Thursday, March 20

Flash on the iPhone is a technical not political problem

There has been a lot of speculation lately that politics between Adobe and Apple are causing the delay in bringing Flash to the iPhone.

However, beyond proving that there's tremendous demand for Flash support on the iPhone I believe these political ramblings are irrelevant.

While Adobe and Apple have had their differences in the past I think this is a purely a technical issue not a political one.

Apple does not have an alternative that competes with Flash.

There is no conflict of interest.

Flash has an install base of over 90% of all computers1 and it is now the norm on websites for both advertising and video playback. As such Flash is an integral part of the Internet experience.

Finally, as mentioned, if the amount of news and blog posts about Adobe / Apple politics is any indicator there is clearly tremendous demand from iPhone fans and developers.

And why shouldn't iPhone owners expect Flash support on their iPhones? Wasn't it Apple who stated in one of the original iPhone ads:
"This is not a watered down version of the Internet, or the mobile version of the Internet, or the 'kinda sorta looks like the Internet', Internet. It's just the Internet on your phone."

So the demand, the interest, and the benefit are there for all parties including iPhone fans, iPhone developers, Adobe and Apple. What then is the problem?

Here's my stab at the issues:
  1. Potential hardware dependencies in Flash such as video codec support may mean many of the most popular Flash applications may simply not work well or at all on the current iPhone hardware.

  2. Limitations in processing power on the iPhone may lead to inconsistent or poor experiences with Flash applications in general

  3. Processor requirements of flash may well severely drain and reduce battery life.

  4. AT&T's wireless network is extremely limited, thus extraneous Flash applications in web pages such as advertisements might diminish the whole iPhone Internet experience.

Off hand I can think of one simple solution that may mitigate many of these limitations.

In order to prevent advertisements and other Flash applications from needlessly using up processor cycles, draining the battery and wasting precious wireless data bandwidth the iPhone interface could simply require an extra click before a Flash application begins to load in a web page.

Anyone who's a fan of the FireFox Flashblock extension will understand what I mean. Flash applications are merely represented in the page by a Flash button and will not load / play unless first clicked upon.

This simple UI enhancement would solve the problem of needlessly wasting limited bandwidth and processor cycle by allowing users to ignore all Flash applications except those which they specifically choose to load.

Alternatively in order to avoid taxing AT&T's network Apple could block flash usage while on AT&T's network all together, but don't think this will be necessary.


Anonymous said...

You really don't know what you're talking about

Anonymous said...

Shantanu Narayen
(President and CEO of Adobe)

"So we are also committed to bringing the Flash experience to the iPhone and we will work with Apple. We've evaluated the SDK, we can now start to develop the Flash player ourselves and we think it benefits our joint customers. So we want to work with Apple to bring that capability to the device."

Anonymous said...

"To bring the full capabilities of Flash to the Iphone Web-browsing experience, we do need to work with Apple beyond and above what is available through the SDK and the current licence around it,"

the company said in updated statement, which corrected the CEO.

Sounds like Apple do have political reasons for dragging their heals