Google promises what Jobs hates in next Android

Flash in your frozen yogurt


In his epic attack on Adobe Flash, Steve Jobs asks - in typically haughty fashion - when Flash will actually ship on a smartphone. Well, an older version of Flash has shipped on smartphones, and just before Jobs unloaded his open letter, Adobe's new BFF committed to putting the latest Flash on the world's second most important mobile OS.

Speaking with the New York Times, Google's Andy Rubin - who heads the development of Android - promised that the next version of the company's mobile OS would include "full support" for Adobe Flash. Asked to confirm Rubin's comments, a Google spokesman demurred, merely pointing us to the blog post where - several days before that Times story appeared - Rubin announced that Google would bring Flash to Android at some point in the unspecified future.

"Google is happy to be partnering with Adobe to bring the full web, great applications, and developer choice to the Android platform," the post reads. "Our engineering teams have been working closely to bring both AIR and Flash Player to Google's mobile operating system and devices. The Android platform is enjoying great adoption, and we expect our work with Adobe will help that growth continue."

In the post, Rubin did invite readers to attend Google's developer conference next month in San Francisco to "learn more about our work together with Adobe to open up the world of Flash on mobile devices." The next version of Android - version 2.2, codename: Froyo - is expected to make its debut during the conference.

Froyo is short for frozen yogurt. Google likes to name its Android code after, um, dessert.

With Steve Jobs barring Flash from the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad - even when it's translated into Appley machine code - Google and Rubin have leapt to the defense of the beleaguered development platform. Mountain View intends to bundle Flash with its Chrome desktop browser.

On one level, this makes sense. YouTube is built on Flash - as are so many online ads, something Google is also partial to. But at the same time, Google has been one of the most vocal backers of the open HTML5 standard - a Flash counter-play.

Like Steve Jobs, Rubin has co-opted the word "open" to mean whatever he wants it to mean. Speaking with The Times about Android's embrace of Flash, he said that sometimes open "means not being militant about the things consumer[s] are actually enjoying."

Er, OK. But many have argued that with its continued support for Flash, Google is stunting the progress towards truly open technologies.

Adobe demoed Flash on Android at the Mobile World Congress in February, and the company tells us it will provide a public preview of Flash 10.1 for Android devices "within the next month." This could be a reference to Mountain View's developer conference, Google I/O. Flash 10.1 is slated for release in June.

Currently, Adobe offers the scaled-down Flash Lite for phones, claiming installations on 1.3 million "mass-market" handsets worldwide. And though the company did not mention this when contact for this story, Flash 9.4 has shipped on smartphones.

With the exception of Apple, Adobe says its working with "every major hardware manufacturer" on Flash. In response to Jobs' open letter - which decries Flash because it lets developers developer for multiple platforms - Adobe told us: "In the end, we believe the multi-platform world will prevail." ®

Update: This story has been updated to show that older versions of Flash have shipped on smartphones.

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