Information vs. Judgment: A VC’s dilemma

Yesterday in Does “A VC” have a blind spot for Apple? we outlined how Union Square Ventures VC Fred Wilson was drinking the Adobe Kool-Aid on why Apple hasn’t seen fit to allow Flash on the iPhone. His piece got dozens of comments, many of them quite negative as Wilson himself noted in comments he left here.

I’m glad to see that Wilson had his own “So I screwed up” moment and says he learned a lot from the commentary and moved on. That is as it should be.

Wilson’s “People”

I am, however, bothered by the way he concluded his follow-up piece, From Blog To Forum, with this:

All of this is fantastic for many reasons but there is one that stands out as the most valuable to me. It makes me a better investor. Kontra said this in his comment on the Apple/Flash thing:

Hopefully, you have people advising you on platform choices on a strategic level, going beyond press releases.

I do have people advising me. It’s you. And thank you for doing such a damn good job of it.

The part that bothers me (that I emphasized) is his consideration of his commentators. Though we live in the same city, I never met Wilson and don’t know him personally so I have no basis to judge whether he’s being condescending or not. And that personal stuff isn’t important to me, but the relationship between publishers/bloggers and their commentators as the bedrock of a new social order is.

Information is cheap and money for nothing

As the title of his site indicates Wilson is a venture capitalist; he invests in companies. The currency of his practice is the ability to make strategic decisions on the viability of ideas/companies he invests in. To do that he needs information.

Though he says he’s not a “technologist,” with an engineering degree from MIT and so many years in the business, it’s hard to ignore that he knew so little about the subject matter he himself chose to write about. Apparently at Union Square Ventures, partners’ blogs don’t get tech-checked by technology staff. Wilson says that’s not needed because I and his commentators are here to provide the necessary information and fact-check.

After all, aren’t we living in the Web 2.0 era with crowd-sourcing? Isn’t this supposed to be the antidote to closed-doors editorial practices of the mainstream media? Hasn’t User Generated Content mushroomed recently as a fertile ground for investment? Isn’t the crowd smarter than the blogger?

If Wilson knows the answers, he’s a better man than I. But what I do know is that I don’t “advise” Wilson. He doesn’t know why I chose to point out his errors or defended Apple. And I don’t know why Wilson promoted Adobe and Nokia at the expense of Apple. These could all be because we both have a monetary reason. For all we know, he might be getting ready to invest in Flash-based startups and I might be working at Apple.

Information vs. Judgment

What exchanged between us was information. But what a VC needs most of all is judgment. Information is cheap and bountiful. Good judgment is rare and expensive. I offered no information to Wilson that he couldn’t get himself by Googling for an hour before he wrote his piece. I offered no judgment to Wilson, because he hasn’t paid for it.

Who’s your daddy?

That brings us to the primary question here: in the age of information abundance and what seems like infinite commentator willingness, can we create businesses that harvest information and monetize it without compensating those who provide it? Further, is that sustainable? Would Wilson open up all of his investment decisions to his blog commentators before finalizing them? And if that were to happen, would he compensate those who contributed profitable information? Otherwise, is Wilson buying judgment, but getting his information for free from his commentators? And is that fair?

Does “A VC” have a blind spot for Apple?

We don’t do formal take-downs of uninformed polemics here, but it’s a bank holiday today so we’ll take the case of “Does Apple Have A Blind Spot About Flash?” by Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures:

Wilson: I think the news that Flash is coming to smartphones over the next year is a big deal.

“News”? According to various estimates and projections, Flash has already been on one billion cellphones (cumulative) and 40% of all new handsets shipped in 2008. I’ll leave it to Wilson to untangle all the versions of Flash/FlashLite and their respective limitations on any given mobile device. But it’s not for trying: Adobe has already struggled to make Flash a “standard” on mobile devices for several years now.

It’s the UI, stupid!

Wilson: Now almost every video site on the web uses a Flash video player. The same is true of audio.

The word “Flash” has become a Rorschach inkblot test. Mention the word and some may think it’s those annoying display ads. For others it’s audio/video delivery widgets all over the web. For a different demographic, it’s interactive casual games. For some e-commerce sites and enterprise intranets, it’s a drill-down data delivery platform.

