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Adobe's Wallaby hints at cracks in Flash armor

Lauren Hirsch

The standoff between Adobe and Apple has been the stuff of legends. Neither Adobe, which rightfully maintained that it could not be ignored because a serious chunk of web content was delivered by its proprietary Flash format, nor Apple, which doesn't like ceding anything to anybody....ever, seemed likely to budge.

When the standoff began three years ago, when the first iPhone was released sans Flash capability, Adobe had little to fear. But not only has the iPhone transformed the smart phone market, the iPad has created and cornered the exploding tablet market. Now, a significant chunk of users are, at least part of the time, viewing the web through these types of devices, eroding the impact of Flash-only developed sites and creating frustration for users and web developers.

Apple has consistently maintained that Flash is a fickle and buggy way to deliver content, and exposed security problems for devices displaying it. Steve Jobs once remarked that Flash essentially turns web content into a free-for-all open platform, and that Adobe has been lazy in its development. Skeptics claimed that Apple's true motivation was its unwillingness to hand over control of a large portion of web content to another company. After all, if Flash continued to gain ground, all HTML then becomes is a portal to Flash, which is firmly Adobe's wheelhouse.

Developers, for their part, were largely on Adobe's side; after all, Flash is an easy-to-use tool to push out complicated and creative content, unconstrained by some of the inherent limits of HTML. But nobody likes to see their web presence reach fewer and fewer users. And with the recent release of the iPad 2, and deafening silence regarding what had been conjectured to be a possible addition of Flash compatibility, no doubt Adobe was prompted to think seriously about writing an HTML5-based white flag, complete with raising and waving function.

Welcome Wallaby. As we reported yesterday, Wallaby is Adobe's "new" tool for porting Flash-based content to HTML. I say "new" because they've had this capability on the lab bench for some time now, but understandably Adobe wanted to force Apple's hand, if it could. Adobe is offering it as a standalone tool to all versions of Flash files, and is released for both Mac and PC. Adobe warns that the tool is still in development, and not all Flash-based content is suitable for conversion.

The fact that the tool exists at all represents a serious groundshift in content delivery. It remains to be seen how many developers will choose to create robust Flash/HTML hybrid sites, and exactly how well the tool delivers on its promise to port Flash content in the first place. But if Wallaby works as Adobe claims, chances are that developers will use it extensively -- after all, it stands to reason that many of them own and use iDevices, just like everybody else.

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