A Take on Flash on the iPhone by Daring Fireball

Flash not being on the iPhone yet is quite telling of the type of company battles going on. I like what Apple produces many times but they love a locked down environment more than Microsoft, in fact Microsoft seems like an open company and open market that is for sure compared to Apple. I am starting to think it will not happen, Flash on the iPhone. I have to boycott the iPhone for the type of closed environment that only non-developers can love. There are certain technologies, open or not, that become base technologies that create a platform of commonality to even make a market possible, the mobile market seems to be doing everything to not let that happen.

Daring Fireball (John Gruber) has a good take on the situation.

There are currently two ways to develop software for the iPhone (and iPod Touch): using HTML/CSS/JavaScript web standards, and using Cocoa. Cocoa is proprietary, but from Apple’s perspective, it’s the good sort of proprietary: a competitive advantage completely owned and controlled by Apple. Apple doesn’t control the HTML/CSS/JavaScript web standards, but neither does anyone else. And Apple does control and own WebKit, which is by anyone’s measure the best mobile implementation of these standards today.

Flash, on the other hand, is (from Apple’s perspective) the wrong sort of proprietary — owned and controlled by another company. Apple and Adobe aren’t enemies, but they’re certainly competitors, and the history between the two companies is not entirely warm.1 In the grand scheme of things, I suspect Apple’s executives aren’t happy at all about Flash’s prominent and entrenched role in desktop computing, particularly the fact that Flash, rather than QuickTime, has become the de facto standard for video on the web.

It is all about control…

The mobile market is wide open in ways that the desktop market is not. E.g., in the mobile OS market, Microsoft isn’t even in first place, let alone a monopoly. And, in the mobile world, Flash is rare, not ubiquitous. Why would Apple help Adobe establish Flash as a de facto standard for the mobile web, too? If Flash does turn into a major force in the mobile world, Apple can always add it later. But why shouldn’t Apple push for a Flash-free mobile web future now?

As it stands today, Apple is dependent on no one other than itself for the software on the iPhone. Apple controls the source code to the whole thing, from top to bottom.2 Why cede any of that control to Adobe?

Unfortunately if Gruber is right the mobile market will continue to be a lag in areas such as gaming, vector based apps, video, competitive markets, and many other things that lead to innovation. I think some of the recent changes in mobile recently are extermely cool (iPhone, Android, new flashlite) but unfortunately they have added about 20 new directions that mobile developers have to develop for. It is anything but a consistent platform even within the company silos being created in the mobile market.

  • James R Taylor

    “I have to boycott the iPhone for the type of closed environment…”

    Yeah, because Flash is the epitome of being an open environment. From Wiki.. “Flash Player cannot ship as part of a pure open source, or completely free operating system, as its distribution is bound to the Macromedia Licensing Program and subject to approval.”

    “There is, as of late 2007, no complete free software replacement which offers all the functionality of the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.”

    “Adobe has yet (as of February 2008) to release a Flash Player for the x86-64 architecture on any operating system.[18] There is to date no Linux Flash Player for non-x86 compatible processors (e.g. x86-64 native, PowerPC, ARM, etc.).”

    Locked into Apple, locked into Adobe. Take your pick.

  • http://www.flashgamer.com Jensa

    Hehe… James is right. Same thing. I have a different take on this. Imagine browsing the web with your iPhone using an already quite unstable Safari browser. Visit a site that has 5 Flash ads on it. Not only will you probably pay more for these ads, but just a small bummer by the ones that made the banners and your super-smooth iPhone OS will crawl to less than one frame per second before Safari crashes…

    My bet is that the iPhone’s 600Mhz CPU would suck at Flash. Then again – Opera Mobile has a Flash Lite implementation now that will be used on similar or lower spec’ed phones, so I guess it COULD work.

  • http://blog.natejc.com Nate Chatellier

    My banking website just switched to Flash. I can’t even log into my bank account now on my iPhone since it doesn’t support Flash! With the flash player at such a high distribution rate, it is becoming more and more safe for companies to require it. As more and more companies require it, the mobile web world will have to start universally supporting it, or the natives will get restless. And the natives getting restless is never good for the dictators.

  • http://blog.natejc.com Nate Chatellier
  • http://drawlogic.com/ drawk

    @ James: Yeh I am not saying Adobe is open, nor is Microsoft, Apple or even Sun but there is a difference. Being open source and being open market are two different things. Apple has always been closed market and it is why they lost the desktop battle long ago. They could also very well screw up the mobile market with this as well.

    I support both open and closed systems as long as they provide markets and platforms to build upon. Open is preferred but then again most innovation even open comes at the help of a company.

    @Jensa: Possibly you are right, but Flashlite is optmized for mobile and runs fine on my 2 year old phone, HTC. The iPhone should be as capable.

    @Nate: I hope you are right, really the flash and iPhone markets are much of the same market, they would be silly not to add this in, but their love of Quicktime is immense. Flash would own video on iPhone as well.

  • Agustin

    Flash and Flashlite are 2 different things, as a Flash developer I can build a site in flash, and it will work perfectly on a desktop, but then I have to make a mobile/Search Engine version of it…
    I could build the flashlite version and solve some of the mobile issues, and the app or RIA would work jus fine, but what about the iPhone? or so many other handhelds that don’t support flash…?
    Do I have to make yet another version for the site?…

    My choice, sadly, has been drop Flash, and work with what is standard (or better suported): CSS, Java, and serverside… Flash was a good promise, but it grew the wrong way. Flashlite is a long lost battle.

    Flash is great, AS3 is just wonderful, but it still requires a lot of resources, I can make a cuad core crawl to a halt with a graphic intense site (i’ve done it without big loops and with AS3). Flash gives you the capacity to crash the most stable environments. A banner would display fine on the iPhone, but a heavy encrypting algorithm, or any 3D rendering engine out there use the same plugin, and that would crash any current CPU on a mobile.

    So I have left the fun, nice, well supported and warm wing of Adobe to embrace the no so well supported standards… oh well.