Adobe Flash has been a punching bag for Apple CEO Steve Jobs lately, but Microsoft wants Flash to run in Internet Explorer on Windows Phone 7 smartphones.
Although there's no time frame for when this will happen, the two companies are "working closely" on the effort, according to Mike Chambers, product manager for developer relations for the Flash Platform at Adobe. "Adobe and Microsoft are working together to bring Flash Player 10.1 to Internet Explorer Mobile on Windows Phone 7 Series," Chambers said in a Tuesday blog post.
Chambers didn't say anything about Flash being used for native application development in Windows Phone 7, and that's because Microsoft plans to use Silverlight for this purpose. This will enable Microsoft to get developers working on Windows Phone 7 apps using familiar tools, and supporting Flash in IE Mobile will maintain a bridge to other types of content and allow Microsoft to talk about its commitment to interoperability.
For Microsoft, which is looking up at the rest of the smartphone industry, it's a move that could yield dividends in the form of increased market share.
"It seems like a smart strategy for Microsoft," said Dave Meeker, director of emerging media and co-director of Roundarch Labs, a Chicago-based Web development firm. "Consumers don't care if it's Flash, HTML5, or Silverlight. They want a good experience -- bottom line," he said.
Microsoft wants consumers to get excited about Windows Phone 7 devices, and adding more functionality would help. But Windows Mobile is in the midst of a freefall, as its share of the smartphone market fell from 19.7 percent in October to 15.7 percent in January, while Android grew from 2.8 percent to 7.1 percent during the period, according to comScore figures released Wednesday.
If Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's last chance to right the ship, it needs to ensure that devices offer a top notch user experience, says Meeker. "A lot of folks have counted Microsoft out of the mobile space, but they have a much better shot at gaining market share and moving smartphones out to consumers if the device is flexible and open," he said.
Apple, of course, doesn't support Flash on the iPhone or the iPad, and Jobs has been taking shots at Flash in recent months, reportedly deriding it as a "CPU hog" that's full of security holes. But Microsoft has set beefy minimum hardware specifications for Windows Phone 7 OEMs, which suggests that Flash may be able to run smoothly on these devices, Meeker said.
Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up, but by empowering developers and removing roadblocks to users that want to consume Flash content on mobile devices, Microsoft is making a shrewd move that could help it reach its goal of luring consumers away from the popular smartphone platforms du jour.