While it’s true that more and more phones can surf the Web, it’s also true that many mobile phones have only a limited ability to show much of the Web’s best content. Videos that run in Adobe Flash Players, such as those by the New York Times, CNN, and Technology Review, and Flash-heavy websites simply don’t work on many phones due to the software being incompatible with hardware. Today, in an effort to bring more of the Web to mobile devices, Adobe and microchip maker ARM, which powers 90 percent of mobile phones worldwide, have announced a collaboration to ensure that Adobe’s software runs well on future ARM devices.
Specifically, the companies say that Adobe’s Flash Player 10 and AIR (a platform for building complex Web applications) will be compatible and optimized for the ARM chips available in 2009. While ARM is used in a huge number of mobile phones, the announcement has broader implications: the chips are also used in set-top boxes, mobile Internet devices, personal media players, and automotive platforms.
The experience of publishing and viewing content on a PC is “near frictionless,” says Anup Murarka, director of technical marketing of mobile devices at Adobe. “But when we get into devices like set-top boxes and phones, you run into a lot of roadblocks.” While Murarka doesn’t think all of the roadblocks will vanish immediately, he believes that the Adobe and ARM collaboration can help make it easier for people to post videos from their PCs or mobiles and access them anywhere.
To be sure, the agreement won’t improve the Web on all devices. One big exception is Apple’s iPhone. Steve Jobs has historically eschewed Adobe’s Flash for the iPhone because the existing mobile version of Adobe’s player, called Flash Lite, runs too slowly on the gadget. But for a vast majority of phones, the collaboration could make a difference to users. Murarka explains that the two companies worked together to optimize the software and hardware in three different ways.
First, the compiler used in Flash Player 10, which converts program code into microchip instructions, has been written to work smoothly with the ARMv6 and ARMv7 chip. This means that the software understands how these chips transport data and can tap into the right part of the chips at the right time, speeding up applications.