Kind of a Big Deal

by Ryan Bailey

Adobe has recently announced that Flash will soon be coming to the iPhone… sort of.

Apple has refused to support Flash on the iPhone since its release.  The company’s reasoning isn’t totally clear, but it has something to do with their rules regarding programming languages: the iPhone may run iPhone binaries compiled from any language, as long as that code doesn’t run any interpreted languages.  It’s strange, but it’s the rule they’re sticking to.  Flash’s Actionscript, normally an interpreted language, is making the jump to a compiled language in the unreleased Flash CS5, which essentially has an ‘export as iPhone app’ function.  Export your Flash in this special format, compile it with the iPhone SDK, and your app is good to go.  Sneaky, Adobe.  Sneaky.

For the 1 million flash developers out there, most of whom are independent game developers, this presents an opportunity to make their work more lucrative.  While there has never been a ‘formal’ business model for Flash developers, this recent development hints at the beginnings of a Flash-related business model.  We know that Flash applications translate well to the iPhone: Bloons, for instance, is a Flash-game-turned-iPhone-app that once reached #2 most popular in the iPhone app store.  For online companies that haven’t yet made the leap to the iPhone, this represents a chance for them to expand their markets as well (Hulu on the iPhone, anyone?)

For iPhone users, this jump might not be so great.  There will undoubtedly be a sudden surge of apps in the app store, and finding the perfect app will be harder when you’ve got to sift through thousands more of them.  Because of the exact rules mentioned above, you still won’t be able to run Flash inside your mobile browser.  Also, Flash has relatively poor performance compared to binaries compiled from other lower-level languages, so the same sluggishness you might have experienced in your browser due to a CPU-hogging SWF is likely to become a recurring nightmare.  Speculation aside, this is sure to shake things up.

Check out the post on Adobe’s website for more.