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Tuesday, 18 March 2008 02:28

Microsoft to offer Adobe Flash Lite with Windows Mobile

Microsoft has licensed Adobe's Flash Lite software - a rival to its own Silverlight technology - for use on smartphones running Windows Mobile OS, and Adobe Reader LE software for viewing PDF documents.

Flash Lite is the Flash Player runtime specifically designed for mobile devices. It will enable web browsing of Flash Player compatible content within the Internet Explorer Mobile browser in future versions of Windows Mobile. The Adobe products will be made available to OEMs worldwide who license Windows Mobile software, at a date to be confirmed.

Microsoft has a long tradition of entering software markets and eventually ousting the incumbent major player to become the de facto standard, and there has been much speculation that it has similar ambitions for Silverlight, launched in September 2007 .  Microsoft said last month it would give one billion students free access to Silverlight and other software that competes with Adobe, such as Expression Studio.

Significantly, the world's largest handset maker, Nokia, announced earlier this month that it would make Silverlight available for its S60 Symbian based handset platform. Ovum commented at the time that "For Microsoft this is an extremely positive announcement and a much needed gain. Microsoft has high ambitions for Silverlight not least because of its cross platform credentials and capability.

"One can also imagine that Microsoft's desire long term is to have Silverlight adopted as the de-facto standard for cross platform next-generation rich internet applications (RIAs) and in the process replace Adobe's Flash runtime, which currently dominates the web and a vast number of phones and consumer devices. To achieve that Microsoft is facing tough competition from Adobe with Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) and Sun Microsystems with JavaFX." CONTINUED

Ovum added that "Silverlight highlights an important strategy for [Microsoft], one that focuses on strengthening its role within the design and content development community. Until this announcement Microsoft has had a compelling proposition but it was tethered exclusively to the desktop.

"The real attraction and potential of RIAs is to give developers and designers the ability to reach across multiple platforms from mobile phones to set-top-boxes and to PCs. So support for Silverlight from the world's leading mobile phone manufacturer will certainly provide them with additional leverage in convincing developers to build applications with its technology. It also demonstrates Microsoft's wider ambition for Silverlight beyond its own platforms and propositions. Much is riding on wider adoption of the technology and Nokia's support plays to this."

However, Adobe has considerable momentum behind Flash Lite. It claims more than 150 percent year-over-year growth for Flash Lite shipments and says that half a billion mobile devices have been shipped with Flash Lite to date, with Flash Lite now delivered on mobile phones and devices of all major handset manufacturers worldwide.

Silverlight however has garnered early support. At its launch, broadcasters and other content providers including AOL, Discovery Channel, Entertainment Tonight, Home Shopping Network, Major League Baseball, and World Wrestling Entertainment announced that they would support the product.

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