∞ Adobe Flash Player 10.1 – the iPhone's missing link?

Adobe Systems on Monday unveiled Flash Player 10.1 software for smartphones, smartbooks, netbooks and other Internet-connected devices. iPhone OS is conspicuously absent from the list of supported platforms, but Flash Player 10.1 could be the fabled “middle product” Steve Jobs has been looking for. Flash Player 10.1 is expected to be available as a public developer beta for Windows Mobile, Palm WebOS, Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux “later this year,” with public betas for Google Android and Symbian OS to follow in early 2010.

In related news, Adobe and Research In Motion (RIM) previously announced a collaboration to bring Flash Player to Blackberry smartphones.

Flash is ubiquitous on the Web as a delivery system for rich media content including video, animation and sound. Other efforts have tried to supplant Flash’s dominance: Microsoft developed a competing technology called Silverlight, for example, while HTML5 offers some capabilities similar to Flash — Adobe estimates that the previous release, Flash Player 10, has been installed on more than 93 percent of computers since its release 10 months ago.

Flash Player 10.1 – the missing product in the middle?

So far, Flash has been a non-starter on the popular iPhone. That’s not for lack of trying, according to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, who has said during Adobe calls with financial analysts that Adobe has made “internal progress” getting Flash to work on the iPhone.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has been critical of Adobe’s efforts in the past, indicating that the desktop version of Flash runs too slowly on the iPhone, and that Flash Lite, Adobe’s current mobile-optimized version of Flash, “is not capable of being used with the Web.” Jobs said during a 2008 meeting with shareholders that Adobe is missing a product in the middle.

And at least in some respects, Flash Player 10.1 would seek to bridge that gap which exists between the desktop Flash experience and Flash Lite. Adobe calls Flash Player 10.1 the “first full Flash Player” for mobile devices.

Flash Player 10.1 leverages Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) on new handhelds, for example, to help accelerate video and graphics. It also supports multi-touch interfaces, gestures, accelerometer input and screen orientation – all features found on the iPhone (along with an increasing number of mobile devices from other manufacturers).

What’s more, Adobe is emphasizing Flash Player 10.1’s support of the Adobe-led Open Screen Project, an effort involving more than four dozen companies whose goal is to provide a consistent runtime environment for rich Internet applications operating across mobile devices, desktop computers and other products.