Monday, February 16, 2009

Adobe and Microsoft Get Into It Like Children on the Playground

A week or so back, Adobe exec Mark Garrett got a bunch of attention for insisting that Microsoft's Silverlight effort has "fizzled."

Microsoft promptly screamed back that it wasn't so, pointing to the inauguration video stream, and a few other factoids.

What makes this truly schoolyard funny though is what happened today when Adobe "announced" it was bringing Flash 10 to phones. This seems just as dubious as Microsoft's oft-repeated plan (since as far back as '05, when it was WPF/e) to get Silverlight onto mobile phones ... by last year ... which obviously didn't happen.

Meanwhile, for years, Adobe has been pushing a weak technology called FlashLite for mobile ... and for a variety of reasons it has never been a usable option for content providers to deploy Flash content or apps.

For both Microsoft and Adobe, for both PC and phone applications, the critical metric is current "content-ready" penetration. How many devices are ready to run new Flash/Silverlight content off of the web today.

In this 2x2, the only square that's solidly covered is Adobe's Flash on the PC. "Ready" penetration of Flash 9+ is near 100%.

On PCs, existing install base is critical because of locked-down corporate networks that won't allow end-user installs. Microsoft needs to stop talking about download numbers, or numbers of people who "can access a PC with Silverlight," and start doing anything it can to get these ready penetration numbers up.

On mobile, the barrier is user confusion over configuration. Vendors could push the updates to phones, but in nearly 10 years of smartphones, only Apple has done much of this. Windows Mobile 6 has an updater ... and in over a year I don't recall it ever updating a darned thing.

Flash Lite trumpets a large "installed base," but these are strange installs, where the runtime (but not browser integration) is baked into the phone, and there's no reasonable way to get new Flash content onto the phone, either via web pages or download.

Both of these players are big on bluster and have been for a long time. Meanwhile, developers are left with few options for all of the smartphones in the world that don't an apple on the back.

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