Adobe has had a problem of defining and then decisively promoting Flash, FlashLite, Flex and AIR. Wilson is apparently bitten by this confusion. In userland reality, there is no Flash “player.” Sure, users have to download a web browser plugin, but once that’s done, the “playback” of audio/video media is, to Adobe’s credit, a fairly seamless part of a web page.

Codec != UI

So what’s so special about the Flash plugin then? Not much. In fact, as a simple audio/video delivery medium, nothing at all. It’s just H.264 video. Now what company is the principal promoter of H.264? According to none other than Adobe:

The broadest distribution of H.264 is via QuickTime from Apple, which is included in iTunes, iPods, iPhone, and the QuickTime Player on Mac and Windows. H.264 is also integrated into everything from mobile phones (Nokia, SonyEricsson) to HD-TV and Digital Radio. There is a wide range of interoperating products supporting this standard. Visit for updated news about H.264.

What did Adobe use for video prior to H.264?

Flash Player supports the Sorenson Spark video codec (based on H.263) and On2 VP6. H.263 is the predecessor of H.264 and was designed for teleconferencing applications, at 64k rates. H.264 delivers even higher quality at lower bitrates. H.264 will deliver the same or better quality when to compared to the same encoding profile in On2.

What Wilson perhaps likes about “Flash video” are the playback controls around the video and various UI widgets that display information about what’s being played elegantly. These, however, are design issues not necessarily technical advantages. Embedded H.264 playback can also be interacted with JavaScript UI controls and various sites, including Apple, have been doing it with QuickTime for many years.

It’s interesting to note that Adobe’s adoption of H.264 was greatly accelerated by Google’s arrangement with Apple to convert YouTube videos from various Flash codecs to H.264 for playback on the widely popular iPhone, and Microsoft’s impending “Flash-killer” Silverlight that featured HD quality video.

It’s the UI, stupid!

Wilson: It’s also true that a lot of the interesting new desktop apps like Twhirl and Tweetdeck are written for AIR, Flash’s runtime cousin for the desktop. I’d love to have apps like this on my smartphone too.

There’s nothing whatsoever about these apps that can’t be implemented on the iPhone without having to use Flash.

Flash is proprietary

Wilson: So it’s very exciting to me that Flash is making a big move over the next year onto smartphones. I’m also very excited to see Nokia and Adobe creating the Open Screen Project and Open Screen Fund to promote an open and consistent experience for web browsing and mobile apps across mobile devices. The mobile web needs to be just like the web for innovation to flourish and capital to flow.

I wonder if Wilson even reads the source material. Here’s what the press release says:

“The Open Screen Project Fund encourages the use of Adobe tools and existing developer skills to create exciting and unique Flash applications for millions of Nokia devices,” said Tero Ojanpera, EVP, Nokia Services.

Developers are invited to submit concepts for applications that are based on the Adobe Flash Platform, will run on Nokia devices… [emp]

Good luck with taking Nokia’s money to create “open” Flash apps that take unique advantage of, say, Palm Pre devices. After a decade, Adobe cannot even get the Flash player to run equally well on Mac OS X. So much for “openness.”

The open vision

Here comes Wilson’s most egregious misdirection:

Wilson: I believe Apple doesn’t share in Adobe and Nokia’s vision of an open and consistent experience for web browsing and mobile apps.

As we have covered previously in Runtime wars (2): Apple’s answer to Flash, Silverlight and JavaFX Apple’s answer to Adobe’s proprietary Flash is open HTML5. In fact, Apple has been by far the largest company dedicated to the promotion of open standards on the web. It’s contributions on HTML5 with <canvas>, CSS animation and various other interactive features duplicating many features of Flash have been exemplary. Its foundational work on WebKit is the reason why Nokia and Adobe themselves have adopted it as their mobile browser! It’s really preposterous for Wilson to mention Flash and “open” in the same breath.

Competition is Apple’s best friend

Wilson: It seems to me that Apple is interested in replicating its iTunes/iPod strategy it used to dominate digital music to dominate the mobile web.

