Jan 302010

According to an article on The Register, our friends at Adobe are  somewhat irritated by Apple’s insistence on not allowing Flash to run on the iPhone and now the iPad. Because Apple’s platform for both products is closed, Adobe has to live with Apple’s decision on whether to allow it or not. Complaining about it amuses me, because Adobe is effectively guilty of the same kind of actions.

Almost all desktop web browsers have had the Flash plugin installed so “enhance the web browsing experience”. The fact is that we do not have much choice in the matter – many web developers insist on putting Flash elements onto web pages; sometimes the lack of Flash is merely irritating, but in many cases the whole purpose of the web service is list without Flash. For instance a Flash-less YouTube would be somewhat short on video (there is an experimental HTML5 video interface for YouTube which looks interesting but I am overlooking that for now).

Mind you that Flash plugin is also responsible for most the occasions when your web browser crashes, and it also has a tendency to “spin the wheel” and consume huge quantities of cpu time to no purpose. Admittedly it may be that the Flash experience on more conservative platforms (such as Windows) may be less unpleasant, but from what I have heard, Flash doesn’t much like Windows either.

Perhaps Apple does not want their products to get the reputation of being unreliable and unresponsive ? Of course the reason that Apple gives is that the Flash plugin is an interpreter and that they do not allow such software onto the iPhone/iPad platform for security reasons. Now on a phone, the lack of Flash can be overcome by producing specialist applications such as the YouTube app, or by accepting a phone just is not as effective at browsing the web. Of course on something like the iPad, it is going to be a little harder to accept when web sites appear broken.

Which is of course Adobe’s point. And to some extent they are right. But you do suspect that Adobe are actually more worried about their own business than the interests of consumers.

If the iPad takes off, those web sites that use Flash extensively are going to have a big incentive to produce alternate versions of their sites. Some may well opt to “wrap” their site into a iPhone/iPad app; others may simply opt to switch to HTML5 and it’s support for video (which is not quite ready for prime time just yet). The modern standard of HTML provides for much more options in generating dynamic content.

Of course this hypothetical shift away from Flash content would be bad for Adobe, because people will be less interested in paying for Adobe’s content production software. Perhaps Adobe should admit defeat and modify their software to generate standards-based web pages rather than closed binary “blobs”. It will certainly be easier to do that than to persuade Apple to unlock their platform!

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