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Adobe Systems (Nasdaq: ADBE ) ain't going down without a fight.
Adobe's market-defining Flash platform, which powers the majority of all online video sites and lots of other applications , is in danger of becoming irrelevant as fresh Web programming standards take hold. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) already lets you watch some YouTube videos without Flash, for example. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has never offered a Flash player for its popular iPhone and iPod product lines, and the iPad will be Flash-free as well.
But the next version of Flash comes with some very significant changes that may keep Adobe in the game for the long run. Unlike earlier versions, where the inferior Flash Lite was required for mobile environments (and not supported by many phones), Flash 10.1 offers the same player experience across all platforms and looks like it will be rapidly adopted.
And that's another key point: This Flash version runs on Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows, Apple's Mac OS, Google Android, Nokia's (NYSE: NOK ) Symbian, Research In Motion’s (Nasdaq: RIMM ) BlackBerry, Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM ) , WebOS, and eventually Windows Mobile as well. The only big name that's missing is the iPhone operating system. For that, Adobe's upcoming Flash development tool lets you write Flash-based applications and then export them as iPhone apps with a few simple clicks.
The long-term vision is to provide a unified environment for programmers everywhere using the company’s AIR runtime -- write once, deploy to any device you like. Sun Microsystems did this with Java years ago, and that platform is still very much alive: Your cell phone probably runs Java applications even if it isn't a smartphone, and there are enterprise-class business applications built on the Java framework as well.
Adobe's platform-agnostic strategy makes too much sense to fail. Once again, I see value in the $3.4 billion buyout of Flash designer Macromedia. Is this unified cross-platform strategy enough to save Flash? I think so, but your mileage may vary. Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.