Charles Arthur 

Flash, mobiles, Firefox and more: following on from the other day…

Let's see what we've learnt about Flash from the past couple of days...
  
  

OK, so I seem to have poked something of a hornets' nest with my earlier post about where Adobe's Flash goes (if it needs to go anywhere) given that Apple has clearly set its face against allowing it or including it on its forthcoming iPad, as well as the existing iPhone and iPod Touch (which outsells the iPhone).

Some more links to the fire. First, John Nack of Adobe had a blog post on this matter, which is more of a meta-post:

"Adobe isn't in the Flash business
Seriously. It isn't in the Photoshop business, or the Acrobat business, or the [take-your-pick product name] business, either. It's in the helping people communicate business."

And adds:

"Flash has stepped in to fill some gaps heretofore left by other technologies. It is, however, just one possible means to an end--always has been. Adobe will of course continue to invest in making Flash better, and it'll keep investing in other ways to help creative people reach customer eyeballs. It's not a zero-sum game"

OK, so with that in mind, let's move on, and incorporate some of the comments from that post. Thanks to @kalabash, who pointed to the Mozilla blog about Firefox for Maemo RC (release candidate) 2, for the Nokia N900 or N810, which comes with the caveat:

"We've decided to disable plugin (not to be confused with add-ons, which are supported) support for this release. The Adobe Flash plugin used on many sites degraded the performance of the browser to the point where it didn't meet our standards. If you wish to enable our experimental plugin support, you will be able to manually via about:config, but do so at your own risk. We are working on an add-on that will allow the user to have control of which sites to enable plugins for, as some sites, like YouTube, do work quite well."

Yeah, OK, it's an RC for a browser you download. But this instability thing? That sounds like a pattern.

Also insightful: @whereistom answering @RickWilliams's question - "With HTML5, can you add queue points in the video, and then perform actions (e.g. scripts) when you hit those points?" with taking a quick look at this link I don't see why not? You certainly seem to be able to access the current time using video.currentTime so attaching an event to that should be pretty simple. Obviously I have no idea what the browser support is like at the moment."

He also added: "...Adobe don't seem to have been too concerned about performance outside of Windows - if they'd sorted out the mac plugin performance issues 2 years ago, I wonder if we would even be having this conversation? And Adobe can be one of the few corporations in the tech world to really challenge Apple for title of "Biggest precious twats"."

Insightful, as I said.

Now we come to the question - the more vexed question - of whether Flash runs on mobile phones, and if so which. @Patrician responded to my question of "Now tell us what proportion of smartphones - actually, any phones - run Flash" with the reply of "Can we start with the 40% of smartphones that are made by Nokia and then work from there? You know, the ones that run Flash lite 3.1 natively and Flash 10 through Skyfire? If you include WinMo I think that's about 50% of the smartphone market. You know, about three times the share of Apple's iPhone."

But then you get @veggiedude, saying "Flash lite (or 'Flash 10') is Flash in name only - it is not Flash technologically, meaning it can't run over 90% of the Flash out there. The promise of Flash on Android has not happened yet - even though Adobe has had it as a high priority all these months. Turns out, making Flash work right is a herculean task - do not hold your breath!"

But wait (and thanks @pauldhunt), here's Kevin Lynch, chief technology officer of Adobe, with a post on Tuesday which opens wryly:

"Some have been surprised at the lack of inclusion of Flash Player on a recent magical device"

But seriously, folks..

"Now we are at an important crux for the future of Flash. A wide variety of devices beyond personal computers are arriving, many of which will be used to browse the Web, making it increasingly challenging to deliver what creators and users of content and applications have come to expect of Flash on personal computers -- seamless, consistent and rich experiences. The Flash engineering team has taken this on with a major overhaul of the mainstream Flash Player for a variety of devices."

"We are now on the verge of delivering Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones with all but one of the top manufacturers. This includes Google's Android, RIM's Blackberry, Nokia, Palm Pre and many others across form factors including not only smartphones but also tablets, netbooks, and internet-connected TVs. Flash in the browser provides a competitive advantage to these devices because it will enable their customers to browse the whole Web. This is being accomplished via the Open Screen Project, where we are working with over 50 partners to make this a reality across a wide array of devices."

What do we conclude? Hmm, "on the verge of delivering"? OK. For developers, my suspicion is that if you don't need Flash, you avoid it like the plague. Not for nothing does it have such a bad name among those who haven't had to use it to solve some problem or another.

But for those who use it all the time, it's the perfect Swiss Army Illustrating Knife, to be used for all sorts of wonderful thing. Look at this Wrangler page - thanks, perhaps, @fusuma. (Warning: don't go there with a Mac, unless you've got a spare browser you can leave to max out the CPU. Windows users can let me know how it goes.) For someone out there, that Wrangler page is the best way it can be done. For others (I might include myself, but hey) it's an awful attempt to animate something that just doesn't need it.

It's going to be interesting - as in really interesting - to see how well Flash can be made to run on ARM chips (Adobe seems to have it pretty good on Intel ones).

Oh, and to the people who pointed to the Tech Weekly podcast page, and pointed out that that seems to be a Flash gizmo - yes, I daresay it is. But it works fine it you go to it in the Guardian app. They're just audio files. Flash isn't necessary for everything; perhaps for anything.

And to the other point, about Farmville having more users than there are iPhones sold? Two points: first, for those non-Flash devices you have to multiply by 2.5, because iPhones are only about 40% (best estimate) of the iPhone/iPod Touch market.

Second: Farmville? As an argument in favour of anything?

 

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