Flash on the iPhone Doesn't Work -- Deal with it!
I’ve had it up to here with listening to everyone complaining about how the iPhone doesn’t support Adobe’s Flash. People are either hyping the future of Flash or proposing outlandish solutions that don’t really work. The fact is, there are substantial reasons why Adobe Flash doesn't get embedded into many phones. Instead of demanding that Adobe puts Flash on iPhones, people should wonder why it has been so difficult. I followed the saga of Flash on mobile since 2003, often experimented with it, and would like to share some findings. The Problems with Flash on Mobile
- It is high in CPU use, which is a problem on many levels for a mobile phone. It is likely to deliver a sub-standard experience on a phone since vector graphics are complex calculations
- With Flash (a veritable resource hog) on board, the phone or app will crash more frequently
- Flash on mobile in the US has a tarnished reputation. Not that this can’t be overcome but Verizon’s deal with Adobe FlashCast was a famous failure. Crisp has first hand experience working on a FlashCast app with Verizon in 2007 and it was a nightmare.
- Flash Lite (v1 to v3) had many developers with high expectations fooled. In truth, Flash Lite technology for phones is rather simple and useless.
- Embedding Flash as a plug-in in a browser creates all sorts of complications. QuickTime isn’t even running within a web page on iPhone Safari. QuickTime launches as a separate app.
The Future for Flash on Mobile
- Adobe is hard at work creating enough improvements to the technology to make it work better for phones. Only then will manufacturers and operators find it worthwhile to license it. It would be logical to expect to see some results early 2010 as announced this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
- I’m convinced that it is not due to lack of will that Adobe requires time to do this. Optimization of this complex graphical application often depends on use of low-level system API’s which might not be accessible. These interdependencies take time to resolve.
- While Adobe will provide several popular mobile software platforms with embedded Flash capabilities in the future, expect that iPhone and Blackberry will be the last ones. Apple has QuickTime and they are expected to drag their feet on working with Adobe to support Flash. Blackberry being a Java device for the enterprise would probably have problems providing the low-level OS access. The first movers will be Android, Palm Pre, Windows Phone or Symbian.
- But Flash for the web and Flash on mobile will still be two different things entirely. Don't expect a regular Flash animation for web to be fully compatible with mobile Flash. Which means, don’t expect your Flash-based ads or web pages to render on mobile devices seamlessly. You will still need to optimize for mobile.
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