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Of course, where a vendor targets app stores, it will soon move to advertising, and Adobe is working with several digital ad companies to create a new mobile format that can tap into Flash or HTML5. The project will define two full-screen ad formats in a bid to create a new industry standard for mobile advertising.

Though geared toward devices running Flash Player 10.1, the format can also be converted to HTML5 for non-Flash gadgets. This highlights Adobe's key dilemma: it has to extend its technologies and models to support open browser activity and specifically HTML5 – even though this will weaken the position of its plug-in technologies. For the near term, however, few expect HTML5 to take on all the capabilities of plug-ins any time soon, so a hybrid world will survive for years – and here it is important that Adobe can span both sides.

Currently targeted at smartphones, the new ad format will eventually expand to tablets and other devices, Adobe said. It aims to provide an alternative to Apple's iAd, which some advertisers have criticised or even boycotted for Apple's tight control. Adobe said it will give agencies the power to control the design of their ads but will provide technical requirements to make sure those ads are interactive and consistent.

The first of the two new formats, FS-microsite, will include interactive product details and lead capture in the ad itself, so users do not need to view in the browser to get the full experience. The second format, FS-video, will send redesigned broadcast and high-quality video ads to the user, letting agencies reuse their broadcast ads for the mobile market.

Adobe's agency partners are EyeWonder, Greystripe, Medialets, MediaMind, PointRoll and Sprout.

Adobe in web of alliances

The new multiscreen technology enhancements and the growing support for HTML5 alongside Flash are both important to Adobe, as it seeks to establish its platforms as the primary rich media environments beyond the PC. It has the advantage of offering a proven and familiar system for delivering rich content, well supported already by media and advertising providers, and so it can ease the path of developers from the PC towards the new device environment. Flash and plug-ins may not last forever, given the rise of open web standards like HTML5 and CSS, but those specifications are not even fully standardised yet and will, despite broad support, be a long time reaching universality.

This is not just about Adobe either. Its platforms have a wider political significance as their multi-vendor nature makes them weapons for Adobe's partners against their rivals. The firm has always been able to use the wide adoption of Flash to play larger companies off against one another or act as a go-between. And this is even clearer in the mobile world, where it acts as an ally for Google, Microsoft, and, to a lesser extent, Nokia, against the growing power of Apple. Recently Adobe was reported to be in CEO-level talks with Microsoft about a possible combined effort against Apple.

Copyright © 2010, Wireless Watch

Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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