Why Adobe’s Bum Rush of the iPhone Doesn’t Matter

By  |  Monday, January 11, 2010 at 8:45 am

Apple has done all it can to keep Flash off the iPhone. It has used about every excuse in the book — too memory intensive, a drain on battery power, what have you — even though Adobe has pretty much addressed most of these issues. Flash is ready for the iPhone but Apple is not ready for Flash.

Either way Adobe is not going to wait much longer. It’s Creative Suite 5 product, now going through private beta, is going to include functionality that will automatically convert Flash applications to ones that are compatible with the iPhone.

This has the potential to be quite the step forward in iPhone development. TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld seems to even go as far as suggesting this as some kind of game changer. CS5 has the potential to expand the developer far beyond the 125,000 iPhone developers out there today, considering there’s about two million Flash developers worldwide.

I hate to rain on anyones parade, but not so fast.

For all that we know of this functionality, it appears to just be a port. Essentially the Flash code is translated into what the software believes is the closest match in iPhone code and goes with it. Like we’ve found out in the past with “WYSIWYG” HTML editors such as Microsoft’s popular FrontPage product, this isn’t always a good thing.

What’s the result? Bulky, slow running applications. In the dog-eat-dog world that has become the App Store, that’s just not going to fly.

I highly doubt that Flash developers that have gone to great lengths to create great Flash apps would allow these same apps to become subpar just to get on the iPhone. While no doubt there will be a subset of Flash developers that will use this feature, it’s not going to be as many as people think.

Bottom line? If these developers want to develop for the iPhone, then they should do it the right way.


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21 Comments For This Post

  1. tom b Says:

    “What’s the result? Bulky, slow running applications.”

    Maybe the coders at Adobe just aren’t that talented. I don’t use Photoshop but here’s two examples: 1) Adobe Reader is a horrendously slow loading, buggy, Piece-of-(umm)-code (let’s keep the language at a family level. 2) Flash is a buggy, insecure, CPU-hungry mess, deeply despised on all platforms. Granted, it may have come flawed from Macromedia– I don’t know– but it’s a turd.

  2. Walt French Says:

    … even though Adobe has pretty much addressed most of these issues.

    Let’s see… two major issues, plus the show-stoppers of memory leakage and other instability on Mac OSX, and somehow you think addressing major “pretty much” “most” of them is good enough for a device that has to have a higher reliability factor than a desktop computer.

    Not that there’s much public information that they’ve really fixed these problems. Mostly, other platforms have agreed to put up with them.

    There’s one further factor: Flash is such an 800 lb gorilla that once it got into the iPhone, Apple would take the heat for how it trashed the other aspects of the experience. So Apple would take the heat for software that it doesn’t control. I think Adobe would have to release the source to public domain, assure Apple that it’d keep it feature-complete with full Flash, and give Apple the right to modify it for whatever reasons, before Apple would seriously consider it, given how badly Apple should feel it’s been treated by Adobe.

    I personally wouldn’t expect Adobe to accede to these standards, so a translator is the next-best solution. These can be done badly or well: there is no reason to rule it out. And frankly, if Adobe wants to sell Flash given Apple’s intransigence plus their QC standards elsewhere, it looks like their best shot. Developers might think elsewise.

  3. Shane Says:

    I’d believe Adobe’s Flash application was corrected to work on the iPhone if only it worked properly on my Mac. Try Good Morning America’s website sometime on your Mac and tell me Flash isn’t refuse on the Mac. If they can’t get it working there, why should I believe it would work on a phone?

  4. jbb Says:

    Apple has done all it can to keep Flash off the iPhone. It has used about every excuse in the book — too memory intensive, a drain on battery power, what have you — even though Adobe has pretty much addressed most of these issues.

    Um… when did they do that? Have you used a recent phone with Flash on it? It’s too memory intensive, a complete battery suck, and performs worse than a 95-year-old figure skater. And you think that, despite those platforms being much more in their strike zone (even with as huge of a strike zone you have to give Adobe) than an Objective-C based Darwin OS, they’ve magically fixed them just for the iPhone, when they can’t even do it for Mac OS X (which is exponentially easier to fix)?

