In April, Apple CEO Steve Jobs explained in detail why consumers aren’t
going to see Flash support on the iPhone and iPad. Long story short:
Adobe Flash “is no longer necessary.” Although Apple’s lack of support for Flash is often cited as an
iPhone/iPad drawback, Flash certainly isn’t going to win a whole lot of
popularity contests either. But the question remains: is there a place
for Flash in the mobile market?

We may soon have an answer.

Yesterday, Flash 10.1 made its full debut on Android 2.2, the latest version of Google’s popular mobile OS. Not surprisingly, Google’s Andy Rubin sees the full launch of Flash on Android as a big thing:

We are excited that Android is the first mobile platform to support the full Flash Player. Now mobile users can browse the full web on their smart phones, and Android developers can use industry-leading tools to create immersive experiences on the web.

But Google won’t have Flash all to itself for long. According to Adobe’s press release, Flash 10.1 has also been released to other mobile partners and will soon make its way onto BlackBerry, webOS, Windows Phone, LiMo, MeeGo and Symbian OS devices as well. Some of these devices, of course, will not be mobile phones — they’ll be tablets. If Flash isn’t dead and consumers truly want Flash on their mobiles and tablets, the release of Flash 10.1 will ensure that they have no reason to complain. After all, Apple’s devices may never support Flash, but plenty of competing devices will.

Obviously, as Flash gets bundled with new devices, Adobe will carve out a large install base that it can boast about. But the real question is how important Flash will really be in the mobile world. Apple has reportedly already 3m iPads and received hundreds of thousands of pre-orders for the newest iPhone on launch day. Right now, it’s hard to imagine that a significant number of consumers will choose to avoid Apple devices simply because they don’t have Flash.

So has Adobe already lost the war? At the end of the day, Flash’s success in the mobile market will be based on the actions of businesses and developers. If enough of them continue to abandon Flash, the presence of Flash on a device won’t be a very convincing selling point long-term since compelling Flash content and applications would be harder to find.

From this perspective, Adobe’s challenge is just beginning. Getting Flash onto a significant number of mobile and tablet devices will be the easy part; getting creators to stick by Flash and make it meaningful in the mobile environment is going to be much, much tougher.

Photo credit: midiman via Flickr.