Flash Lite for mobile phones might not be good enough for Steve Jobs, but Microsoft is less picky. It is licensing Flash Lite for Windows Mobile. This is an acknowledgment of two things: there are a lot of developers and existing Websites out there that work with Flash, and the mobile version of Microsoft’s own competing Silverlight software is nowhere near ready to be deployed.
On the one hand, Microsoft is just being practical here. Adobe’s Flash is ubiquitous on the Web, especially for video. Even if Flash Lite is a compromise (it doesn’t run any apps or Web pages built with Adobe’s Flex tools, for instance), it does run on 500 million mobile phones already. Microsoft cannot ignore all of the apps being built for Flash Lite. (Jobs can because it is more important to him to protect the integrity of the iPhone experience by controlling it tightly).
But for Microsoft, this is just a stopgap measure until it can gain more traction for Silverlight, its Flash-competitor. The mobile version of Sliverlight 2.0 does not ship until the second quarter. Making WinMo more capable won’t detract from Silverlight’s appeal. There is a desperate need to get a full Flash-like experience on a mobile device. Flash itself is supposedly too slow on mobile phones. That leaves an opening for Microsoft to win over converts to Silverlight by bringing video, animation, and other rich-media experiences to mobile. Nokia is already on board.
Apple or Google could also try to fill the gap left by Flash on mobile devices. Or Adobe could get its act together and bring a more fully-featured version of Flash to mobile. The only other option is to wait a few years for mobile devices to become as powerful as today’s laptops so that they can display regular Flash Websites. Which option do readers think will win out in the end?