    This is such a load of horseshit. Sorry, Ed.

  5. Seanonymous Says:

    I don’t think you understand the aim of Adobe’s iPhone app creation thing.

    It isn’t supposed to take existing Flash apps and dump them on the iPhone. The purpose is to use the Flash (or Flex) IDE and create iPhone apps. It’s bit like Adobe AIR for the iPhone.

    As for all the criticism of Flash being slow and CPU hungry, any programming language can be used to create a slow, CPU hungry application. Write a program in Java that downloads, decompresses, and scales h.264 video on the fly and see how responsive it is. There are some very well-written Flash applications out there. It’s unfortunate that what most people associate with Flash are the annoying banner ads written by people who have no real programming background.

    Anyway, Mr. Oswald doesn’t quite seem to get the intent of this new feature. It’s just another platform to develop iPhone apps on, not a way to port existing Flash apps to the iPhone.

  6. joecab Says:

    “…even though Adobe has pretty much addressed most of these issues. Flash is ready for the iPhone but Apple is not ready for Flash.”

    I have absolutely NO idea where you are getting this information.

    Other phones? If so, that’s not much like programming for OS X the iPhone.

    The Mac? That’s a joke: Flash never worked as well as on Windows and is still the biggest cause of browser freezes and crashes on the Mac.

    Because Adobe said so? They also say there are no problems with Flash on the Mac. See above.

    So can you back up your assertion?

  7. Walt French Says:

    Foolish me — I just bypassed my Safari ClickToFlash to try to see a vid about the MagicJack CES announcement and down went Safari shortly after the vid froze, taking a couple dozen windows with it. Badly coded Flash? Dropouts in my WiFi connection? Slow server? Maybe yes to all, but somehow it’s only Flash that takes down Safari.

    I don’t have statistics to prove that Flash is the biggest cause of freezes and crashes on the Mac. Just that in my personal experience, it’s virtually the ONLY cause. (And my worst issue with horrendous slowdowns is now PDF files since I turned off JavaScript support to address a security issue in the reader plugin.)

    I think Apple should get a little grief for allowing ANY plugin to take down the browser, but all the above comments still stand about crappy tools from Adobe.

  8. Soldier of Catan Says:

    I’m wondering why flash has had so much trouble. I think it was practically hardware specific, the only Android phone I know has it is the Hero.

    Windows Mobile and Symbian are real pocket computers, they run flash.

    But I got to wonder, would Apple just prefer to buy Adobe out right with cash on hand!

  9. Soldier of Catan Says:

    Iphone is not ready for anything Steve Jobs doesn’t want, until he wants out, and then engineers disapear and get it done.

  10. it's the developers Apple doesn't want Says:

    I think it’s teh fact that now you have flash every developer out there is now going to be able to develop a crappy flash app which is going to reduce or even eliminate apple to charge .99+ an app..

    can you say open market now.

  11. IcyFog Says:

    I have no love at all for Flash. I’m glad Apple has kept it off the iPhone OS. Good for Apple.

  12. L1A Says:

    I don’t want Flash on my PC let alone on my iPhone. This Flash on all devices is last line of defense for Abode before it’ll get swallowed up by HTML 5. Bye bye Flash, won’t miss you clogging up my tubes!

  13. Drunken Economist Says:

    I bring you the following links to prove that Adobe just doesn’t have the moxy to do ANYTHING with the iPhone or the Mac in general:


    Adobe in Europe:


    and finally this gem:


    Simply this: Adobe traded in their DTP cred for a lousy browser plugin, and with the last 9% layoff *de-emphasized Mac* even more. They’re now a Windows shop. That’s using Microsoft’s old tactics of marketing spin and outright lies to bumrush their way onto the iPhone.

    And, as you can see, Uncle Steve ain’t having none of that.

