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Adobe'ís CEO says Flash is flourishing without Apple

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Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) Chief Executive Officer Shantanu Narayen shrugged off Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) decision not to use its Flash video program on its devices, saying it has a “powerful ecosystem” of partners.

Eighty-five percent of the top 100 Web sites in the world use Flash and it delivers 75 percent of Internet videos, Narayen said. Computer games rely on Flash as well, including “FarmVille,” the most popular game on Facebook. Blocking the iPhone and iPad from that content isnít serving Apple’s customers, Narayen said.

“Considering the amount of content on the Web that uses Flash -- not allowing your consumers to access that content isn't showing off the Web in all its glory,” Narayen said in an interview in Barcelona, Spain, during the Mobile World Congress. “Apple’s business model is more trying to maintain a proprietary lock.”

Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs has shunned Flash on mobile devices, throwing his support behind an emerging standard called HTML5. Apple is the only one of 20 smartphone makers that doesn't let users view Web sites containing animation, videos and other content created in Flash, Narayen said. Apple doesn’t support Adobe’s Flash in the iPhone, iPod music player or iPad tablet.

HTML5, the next version of the Internet's hyper text markup language, will add ways for Web sites to show video. Adobe doesn’t expect the standard to replace Flash because it will be years before all of the world’s browsers can work with HTML5. By then, Flash will have new capabilities, Narayen said.

More innovation

“There's one speculation that the new HTML5 standard will be in 90 percent of browsers by 2022,” Narayen said. “Well, we’re not going to stand still. We’re going to innovate.”

The Flash player, which can be downloaded for free, is installed on about 98 percent of Internet-connected PCs. San Jose-based Adobe makes money from the technology by selling programs that create Flash-based animation and video.

Adobe rose 52 cents to close at $32.33 Wednesday. The shares advanced 73 percent last year. Apple, which more than doubled in value last year, fell 85 cents to $202.55.

Jobs said in March 2008 that Flash was too slow to be useful on the iPhone. He also dismissed a mobile version of the software because it wasn't powerful enough. At the time, he said he wanted Adobe to create a third version of Flash, with features that fall between the personal-computer edition and the mobile version.

Narayen described Jobs' statement as “a little bit of a red herring.” The 10.1 version, which will display Flash content via the browser, “is everything that major partner wants,” Narayen said. That software is due in the first half of this year.

Adobe expects 9 percent of all smartphones sold this year to support Flash 10.1, said Anup Murarka, director of technology strategy and partner development. That figure will reach 35 percent next year, he said, and about 53 percent in 2012.

“That's with current partners,” he said. “If we add more partners, new operating systems, it could be even faster growth.”

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