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Intelligent Machines

Adobe Fights to Keep Flash Vital

Announcements at its developer conference are aimed to show its customers that it can still deliver a broad audience.

Adobe is fighting to keep its place as the middleman of choice for creative professionals. Its Flash platform, which is designed to distribute interactive content to all manner of devices and operating systems, has been embattled since Apple refused to allow the technology on the iPhone. Adobe struck back this week with a series of announcements at its MAX conference in Los Angeles, hoping to show that its technology can still bring content to the widest possible audience.

Flashy ads: Adobe hopes that its new advertising formats, used for the ad above, will help its Flash platform stay vital.

Adobe announced two new ad formats for smart phones, for use in apps or in the browser. They would allow companies to build interactive or video ads that could reach a wide variety of devices. The formats are designed to make ads consistent for viewers and easy to measure. They’re also made so that people can interact with them without leaving the application they’re currently using.

Adobe has also taken steps to make sure that the new ad formats can truly be ubiquitous. The technology works with ads designed in Flash or the Web standard HTML5, says Lalit Balchandani, Adobe’s director of advertising product strategy. Support for HTML5 means that the standard can apply to ads displayed on Apple’s iOS devices, such as the iPhone and the iPad, which in turn means that ad designers don’t have to abandon Adobe products to reach Apple devices.

Reducing such technological questions for advertisers is important in “what is essentially the Wild West in mobile rich-media ad formats,” says Carnet Williams, CEO of the advertising company Sprout, which worked with Adobe to produce mobile advertising campaigns using the new formats. When advertisers have to worry too much about software development, screen sizes, and operating systems, he says, it discourages them from investing in campaigns.

Al Hilwa, program director for applications development software for the research firm IDC, says he’s impressed by the range of devices that Adobe is targeting with Flash. It’s “appropriate and strategic” for Adobe to establish itself as a key middleman wherever possible, Hilwa says, whether that means appealing to advertisers or application developers (as with its announcement of a platform for app stores earlier this week). “It appears that Adobe is all in, as far as mobile devices are concerned,” Hilwa says.

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