Adobe’s secret plans for the iPhone – but still no Flash (updated)

Last week I spoke to Adobe’s Erik Larson, director of product management for Acrobat.com. Acrobat.com is a conferencing and document collaboration site which is built almost entirely in Flash. Apple does not allow Flash on the iPhone, so my ears pricked up when I heard Larson promise iPhone support for Acrobat.com from the Autumn.

We’ll be adding mobile access via smartphones, so the iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, and Windows Mobile. You’ll be able to access your documents, share them with other people, and do some other interesting things that we’ll talk about later this year.

said Larson. Naturally I asked him to expand on this promise. Will Apple be allowing the Flash plug-in in iPhone Safari, or is this some other approach?

You will be able to access and do work from your iPhone using Acrobat.com. It’s more than just the Acrobat.com access, it’s pretty interesting. It will be an application. You won’t have to go to your web browser. Beyond that, I don’t want to spill the beans.

said Larson.

I speculated earlier that this meant bringing Flash in some form to the iPhone, for example as a runtime outside the browser. In his comment though, Larson says that is not the case. A shame, since many developers would welcome the opportunity to deploy AIR applications to the device, for example, even it if meant going via Apple’s App Store.

Unfortunately this also means that the iPhone access will be somewhat less than what I would describe as “do work from your iPhone using Acrobat.com”. Larson said on Twitter:

You will be able to access, share and manage docs…plus a little nifty-ness I can’t tell you about…but no editing at first.

That’s a substantial advantage for the HTML/JavaScript based suites like Google Docs and Zoho, for iPhone users.

Post updated in the light of his comments.

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12 comments to Adobe’s secret plans for the iPhone – but still no Flash (updated)

  • My bet is it’s just an iPhone app written from scratch, communicating with the Acrobat.com backend over HTTP. I see no implication that it’s anything more.

  • Just like Duncan, my immediate thought was that this has nothing to do with Flash at all – it’ll be a client specially written for iPhone which accesses the underlying Acrobat.com server APIs.
    If anything the “interesting” thing Larson is referring to is more likely to be something along the lines of embedding Acrobat.com services in other web apps…

  • tim

    @Duncan

    How would you render and edit documents using those APIs? I guess you can get read-only views by converting to PDF, but I wouldn’t call read-only access “do work from your iPhone using Acrobat.com”. Still, we’ll see :-)

    Tim

  • So they might try to embed the Flash player within the delivered app. So no flash in Safari like you said but wouldn’t it still violates Apple’s ‘no interpreters’ policy? Probably needs Apple’s implicit approval regardless.

  • this link
    http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pressreleases/200906/061509AdobeAnnouncesMajorUpdatetoAcrobat.com.html
    says:
    “Mobile access so people can upload, manage and share Acrobat.com documents from iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia and Windows® Mobile smartphones”

    Note that it states ‘upload, manage and share’. You won’t need Flash for those features, but it would certainly be cool if they pulled it off. Maybe we’ll get more details soon?

  • Joshua Ochs

    “would this enable 3rd party applications”

    No matter what they deliver, it will be sandboxed to their app, so this will not be a platform for third party applications. This will most likely be solely a way to access Acrobat.com.

  • Hello, looks like I was overly coy in my discussion with Tim :-). The Acrobat.com iPhone app will be a native iPhone app using our Acrobat.com Document Services APIs as Joshua, Neil and Duncan correctly surmise. Plus some other interesting stuff. But not Flash.

  • tim

    @Erik Thanks; I’ve updated the post. Does that mean this will be read-only access to documents though?

    Tim

  • One possibility would be to follow the approach taken by Mono for Unity – allow the compilation of bytecode to native code so that AIR apps could be deployed without needing a runtime interpreter.

  • Roger Harris

    I am always surprised that anyone finds Flash valuable. I see Flash as mostly useless and almost as big a pig as Acrobat.

  • … been thinking more about online comments like the one above. Quite strange… he doesn’t believe others might believe differently than him, and feels the need to tell us all. No constructive contribution, just a negative judgment provided for our benefit, gratis.

    Behind each troll I am sure there is a fascinating story…. ;-)

    jd/adobe

  • @John Dowdell:
    …or not! ;)