Last night Adobe announced Flash Player 10.1, which will support a lot of devices including Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android and WebOS (you can find more details in the official press release).
Sounds cool except of course … there is no iPhone there?
I am wondering why that is and what is Apple’s strategy? Everywhere I go people ask me, When will you guys be releasing Flash for iPhone? Why are you not releasing Flash for iPhone? And I don’t know what to tell you, but from what it seems Adobe is going for every smart phone out there. I mean there has been only fingerpointing so far: Apple saying Flash is not good enough, Adobe saying it is and now is delivering it for every other smart-phone.
Now I am wondering what Apple’s strategy is about that. I mean currently let’s face it: iPhone is by far the only significant smart phone out there with a design that was really innovative not only from the hardware point of view. The whole iPhone business ecosystem was way far ahead anything any competitor had put up forward.
But once Apple “got it right” now the spell is broken. Now, the entire industry not only knows what customers want, they are pressured to deliver it fast if they want to still be in this business 5-10 years from now. I think the whole game will change now into a long slog, a down in the trenches fight between Apple and the other big phone hardware manufacturers and telecom operators. Why do I think it will be a long slog? Well Apple did a big blow in the phone market with iPhone but I don’t think they will get 30% of the smart phones market very soon. And even if they get it I doubt that Apple will get 80% of the mobile phone market. And I don’t think they want it. Apple’s strategy is to get the most profitable 10-20% segment of the market, after that the profitability drops and it doesn’t look that nice.
Now back to the trenches. By leaving Flash out of the iPhone, Apple is keeping iPhone out of Flash and it’s betting on its own API to deliver applications and RIAs (I doubt they will adopt Silverlight ). With Flash and Silverlight pushing hard for all other smart-phones (which by the way are getting cooler and cooler) I expect that pretty soon they will get to be quite popular. So if Apple insists on using its own API, it will make application development for their platform expensive. If you have the coolest phone put out there, this makes perfect sense. But if the other phone manufacturers get their act together they will soon bridge that gap. With Flash, and soon AIR, support they will be able to reuse development skills and even running code to get people to make applications for their platforms. By making development more expensive on iPone than for the other platforms, Apple will position iPhone as a niche product. This clearly is not a mainstream strategy and playing the niche market with iPhone is a tricky strategy. And with Flash Player 10.1 on all the other phones, it kinda makes iPhone look a little strange because you can’t play video on it.
I wonder what Apple’s move or statement will be especially now that you will be able to compile Flash applications to get them run as native apps on the iPhone.