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Adobe claims Apple 'collaboration' on iPhone Flash

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Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen has spun yet another pirouette in his company's dance with Apple regarding the development of a Flash player for the iPhone.

"It’s a hard technical challenge," Narayen told Bloomberg last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "and that’s part of the reason Apple and Adobe are collaborating."

The "challenge" part isn't news, seeing as how Flash was developed for the desktop and not for the low-powered CPU and small memory footprint of a handheld device such as the iPhone.

But has this been the only reason for the delay of Flash on the 'Phone? After all, last June, Narayen told analysts who asked about progress on the project: "We are working on it. We have a version that’s working on the emulation." He went on to say that Adobe was "pleased with the internal progress that we’ve made to date."

Further evidence of Adobe's progress came in September, when Paul Betlem, Adobe's senior director of engineering, said that the player would be available "in a very short time."

Which, as we all know, didn't happen.

Which leads us to the second half of Narayen's statement, that "Apple and Adobe are collaborating."

Apple strictly controls what it allows to grace the slender confines of its darling phone. And Apple's EULA for the iPhone SDK includes the following directive: "An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise...No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple's Published APIs and built-in interpreter(s)."

At least officially, apps that run other code - such as Flash and Java - need not apply.

Plus, Apple has publicly badmouthed Flash. At a shareholders' meeting last March, just before the iPhone SDK arrived, Steve Jobs said that Flash Lite, a downsized version of Flash designed for mobile use, was "not capable of being used with the web" and "performs too slow to be useful."

But it's been nearly a year since that statement, and a lot of improvements can be made in that time - especially if, as Narayen says, "Apple and Adobe are collaborating."

And the EULA limitations are Apple's to wield as it wishes. If you make a rule, you can break a rule - after all, an offended Sun Microsystems is no skin off Apple's corporate schnoz.

Narayen's statement could be a signal that the long-awaited Flash player has been quietly green-lighted by Apple.

Or the Adobe CEO could be simply blowing smoke, hoping to buy some more time as he continues to plead with Apple for a spot on the iPhone.

"The ball is in our court," he said. "The onus is on us to deliver."

And the onus is on Apple to approve that delivery. ®

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