Microsoft plans to support Adobe's Flash technology as well as its own Silverlight platform on Windows Mobile phones, the companies have announced.
Microsoft has licensed Adobe Flash Lite, the Flash Player runtime for mobile devices, so that Windows Mobile phone users can view Flash content in the Internet Explorer Mobile browser. Microsoft has also licensed the Adobe Reader LE software, so that Windows Mobile users will be able to view PDF documents.
The announcement means Windows Mobile phones will support both Flash and Silverlight, Microsoft's own fledgling technology that lets developers build multimedia internet applications that run in browsers.
Adobe hopes that the capabilities will be found in phones by the end of the year, although Microsoft is less categorical. "The engineers have to work together to integrate the technology, and then the platforms have to be distributed to OEMs," admits Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing for mobile and devices at Adobe.
Having both Silverlight and Adobe Flash on Windows Mobile is natural, said Scott Rockfeld, group product manager at Microsoft's Windows Mobile group. "From a Windows Mobile perspective it comes down to choice," he said. "Flash and Silverlight can provide similar experiences, just like we see in other areas."
For example, Microsoft's Live Search and Google Maps, which offer similar services, are both accessible from Windows Mobile phones, he said.
Regardless of which technology phone users are most drawn to – Silverlight or Flash – both enable the types of multimedia content they want, said Julie Ask, a Jupiter Research analyst. Her research shows that consumers who have phones that support rich browsing experiences, like the iPhone and some Nokia phones, generate more page views and are more likely to sign up for a data plan with their operator, she said.
"Adding Flash into the user experience on the phone will make it a better one, a richer media experience," Ask said.
Earlier this month, Nokia announced it would use Silverlight. Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and LG are all shipping Flash-enabled devices today, Murarka said. In addition to supporting Flash-based content on websites, mobile-phone makers and operators can also use Flash in content like screen savers, wallpapers and animated ring tones. Flash is also used in mobile-phone user interfaces.
Notably absent from the list of handsets using either technology is the iPhone. "We'd love to see Flash come to the iPhone," said Murarka. But just like any other phone maker, Apple would have to work with Adobe to license Flash for the iPhone. "Hopefully when we have the opportunity to review the SDK, and if it's a vehicle to deliver a solution, we would look forward to working with Apple," he said.