adobe announced that Flash Lite will be licensing Flash Lite and Reader LE for Windows Mobile devices. Flash Lite may not be able to accommodate everything that the desktop Flash player can do, but its inclusion should open up the door to more content viewable on Windows Mobile devices. Of course, Microsoft has its own competing standard for such content in Silverlight, but with its arrival on mobiles not slated for some time and with Silverlight still not able to read Flash content for some time, so I see it as more than a stopgap measure.

Adobe has seen a number of operators, such as Verizon Wireless here in the U.S., use Flash Lite as a platform for user interfaces. Enabling Windows Mobile to include such functionality should make that operating system a more viable contender for mainstream handsets.

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March 5, 2008

Over at News.com, Coop joins the reaction to Apple’s “slam” of Flash, throwing in the Adobe reaction that both Flash and Flash Lite have been very successful, thanks so much. I’ve often marveled at how responsive Mac OS X feels on the iPhone. This was a thread that Jeff Atwood referred to in the post about Vista’s perceived performance. Jobs says simply that desktop Flash is too heavy for the iPhone, and that Flash Lite isn’t up to desktop performance. Essentially, he’s asking Apple Adobe to do the same thing Apple has done, which is to optimize desktop software for a mobile platform.

If you are an iPhone user, you have to read between the lines here because Jobs is essentially saying that Apple wants Flash on the iPhone (which is good news considering the scenarios I laid out as to why Apple might not) but just can’t accommodate it. That’s an engineering problem Adobe is motivated to solve given as iPhone sales grow and consumers do more mobile browsing on it.Adobe will get there. And let’s face it, few software companies have as long a history of supporting Apple technologies as Adobe.

We may not see it announced on the 6th, but Flash playback will come to the iPhone.

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