Microsoft Jabs At Apple With Adobe Mobile Deal

Windows Flash

Under the agreement, OEMs that license Windows Mobile will be able to offer a Flash Lite 3.x browser plug-in for Internet Explorer Mobile on Windows Mobile, as well as Adobe Reader LE, the mobile version of its PDF viewer.

The deal could be interpreted as Microsoft's acknowledgement that Silverlight, often referred to as a 'Flash Killer,' isn't yet ready for mobile devices. But Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo Software, Richmond, Calif., sees the Microsoft-Adobe mobile tie-up as a simple business decision, and not an indication that Microsoft doesn't have confidence in Silverlight for mobile devices.

"This is an emerging market, and OEMS want to be able to provide the features that consumers want," said Stanfield. "Although Flash is entrenched on the desktop, the mobile space is still up for grabs."

At Apple's annual shareholders meeting earlier this month, CEO Steve Jobs criticized Adobe's Flash Lite and said it "is not capable of being used with the Web," comments that reportedly disappointed a significant number of Apple developers who've been waiting in earnest for Flash support on the iPhone.

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Sean Christmann, experience architect with Adobe partner EffectiveUI, a Denver-based rich Internet application design and development firm, sees Microsoft's support for Adobe technologies as a shot across Apple's bow.

"This could be a pretty big deal, because now Windows has a leg up on the iPhone in terms of being able to access rich media on the Web, whether it's in the form of video or rich Internet applications on the mobile device," said Christmann. "For example, the mapping technology that currently leverages Flash provides more rich interface features than a standard Ajax application."

Silverlight 1.0 for Windows Mobile, which is due in Q2, will likely stand alongside Flash in the future as another way for users to access rich media content on mobile devices, and that diversity of options will likely present challenges for the iPhone, according to Stanfield.

"As more Websites support mobile versions of Silverlight and Flash, Apple could eventually find itself in a difficult spot with the iPhone," Stanfield said.

Like Flash, developers can use Silverlight to develop video, animation, vector graphics and rich user interfaces, and many Microsoft partners who've been working with Silverlight say its features are on par with those of Flash.

Silverlight also includes 720p high-definition video, digital rights management, and the ability to design deep, interactive user interfaces, all features that Microsoft sees as opportunities to take market share from Adobe.