What on earth might Wilson be referring to here? If “mobile web” refers to the iPhone accessing the web via Safari that would be WebKit, the same browser used by Adobe and Nokia and practically every other smartphone manufacturer other than Microsoft. If he’s referring to “native” apps accessing web services, we fail to see his point. All “native” apps running on a mobile device are by definition proprietary to that platform. Open source/native Android apps won’t run on iPhone, Nokia or Pre devices either. But all these apps, native or not, can and do access available web services. Flash-based propriatery apps that may run on multiple platforms bring no discernible advantage. After all, Java has already proved that the ability to run on multiple platforms alone doesn’t translate into user demand and popularity. Already “iPhone [is] making 51 percent of online ad requests among smartphones in the US, and 32 percent worldwide,” says AdMob.

The iPod-killer

Wilson: I don’t think the iTunes/iPod strategy has much life left in it. Things like Pandora, MySpace Music, music blogging, and other forms of streaming music will eventually chip away at that franchise.

Well, wake us up when that happens. Incidentally, while Pandora may work on 50+ devices, guess which platform is the most popular by far.

Wilson: …the mobile web is not going to be dominated by a single device and a single app ecosystem.

Frankly, Wilson hasn’t grokked the iPod/iTunes strategy. Apple didn’t win that war by eliminating all of its competitors, a la Microsoft. Apple, in fact, needs and exquisitely leverages competition so that the battlefield is sufficiently divided into the iPod and all the other iPod-killers. The trick is to equate a market segment with a product: people walk into stores to buy an “iPod” even when they mean to purchase a non-Apple product. The iPod has become a category definer, rendering its competitors irrelevant. The iPhone is in the process of doing the same, whether Wilson likes it or not. In Act II, there is the iPhone and all the other iPhone-killers. While the fat lady hasn’t sung yet to be sure, it’s Apple’s curtain to drop.


Mobile web is and is not just the web

Wilson: I don’t even think an app ecosystem is the long term solution for the mobile web. It’s a bridge enviroment that allows for rich experiences on devices that don’t have reliable high bandwidth connections yet.

There’s very little connective logic among “app ecosystem,” “rich experiences” and “high bandwidth.” Actually, the gating factor for iPhone-class mobile devices currently is battery life, not bandwidth. Sure AT&T 3G coverage is spotty but a lot of iPhone-class device users have access to WiFi and do use it in abundance, as long as their batteries last. But what an app ecosystem has to do with bandwidth per se is a mystery to us.

Wilson: But the mobile web will eventually just be the web.

Yes and no. Yes, because for the iPhone-class mobile devices running WebKit, it already is. No, because user experience on a mobile device will always be different from desktop devices with larger screens, more computing resources, infinite power source and larger storage, but with little use for location, movement or environment-centric sensors.

Rich media is not Flash

Wilson: And a big part of getting it there is to get the tools that allow us to seamlessly consume rich media on the web onto mobile devices. To me that means Flash.

Once again, iPhone users are already consuming rich media as seamlessly as any other, notwithstanding the lack of Flash. The iPhone is about to become the largest mobile platform for games, perhaps the “richest” media experience we know. “Rich media” is not the same as Flash, especially in regards to video which in its H.264 glory is available on the iPhone, albeit without the proprietary Flash wrapper.

Flash versus Open

Perhaps one thing we can all agree on is that the future of the web, mobile or otherwise, will be more or less open. That would be HTML, MP3, H.264, HE-AAC, and so on. These are not propriatery Adobe products, they are open standards…unlike Flash.

In confusing codecs with UI, Wilson keeps asking, “why is it tha[t] most streaming audio and video on the web comes through flash players and not html5 based players?” The answer is rather pedestrian: HTML5 is just ramping up, but Flash IDE has been around for many years. Selling Flash IDE and back-end server tools has been a commercial focus for Adobe, while Apple, for example, hasn’t paid much attention to QuickTime technologies and promotion in ages. It’s thus reflected in adoption patterns.

Hopefully, this summary will clear Wilson’s blind spot:

Apple is betting on open technologies (as it makes money on hardware) while Adobe (which only sells software) is betting on wrapping up content in a proprietary shackle called Flash.

Daily question: What’s the word?

In March of 2003 The City Club in Cleveland decided to give the Citadel of Free Speech Award to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Then something funny happened:

CLEVELAND (AP) – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia banned broadcast media from an appearance Wednesday where he will receive an award for supporting free speech.

The notion of “burning the village to save it” has been in our lexicon since the Vietnam war days, continuing today with the attempt to “nationalize banks to save free markets.” There remains something perplexing, utterly counterintuitive and recursively intriguing about that.

