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Adobe lifts Flash and AIR development restrictions

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Cell phones and handsets are virgin territory that Adobe could not hope to seed on its own, as Microsoft and Sun begin to roll out their rival RIA and media technologies.

Adobe claims Flash is present on 98 per cent of desktops with an estimated one billion PCs worldwide, but it took 12 years and flying under the radar to get there. That compares to more than five billion mobile devices with Flash on 500 million of them. Adobe estimates it would be able to plant Flash on another 500 million devices this year under the existing set up, which would still represent just a dent in the mobile device market.

Adobe explained the big-name mobile support in terms of companies backing the "largest unified [media] environment on mobile phones" compared favorably against new or fragmented technologies, like Silverlight or JavaFX.

It is not clear what role mobile companies will play in preventing fragmentation and providing updates.

The alliance and changes are likely more important to Adobe as developers can now build Flash players without seeking Adobe's permission, and also view Flash-based and AIR content on mobile devices more easily. Mobile backing should help demonstrate to those building applications and content that Adobe has a future as OEMs and services providers - too - have committed to Flash and AIR on mobile.

Adobe's licensing had acted as a bottleneck, as you were allowed to read the specifications and able to build using SWF but prohibited from building software for SWF file playback. Or, as McAllister put it, you: "Couldn't build anything that looked or smelled like a Flash player - only Adobe could do it."

As of May 1, though, you can build your own Flash player and embed Flash into an application, which is particularly handy because it means you no longer need to rely on Flash running in the browser, with resulting performance and network availability issues.

The change also means open-source projects building Flash-like players, such as the Free Software Foundation's Gnash, can now read the latest specifications meaning they can be built quicker. They still can't call it Flash, though, as that's a trademark.

Clearly, Adobe has seen the spin-off benefits of projects like Moonlight - the open-source implementation of Silverlight for Linux - are having in terms of raising awareness of the "official" product, and getting its player onto platforms it lacked the resources to support.®

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