Adobe Creative Suite 5 to Break Apple’s Anti-Flash Blockade (Sort Of)
Adobe’s upcoming launch of Creative Suite 5 will be of particular interest to content creators within multiple publishing disciplines. I’ll explain what I mean in detail — when the wraps come off on April 12. However, I’m not breaking my NDA by discussing one fascinating tidbit: Flash Professional CS5 will let you create iPhone and iPad content. While it’s not the breakthrough that Flash addicts were hoping for, it’s a start.
In brief, Flash Pro CS5 will include a “Packager” application that will allow the user to publish ActionScript 3 projects to run as native iPhone and iPad applications — delivered solely via the Apple App Store. These can be monetized through in-application ads (handled via Adobe’s mobile ad network partner Greystripe) or by selling the app itself it through Apple. Neither prospect will be thrilling to publishers or advertisers, but at least in the short term, iPad fever may overcome the constrained revenue models.
For new Flash projects, Packager will be a laborsaving godsend. For the vast ocean of existing Flash content, not so much. SWF files and other runtime code cannot be loaded by the new Packager apps, nor can the iPhone/iPad browser handle Flash content in existing Web sites. So, for the most part, Apple’s quixotic campaign to exclude the popular format is still in force.
Apple’s defense of a not-so-Flashy iPad is twofold. From a purely PR standpoint, the company is working overtime to point out how many digital publications are “iPad ready.” Most of these are high-profile titles that have decided to concede to Apple’s dicta, in the hope that iPad mania will reverse their declines in paid circulation. From a long-term technical standpoint, Apple is betting on the superiority of HTML5 over Flash — despite the fact that the former is still a work in progress.
Both arguments provide cover for an unsustainable economic position: that a “gated community” approach is a much better means of capturing revenue (for Apple) than would be possible if more common Web paradigms were allowed.
The theory behind the iPad and its engaging applications is a positive one for publishers. The iPad itself may not be, especially if Apple ignores or exploits publishers in the process. Interactive engagement is the key to the success of both digital editions and their advertisers, and Flash — like it or not — makes such engagement possible. This is not lost on Apple’s rivals. Google Android and other smartphone/smartpad systems will undoubtedly use Flash to steal Apple’s thunder.
Adobe has made a sensible, albeit limited move to accommodate Apple’s alluring gadgets. In response — and in its own long-term interests — Apple should respond in kind. In addition to leveraging vast quantities of existing content, a Flashy iPad would meet the needs of a greater number of publishers and advertisers — drawing their support away from the competition.
Granting Flash full citizenship in the iPhone/iPad nation is a more sustainable choice for Apple, even if HTML5 is the better solution down the road.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Two days after this blog was published, Apple released its new iPhone OS 4 SDK, which appeared to prohibit “intermediary translation” when creating iPhone (and presumably iPad) apps. Some analysts have suggested that this would ban Adobe’s Packager approach in CS5, although Adobe and Flash were not singled out in the Apple announcement.
Adobe’s official response was, “We are aware of Apple’s new SDK language and are looking into it. We continue to develop our Packager for iPhone OS technology, which we plan to debut in Flash CS5.” Apple declined to comment. Other iPhone/iPad publishing developers are unaffected, especially companies like WoodWing, whose platform relies on InDesign and XML instead of Flash. Stay tuned.