So pardon my (inverse) “burning the village to save it” moment when I saw this:


Yes, a Flash editor to generate SVG. Like writing Windows apps on a Mac. Dieting on bacon fat. Being cool with a Zune.

What is the (dialectical) word that describes the use of something antithetical (Flash) to describe the thesis (SVG)?

Google Chrome: Bad news for Adobe

What’s good for the Internet is good for Google, and the company says its strategic proposition for the newly introduced Chrome browser is: a better platform is needed to deliver a new generation of online applications.

What other companies have lately been trumpeting the same slogan? Microsoft through its browser plug-in Silverlight for .NET apps and Adobe through its browser plug-in Flash for Flex/AIR Rich Internet Applications.

Unlike Apple or Mozilla (which respectively rely on Safari and Firefox browsers without plug-ins) Microsoft and Adobe rely on proprietary plug-ins and runtimes to deliver across platforms what we’ve come to know as RIAs.

Chrome, party pooper


In jumps Google with Chrome. Not a plug-in. Not exactly another runtime. But a full-fledged browser. One that behaves, however, as a platform to host applications best tied to cloud computing with built-in local persistence for offline computing. Sure, in its current form Chrome can’t compete with Silverlight or Flex/AIR for what Adobe calls “expressiveness,” meme-speak for rich graphics, animations, integrated video and other visual UI goodies.

As we pointed out months ago in Runtime wars (2): Apple’s answer to Flash, Silverlight and JavaFX, Apple has been furiously adding “expressive” flair to WebKit. Just like Chrome, both Safari and Firefox will soon be speeding up JavaScript performance of their browsers substantially as well. To such execution speed and expressiveness, Chrome adds memory protection, domain segregation, smoother tab management, application localization, better security and a host of other features that would make any other RIA platform flush with envy.

Who needs Adobe AIR then?

Not the millions of .NET developers around the world. Adobe had a narrow window of opportunity to convert this bulwark of enterprise app creators through Flex/AIR, but Microsoft neutralized that threat fairly quickly with Silverlight. Microsoft developers continue to use, for example, underpowered BizTalk for workflow or the hair-ball SharePoint for collaboration not because they are the best in their class, but because they are conveniently available to them and hook into most other Microsoft properties better than other apps. Silverlight has always been the presumed next step for .NET developers, and Adobe had no real hope of changing that fact in any substantial way with Flex/AIR. Adobe’s target has really been the non-Microsoft crowd, those who wanted to move from static websites to dynamic, data-driven web apps at the enterprise level.


Adobe had a head-start. The ubiquitous Flash begat Flex that begat AIR, the final key to uniting the desktop with the cloud, on- or off-line. At this point, Flex and AIR are the most advanced development and delivery platform for RIAs. They run on multiple OSes and are backed by a company that understands graphics. Had there been no Silverlight, Adobe could have posed a significant headache for Microsoft’s .NET constituency. Unfortunately for Adobe, that window of opportunity has been closing fast.

Chrome may shut it off for good. It’s possible that various open source Chrome technologies could melt into Safari and Firefox. But –– whether as a stand-alone product or a progenitor of fast, powerful and expressive browsers –– Chrome signals to anybody but the diehard Microsoft constituents that the browser itself, not a proprietary plug-in or a separate runtime, is the future of RIAs. With its huge ecosystem, Microsoft can live with that. At least until its enterprise monopoly seriously erodes. But Adobe cannot.

In a world where the online pie is divided among the .NET army of Microsoft, the browser-gang of Apple+Mozilla+Google, and the lone Adobe, it’s not difficult to predict whose share will shrink into insignificance. If the exclusion of Flash from the iPhone wasn’t a wake-up call for Adobe, Chrome should certainly be one.

The new UI wars: Why there’s no Flash on iPhone 2.0

Adobe has been known to swing to its own unique interface tune on both Mac OS and Windows. Mac users have long complained about Adobe’s considerable disregard of Mac OS native technologies, from the pointed absence of full-fledged AppleScript in Photoshop for over a decade to the absence of 64-bit version of that app on Mac OS X when it will ship for Windows likely next year.

