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Summary:

Apple’s disdain for Adobe Flash is legendary, and it is not surprising that the iPad will not support Flash in the browser. Adobe understands that, and have developed a tool that compiles Flash apps into native iPhone apps. This can get Flash onto the iPad anyway.

iPad thumb

Apple’s disdain for Adobe Flash is legendary, so it is not surprising that the iPad will not support Flash in the browser. The iPhone doesn’t support Flash either, so this is simply more of the same. A recent conversation I had with Adobe pointed out something that is not well known in regards to Flash on these devices from Apple. It turns out Flash runs fine, as long as it’s in the form of a native iPhone/iPad app. Adobe has tools to make that easy for developers to do, and told me that more than 40 Flash-based apps have been submitted to the iTunes App Store. Now comes word that the cool Wired iPad app was developed with Adobe AIR, which, Apple’s feelings aside, makes apparent just how much can be done with Flash on Apple’s domain.

To be clear, Safari’s mobile browser will not handle Flash on web pages, and this is by design. No matter what we mere mortals think about that, it is not going to change in our lifetime. Apple has a blind spot about Flash that is not going away, iPad or not. The folks at Adobe have figured that out by now, and it is pure genius that they have produced a tool to get around Apple and let developers get Flash apps on the iPhone/ iPad. According to Adobe, the Packager for iPhone can compile any Flash-based app into native iPhone code. Adobe AIR can then be used to distribute them onto the iPad. No matter how you may feel about Flash, watching the video of the Wired iPad app shows just how much can be accomplished with it on Apple’s own platform.

So will Apple allow this to happen? That’s hard to predict as the company seems to have a true hatred for all things Flash. This uncertainty is where Apple’s tight-handed control over the app approval process raises its ugly head. It doesn’t have to do anything to prevent these Flash apps to get released, it can simply withhold approval. I really hope this doesn’t happen, and I believe Apple will be very short-sighted if it doesn’t approve apps simply because they’re Flash-based. If the company wants to make the iPad the Next Big Thing, it had better make it easy to get good apps like the Wired app on board. Flash or no.

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  1. All this effort in the world to put Flash on the Ipad, Ipod touch or Iphone, this should tell Apple, people want flash and multi tasking. Most will discover that somewhere down the road you will have to make a choice, style of functionality. The choice to do more with a device you carry is based on the usability designed into it, Apple is telling consumers, thats not what they had in mind when we built the device, multi tasking is not a consideration for them, so why are we trying to make this square peg fit in a round hole?

  2. There are already Flash-based apps on the iPhone, although reviews of them indicate that they are slow and jerky.
    Apple wants their products to work as intended and recognizes that Flash is unable to work efficiently or without mischief on OS X-based devices. What was it Steve Jobs said recently?…something like 90% of all Mac/OS X crashes are caused by FLASH! Sometimes, software has been kludged and updated so much that it becomes unstable and detrimental to the overall operation of the device. That’s where Flash is today. Fortunately there’s HTML5 and H.264 waiting to take care of the problems, hopefully very soon. Already Safari offers HTML5 and good video capability as evidenced by YouTube. And, I believe that by the time the iPad is released, Hulu will have an app that will allow their content to be played. Unless you consider Farmville to be an essential part of your life, then don’t worry about the lack of Flash. You can live without it!

    1. As much as Apple would like to pretend otherwise, Flash is still a huge part of the web and that isn’t too likely to change soon. I think Adobe did a fairly good job demonstrating what kinds of content would be unavailable on the iPad shortly after the announcement and I think that is a message that they need to keep driving home while extending it to the iPhone as well.

      I suspect Apple is going to eventually have little choice but to give in on this one. Adobe is already demonstrating Flash on the other major smartphone platforms and it should be widely available on most of them within the next couple months. If recent rumors are true, launch on WebOS and Android may be only weeks or even days away.

      I really wouldn’t underestimate at all the importance of Farmville and other similar games, particularly for the more casual users. My wife has an iPhone and is generally very happy with it, but the one complaint she mentions to me regularly is the fact that she can’t use it to play her Facebook games. Her contract is up later this year and I have virtually no doubt that she will be switching to a Palm or Android phone if those can play her games while the iPhone still can’t.

  3. I wouldn’t call it a blind spot. Adobe has truly earned every erg of this from Apple. When Flash crashes on the Mac most of those complaints go straight to Apple because they make Safari look unstable and crashy.

    Who knows, the separate process-per-window model that Google’s Chrome was likely inspired to a good degree by Flash’s crashes (Apple certainly wasted no time adopting it to run Flash inside of in Safari).

    Flash is not just buggy but a resource hog and I routinely find it consuming several hundred megabytes of memory on my Mac Pro (just before I kill it to cycle it back down again.)

    I can just imagine how buggy and crashy the iPhone would have looked if Apple had allowed Adobe to put in a Flash plugin. The complaints would have been legion and most of them going straight to Apple.

    Now we have Adobe running around crowing about their open screen alliance and what has it produced so far?

    Nothing.

    They whine incessantly about not having Flash on the iPhone when it isn’t on a single phone from anyone. Not one. Heck even Windows 7 Phone didn’t have it.

    We have Wired showing off an Air demoware. But how buggy is it? I mean even Adobe’s Digital Edition Air ebook platform crashes all the time for me.

    Adobe tries hard to act like they’re being put upon by Apple but whom has really been putting upon whom here?

    1. @Scotty Skyfire browser runs Flash on Windows Mobile and Symbian. Without Flash on the iPad, Steve Jobs is a bold-faced liar when he spouts that the iPad is the best browsing experience. Just because you use Apple’s iToys, I don’t feel bad one bit that you use overpriced, overhyped trinkets.

  4. As Scotty mentioned, the Flash reputation is well earned/deserved. Adobe sat on their fat asses and did noting to improve it and deserve every bit of what they’re getting now.

    It’s yet to be seen how well those compiled apps work – they can’t use any of the basic Apple controls – and even though Adobe says they have Flash running on other platforms, we haven’t seen them in the wild, fully released. Will Google actually sanction it on Android? Not sure.

    And Tim – No, Flash does not run on Windows Mobile and Symbian – That’s Flash-Lite, not the same thing.

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  6. Alexander Gloning Monday, February 22, 2010

    I guess Apple just wants to avoid native Flash Player because they can hardly control the dynamic imported multimedia content they wanna sell on iTunes. Compiling through Air into an App which can be banned from the store and device seems to the only way to handle flash for Apples distribution politics. I guess they don’t mind what’s in the background.

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