Thursday, March 6, 2008

Apple Set to Reveal Road to Third-Party iPhone Apps

In comments made at Apple's recent shareholder meeting, CEO Steve Jobs said that the iPhone doesn't support Flash because it runs too slowly on the device to be useful. The iPhone's lack of Flash has been one of the major complaints levied against it. He also said we won't see iPhone apps until "summer."

Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE)'s Flash Player is used to play videos and other content on the Internet. Users have complained that the iPhone's lack of Flash support makes the browsing experience less rich than it should be. According to Jobs, Flash Lite doesn't go far enough, but the full-fledged Flash Player, which is designed to run on laptops, performs sluggishly on the iPhone. He said, "There's this missing product in the middle." He didn't go so far as to say that Adobe was working on such a product for the iPhone or any other product, and neither did Adobe.

In an Internet post last month, Ryan Stewart, Adobe's chief spokesman for its Internet-based applications, said, "No one aside from [Apple Chief Executive] Steve Jobs has any idea if or when it's coming. Everyone I talk to doesn't know anything."

Apple is introducing the road map for its iPhone SDK at an event tomorrow. Developers were likely hoping to find ways to support Flash on their own through the SDK. After Jobs' comments, that seems less likely. At the shareholders meeting, Jobs said that users will "see a lot of apps out there this summer." This lends more credence to the belief that the actual SDK will be not be made available tomorrow, but some time in the future. If Jobs believes that applications for the iPhone won't be available until this summer, that means developers are going to continue to be frustrated for a while.

That also means that the iPhone hacking community is going to continue to be busy innovating on the sly. Many believe that Apple will maintain rigid control over how iPhone apps are developed, approved, and distributed, with Apple taking a cut. Hackers probably will provide more useful apps in a shorter time frame, as is already evidenced by the services made available to unlocked iPhones.

We will find out more tomorrow...


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