Adobe’s UI convergence

Adobe’s goal has always been to establish its own UI as a cross-platform, third alternative to both Mac and Windows native UIs. In the process, Adobe has not been shy to invent new UI conventions that clash with native UI patterns. A case in point is the rather funky window title/menu bar design approach in the upcoming Dreamweaver, Thermo and Fireworks apps:


It can be argued that the company has been quite successful at it. By the time Creative Suite 4 ships, Adobe will have created UI patterns and a look-and-feel shared by most of its family of desktop content creation apps that work virtually identically on both platforms.

However, when it comes to stretching the boundaries of application interface nothing comes close to Flash, Adobe’s ubiquitous web media runtime. From bizarre “Skip Intros” to enigmatic UI widgets, everyone has a “Can you believe somebody actually designed that?” moment. Well aware of this, Adobe has been steadily expanding a set of (default) UI widgets and components in its Flex framework that has come to define the look and feel of many Rich Internet Applications around the web. Of course, one doesn’t have to use the default Flash/Flex UI controls as they can be varied by creating custom skins:


UI convergence on the mature desktop market may be a given for Adobe, but the next frontier is to establish Flash Lite (Flash’s mobile version) as the premier runtime and application development platform for mobile devices, now dominated by Symbian, Windows Mobile and Java.

Nokia, for one, will be rolling out Flash Lite 3.0 on its S60 series phones this year:


Why not the iPhone?

While some version of Flash Lite is available on millions of phones, it’s conspicuously absent on the iPhone.

Many reasons have been floated for why Flash isn’t a good match for the iPhone: it’s slow, it hogs CPU cycles, it drains the battery, it crashes too often, it’s not optimized for Mac OS X and so on. As obvious as these reasons may be, even if all those technical issues could be solved tomorrow, there would still remain a huge divide between Adobe and Apple on the iPhone: who controls the UI?

Adobe’s conundrum

Adobe’s interface strategy on the desktop has been to avoid using native UI controls on the deployed OS in favor of establishing and leveraging its own unique cross-platform UI paradigm that its runtime engine can deliver consistently on multiple platforms.

Unfortunately for Adobe though, Apple is in the process of establishing the first mass-market, multi-touch platform with the iPhone and has already migrated it partially to its notebooks. Clearly, Apple (which acquired FingerWorks and its patent portfolio in 2005) has greater ambitions in establishing a broader multi-touch gesture paradigm, likely to cover other devices as well:


At its introduction, what immediately distinguished the iPhone among all other mobile devices was the pervasive and consistent application of a multi-touch UI. It was as big a jump from the WIMP (“window, icon, menu, pointer”) desktop metaphor to a direct manipulation paradigm as we’ve seen in the computer and consumer electronics industries.


Not unexpectedly, every other phone manufacturer has already lined up as the next “iPhone killer” with myriad prototypes and a few shipping products. It’s easy to see in the results that it’s quite problematic to duplicate the fluidity of the iPhone’s UI without infringing Apple’s numerous patents or creating groundbreaking advances. Most pretenders aren’t up to the task: here, for example, is a Flash Lite file that “transforms” Nokia S60 phones into iPhones:


Once you get to “secondary” pages (see video), the touch paradigm gives way to the ugly WIMP interface, which has been the common theme in the vast majority of “iPhone killer” attempts. Some competitors even tried to bypass multi-touch altogether. Samsung, for example, patented a rather impractical gesture-based UI where hand/finger gestures are tracked by a phone’s camera for interaction and navigation:


Apple: Not on my device!

With the iPhone, Apple has been slowly but surely creating a third major OS platform and UI aesthetics commensurate with a multi-touch driven, small scale mobile device. This is a company so obsessed with UI and user experience that it hasn’t yet introduced something as basic as copy and paste on the iPhone 2.0 because, as is rumored, it hasn’t quite nailed a proper UI pattern.

In this highly charged and competitive marketplace to establish the next UI paradigm for mobile devices, Apple is not about to give Adobe or any other company free reins to dilute its brand proposition by introducing cross-platform, common-denominator UIs and interaction patterns to be mingled with Apple’s carefully orchestrated multi-touch approach. So what does that leave Adobe with?

