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Adobe’s Flash bypassing Android 1.x?

Feb 26, 2010 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Adobe's upcoming Flash Player 10.1 may bypass devices running Android versions prior to 2.0. The software will also require that phones have ARM Cortex-A8 processors, according to recent posts by Antonio Flores, identified as a Flash product manager on Adobe online forums.

According to Adobe Systems, Flash Player 10.1 is a browser-based runtime that leverages the power of GPUs (graphics processing units), where present, providing "accelerated video and graphics while conserving battery life and minimizing resource utilization." New mobile-ready features are said to include support for multi-touch, mobile input models, accelerometers, and multiple screen orientations.

Adobe first promised this "no holds-barred, desktop-class" implementation of Flash Player 10 to mobile devices at its annual MAX conference in 2008. Last November, the company announced Flash Player 10.1, promising betas for Windows Mobile and Palm's webOS by the end of the year, alongside revisions targeting Windows, Macintosh, and Linux desktop computers. Flash Player 10.1 betas for Android and Symbian would follow in "early 2010," it was also announced.

A followup announcement at last week's Mobile World Congress (MWC) said "a beta of Flash Player 10.1 was made available to content providers and mobile developers worldwide." We're not aware of the mobile version's having yet been sighted anywhere except in the hands of Adobe employees, however: Presumably, the company was speaking of the desktop edition, updated this week to Beta 3.

Disappointment for owners of recent phones

From the start, Flash Player 10.1 — distinct from the pared-down Flash Lite (see later in this story) — has been described as too demanding for some mobile devices. (Infamously, it has also been derided by Apple CEO Steve Jobs for its supposed deleterious effects on performance and power consumption.) In 2008, Adobe said the mobile version would run on CPUs with ARM11 or Cortex-A8 cores.

Now, it appears that Flash Player 10.1's hardware requirements have solidified to the point that even many recent phones will not run it. Antonio R. Flores, identified as a product manager for Flash Player, posted the following on an Adobe online forum: "We require a device with an ARM v7 (Cortex) processor. Examples include the Qualcomm Snapdragon [link] chipsets and TI OMAP3 [link] series."

Flores cited HTC's Hero as an example of a phone that would not work, "because it does not have the correct Android version and its chipset is not powerful enough." The Hero, first announced in June of last year, runs Android 1.6 on a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7200A CPU.

Motorola's Droid and Google's Nexus One, both A8-based, will be the first Android devices to support Flash Player 10.1, according to postings by Flores. Motorola's Milestone, a Euro version of the Droid, will also run Flash, he added. (Flash 10.1 has previously been promised for the A8-based Palm Pre, as demonstrated on video later in this story.)

Meanwhile, owners of any Windows Mobile 6.5.x phones, whether or not they are packing A8-based CPUs, are going to be disappointed, Flores suggests. He writes, "We have made the tough decision to defer support for that platform until WinMo7. This is due to the fact that WinMo6.5 does not support some of the critical APIs that we need."

Somewhat confusingly, Flores adds that Flash Player 10.1 will come to HTC's current Windows Mobile flagship, the HD2, which uses a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and runs Windows Mobile 6.5. (Rumors have suggested that the HD2 will be upgradeable to Windows Phone 7 later this year, though HTC has made no statements to this regard.)


Toshiba's Windows Mobile-based TG01 running Flash in a 2009 demo

Setting the remarks about "critical APIs" aside, we'd suggest that if Adobe is indeed going to bypass Windows Mobile 6.5, it's a marketing decision, not a technical one. As shown above and in the video embedded at the end of this story, the company's Adrian Ludwig demonstrated Flash Player 10.1 last year on a Toshiba TGO1 — a 6.5 device featuring a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU.

LinuxDevices.com has contacted Adobe Systems in an attempt to confirm Antonio Flores' employment status and obtain further details about the future of the mobile Flash Player 10.1. This story will be updated when we receive either confirmation or denial of the statements above.

Background

In addition to the forthcoming Flash Player 10.1, Adobe has fielded two additional related technologies — AIR and Flash Lite. The former, updated to a 2.0 beta in November and unveiled for mobile devices at MWC last week, is described as an implementation of Flash technology that can run "beyond the constraints of the browser."

Flash Lite, meanwhile, is a mobile version of the Flash Player that's said to support .FLV video and .SWF vector graphics formats, and to run on hardware as modest as a 200MHz ARM9 processor. More than one billion devices now feature Flash Lite, according to Adobe, and plug-in versions have been licensed by companies including Microsoft and Opera. (For more background on Flash Lite, see our earlier coverage, here.)

In May 2008, Adobe announced the Open Screen Project intended to remove restrictions on Flash file formats, to open Flash server protocols, and to give away the player along with the APIs (application programming interfaces) needed to port it to new devices. Although versions of the Flash Player for desktop operating systems have been free, handset manufacturers and other device makers have had to pay a license fee.


Flash Player 10.1 running on Palm's WebOS-based Pre
Source: Adobe
(click to play)



Flash Player 10.1 running on the Windows Mobile 6.5-based Toshiba TG01
Source: Adobe
(click to play)


Further information

Adobe's Beta 3 editions of Flash Player 10.1 for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux desktops are available from the company's website, here, and the AIR 2.0 beta is available here.

General information on the Flash platform may be found on the Adobe website, here.

Postings attributed to Antonio Flores, said to be a product manager for Flash Player, may be found on Adobe's online forums, here.


This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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