    -Drunken Economist

  14. Synthmeister Says:

    Flash adds nothing to the mobile experience except a bag of hurt. Pretty much everything in Flash can be duplicated with HTML 5 standards and technologies. Why do you need a plug-in that has to have a “skip-this-add” button most of the time it’s used?

  15. John Dowdell Says:

    Just checking… you’re not using the phrase “bum rush” in the sense of a bouncer forcibly ejecting an unruly patron, right?

    You can try some of the results of the early builds via this gallery:

    Someone who invests time in learning the inner details of Apple’s proprietary stack will still retain an advantage, naturally… will just be offset by the advantage in developing for Apple and the rest of the world simultaneously.


  16. Marc Says:

    Interesting.. are you sure that’s how it works?? It converts applications to native code? I’d be keen to know for sure.
    What I find more likely is that Adobe have developed a compact version of the Flash runtime that will be included with each application, so it’s no different from having a Mac runtime, a Windows runtime and a Linux runtime, except you get it every time you download a new app from the store. Just a guess though.

    If so, then I don’t think comparison to products like Dreamweaver and Frontpage is right, since those programs were trying to create HTML mark-up which can be interpreted in different ways by different browsers (if you recall, a site written in Frontpage 98 looked a lot better in IE4 than in Netscape). Adobe own both the authoring tool and the ‘browser’ so it won’t be an issue, just as it’s not an issue now across platforms.

    Of course if someone just recompiles software designed for the desktop without any thought for how the UI might work on a mobile device then that will be bad, but blame the developer, not the technology. There are plenty of native iPhone applications with horrendous interfaces. It’s not a reason to not want flash. I hope to see Java and Silverlight on the iPhone sometime soon, since I can code those (I have never used Flash) 🙂

    Oh and all these arguments about Flash being ‘too memory intensive’ or whatever are wrong. Call Of Duty is memory intensive, so are many games, so what’s so different about Flash? Have you ever seen an embedded YouTube video on the iPhone ? It comes up as a grey box, and doesn’t activate until you tap it – saving ‘memory’, and more importantly bandwidth until the user decides they want to see it. Flash could work like that. It wouldn’t annoy people, yet it would mean I can watch 90% of videos on news web sites, which would be very useful.

  17. Seanonymous Says:

    HTML 5 isn’t going to replace Flash unless the players can agree on a video standard.

    And yes, Flash is much abused across the interwebs by advertisers and people who insist that their website have an intro animation, but there are a great number of great apps out there that are written in both Flash and Flex (which is really just Flash). What you hate isn’t Flash, it’s, um, malFlash, if you will.

    Gliffy, google Streetview, and even google Chat all require Flash and they’re not half bad. (There are many others, of course.)

    The really wonderful thing about this Flash app packager is that iPhone users will have the choice to install well-written, non-battery sucking apps on their phones without being cursed with Flash banners and splash pages while using Safari.

    It’s a good thing.

  18. jbb Says:


    Any sort of dynamic runtime is explicitly disallowed by the iPhone SDK license agreement. No interpreted code is allowed, and everything must be statically compiled. Yes, Adobe has announced that CS5 is compiling natively using LLVM.

  19. patrick Says:

    Flash must die!

  20. K Says:

    Apple’s excuses for not allowing flash on the iphone are lame. If the iphone is such a powerful device then why can’t it handle flash when the almost 4 year old Nokia I have can handle it without complaining?

    This isn’t about CPU or battery or user experience. It’s about Apple wanting to control what you can or can’t do on your iphone. Which is exactly why I would never ever get one.

    Owning an iphone is like paying to be locked in a jail cell where you then have to pay extra to be fed whatever food (apps, music) Apple decides to feed you. That’s if they don’t take the food away full stop.

  21. santamar Says:

    My opinion as to their reasoning for doing this is simple: they want to keep flash alive. If iphones, with their 300k+ iphone apps, don't work with flash, and HTML5 takes over, Flash will have one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel. I'll be interested to see there will be any iphone app reviews that touch on this new development.

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