Adobe’s iPhone choices

To put Flash on the iPhone Adobe may:

  • strike a deal to license Apple’s entire iPhone UI controls and interaction patterns and ship them with Flash, Flex and AIR development suites as components, much like its current default set “Halo.” Apple hasn’t yet shown any inkling that it’s willing go along with this.
  • decide to duplicate the iPhone UI and ignore a legal threat from seriously irked Apple IP lawyers. (For a company that once sued Macromedia for UI infringement that would be supremely ironic.)
  • leave the task of creating iPhone compatible Flash components and skins to third party partners and let them deal with the legal ramifications.
  • put itself in an unenviable position of having one UI paradigm for the iPhone and another for the rest of the devices it runs on, which would mean that a non-trivial application delivered for the Flash Lite runtime would end up being (at least visually) broken either on the iPhone or on other devices. After all, even the simplest of Flash UI patterns like dragging or double-clicking won’t work on the iPhone as they have entirely different consequences on this multi-touch platform.
  • abandon Flash’s long standing strategy of using its own “third-platform” UI paradigm distinct from the native look and feel of the OS it’s running on by using OS-native UI controls, thereby creating a litany of OS-specific headaches for designers and developers. After all, a UI designed for the multi-touch iPhone just wouldn’t be conveniently re-morphed to run smoothly on lesser devices and vice versa.
  • encourage developers to design and produce separate versions of their Flash apps for the iPhone and other platforms, but that simply defeats the whole purpose of using Flash to deliver seamlessly compliant multi-platform apps.
  • develop its own non-infringing multi-touch gesture library for Flash to either compete with Apple on the iPhone, or just ignore the iPhone and try to establish an anti-iPhone multi-touch platform. (In this regard, it may approach Google to make all or parts of its technology available to Android.)

Some of these theoretical choices are of course impractical as third-party applications cannot be legally loaded on iPhones without going through “The App Store” controlled by Apple.

Apple’s Flash choices

By being so different than other platforms, Apple’s multi-touch, direct-manipulation iPhone UI clearly upsets Adobe’s strategy of a distinct, non-native UI paradigm consistent across multiple platforms and devices. With its recent purchase of chip design house PA Semi, Apple has signaled that it’s aiming to further differentiate its iPhone platform by tying native capabilities to custom-designed system-on-chips, unavailable to third parties and cloners alike. It’s not difficult to imagine that various iPhone UI capabilities will be enhanced by the power of Apple-only hardware components. So it will be increasingly difficult for Adobe or others to battle with Apple either subversively on the iPhone or competitively on other devices.

So what about Flash on the iPhone? Can the iPhone succeed without it? That’s a two-pronged challenge for Apple.

When pundits refer to the absence of “Flash” on the iPhone, they usually mean streaming Flash video, the kind that put YouTube on the map. However, that was the easier problem for Apple to (at least partially) solve. Through an agreement with Google, Apple was able to convince the biggest conduit of Flash video online to make its videos available in the widely deployed industry-standard H.264 codec, which also drives QuickTime videos. Not too long after that Adobe switched to H.264 as its primary video codec in Flash Player 9.

The other missing part of Flash is the ubiquitous .swf runtime that delivers Rich Internet Applications in the browser, and now with Adobe AIR on the desktop as well. As we have discussed previously, unlike Adobes’ Flash, Microsoft’s Silverlight and Sun’s JavaFX, Apple doesn’t have a multimedia/RIA runtime. While all three companies have publicly expressed keen interest to put their runtime engine on the iPhone, Apple has shown no interest thus far. Indeed, despite great pundit pressure, Steve Jobs went out of his way to declare Flash “too slow to be useful” on the iPhone and Flash Lite “not capable of being used with the web.”


Apple’s “RIA runtime” is turning out to be WebKit, as we detailed previously. With the upcoming MobileMe apps Apple’s arguing that an Ajax-based UI in a web browser can be as effective as a desktop app or an RIA delivered via Flash. In other words, Apple is saying: if you want to natively deliver an app for the iPhone use Cocoa Touch and if you’re reaching for cross-platform ubiquity (including on the iPhone with Safari mobile) use Ajax. Not a complicated proposition.

As for Flash, last year an Apple developer document (“Optimizing Web Applications and Content for iPhone”) listed just one item under the section “Unsupported Technologies”:

“You’ll want to avoid using Flash and Java for iPhone content. You’ll also want to avoid encouraging users to download the latest Flash on their iPhone, because neither Flash nor downloads are supported by Safari on iPhone.”

Clearly, Adobe has an uphill battle to either re-engineer the Flash runtime for the iPhone or convince Apple to specifically accommodate it by demonstrating an indisputable need for it.