The Xoom Gets Flash. But Don’t Get Too Excited

By  |  Friday, March 18, 2011 at 11:22 pm

When Motorola’s Xoom hit Verizon stores last month, it was missing some of the features that promised to make it the iPad’s first formidable rival–including its much-touted support for Adobe’s Flash Player. That got fixed today when Adobe released Flash Player 10.2 for Android, a version which supports phones and tablets running versions of Android dating back to last year’s 2.2 Froyo.

I installed the new Flash on the Xoom and started trolling the Web for Flash content to try. My experience was mixed.  Adobe doesn’t claim that this is a finished piece of software: The Honeycomb version of Flash Player is billed as a beta, and according to Engadget’s Sean Hollister, it doesn’t yet support hardware acceleration. (Apparently, the First Law of Mobile Flash–the version you want is always not quite here yet–still holds.)

A few notes:

–I watched Best of Show on Amazon Video on Demand in hopes of performing an informal battery test. It drained the battery from 44% full to 15% full in one hour and 20 minutes. But during that time, the audio got out of sync, and then the picture froze–and I couldn’t get Flash to work properly again without rebooting the Xoom. At that point, I gave up with the battery test.

–Some other standard-definition video I tried, such as that at Bloggingheads.tv, worked reasonably well.

–I watched Glee in HD, again on Amazon, and it would play smoothly in full-screen mode for a few seconds, then sputter, then play smoothly, then sputter…

–I tried Bejeweled on Facebook; it was playable, but the animation was herky-jerky.

–Hulu, as I expected, blocks Flash Player on the Xoom.

–Google’s Picnik photo editor sort of works–I could load photos and apply effects. But the sliders that are everywhere in the interface don’t function properly; I don’t think they really understand touch input.

All in all, it seems to be a version of Flash that works some of the time but not always, and not always well. That’s not, um, ideal. Neither is the fact that Flash isn’t available at all on the iPad. But the lure of Apple’s audience has prompted plenty of companies to make Flash-based stuff work on iOS devices in one way or another–I can get Hulu (Plus), Bloggingheads, and Bejeweled on the iPad. And they all work reliably.

We’ll know that Flash Player for Android makes sense when having it is clearly better than not having it…

A few screenshots of Flash-based content on the Xoom:

 
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49 Comments For This Post

  1. Brandon Backlin Says:

    I'm sure once GPU acceleration is built-in, the battery life will get better. At least, that's what happened with laptops.

  2. David Says:

    So it doesn't work. No surprises here. Despite all the talk, Flash *isn't* everyone mobile and when it does arrive, it doesn't work well. After Steve Jobs torched Flash in that paper, it seems to me that Google, Verizon, Motorola and especially Adobe would be taking every opportunity to prove Apple is wrong about Flash. The silence is deafening.

    Harry, I'm curious. Flash for Android has been out for a while. Why no battery tests for phones?

  3. JefTek Says:

    Having flash, even a not 100% error free flash is heaps better than not having any flash. When the Xoom first came out itwas very frustrating to surf the web and constantly open links only to be dissapointed when you couldn't see the content. I would have to put the tablet down and then open the site on my MBP which defeated the purpose of the tablet. I commiserated emwith the IOS crowd, as they must deal with this problem when trying to browse away from the larger sites out on the web. When the reading twitter duringthe Japan disaster i was running the 10.2 betaand thankfully was able to surf around and view flashbased video linksand participate in flash based chats to engage in the moment. Sure these scenarios may not be everyday, but without flash it is not possible tohave such ubiquity access to content at all.

    The web is changing, and flash will be phased out over time, but we are certainly not thereyet. Denial that in order to have a useful internet deviceyou don't need flash in 2011is absurd.

    ISwifter looks like a good alternative on IOS For the lack of access to flash content but its a shame that users are forced to have to use alternatives. I don't see how denying users to use flash based content is in the consumers best interest.

  4. @GrumpusNation Says:

    After pretty much living without Flash for the last few years, the only thing I miss are (lousy) restaurant websites when I'm trying to find a menu. Really, what is all this "Flash based content" I'm supposed to be missing? Ads? Games requiring keyboards and mice (how do those work, Xoom users?)? I can see how there's still a lot of video that's Flash only (but lots of that gets blocked in Canada anyways), and just as YouTube and Vimeo have come around to HTML video, that'll change to. And if it doesn't, will you really miss it?

  5. Harry McCracken Says:

    I haven't done battery tests for Flash on Android phones myself, but someone should. The new version helps, in theory.

    –Harry

  6. AndriOS hater Says:

    Xoom = Zume

  7. Kermonk Says:

    @David

    It does work. There are just bugs. That is why they call it beta.

  8. Sean McCleary Says:

    I think 10.2 does have hardware acceleration at least for video. http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplayer/2011/02/flash-

  9. vasja.pupkin Says:

    works perfectly on nexus one , thanks to adobe , great work !

  10. David Says:

    It's been 4 years. When will it be done?

  11. David Says:

    That's interesting. If it worked perfectly, why doesn't Adobe talk about it? How do you handle mouseovers?

  12. David Says:

    Why not? I mean, that's one of the major complaints, probably the number one. I don't know, it just seems to me that if it worked well, your Adobes, Googles and Motorolas would be talking about it.

  13. David Says:

    Sure. I'm just deluding myself into thinking that the video I want to watch just works. How have we managed for all this time? What's absurd is paying full price for a device that doesn't work as advertised.

    One year after the iPad and four after the iPhone and it STILL doesn't work right. Personally, I don't like using products that don't work. Gadget people tolerate things that non-gadget people wouldn't. If a care worked as poorly, you wouldn't say "Well, the headlights don't always work, but it's better than nothing." You would return it.

  14. JefTek Says:

    i guess you are right. The car that you can't use headlights on, is surely a more useful car. The car is great, just as long as you never need to drive at night. Maybe there is an app for that?

  15. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Whoever gets this right 1st will have a game changer. No doubt there.

  16. @marinelay3r Says:

    A better analogue might be having 4WD/AWD on a car. It's not required but it's helpful for a lot of uses. Ultimately it isn't necessary for everything. In this case, Flash (4WD) would cause your car to stuck in the mud every so often.

  17. @judsontwit Says:

    "We’ll know that Flash Player for Android makes sense when having it is clearly better than not having it…"

    Even on my real computers the value of Flash is clearly up for debate. Flash will be worth it to me when it's actually *superior* to other methods for games, videos, and web apps (in terms of responsiveness, non-crashiness, battery life, etc) and not merely "only a little more inferior."

    Otherwise Flash isn't even getting used on my laptop, much less anything else.

  18. Tan The Man Says:

    Dear Flash, reinvent yourself into a usable mobile form.

  19. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Flash first shipped on mobiles in 2003. It's been 8 years.

  20. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Hardware acceleration for video just means the GPU plays the video, not FlashPlayer. So why do you need FlashPlayer? All GPU's have video players in them today, all the mobiles, and even on all PC's.

  21. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    There are only like half a million Nexus One users. Even if they did finally deliver a working Flash to them, that is not much of a victory.

  22. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    I've been a Flash developer since 1997 and it is beyond embarrassing to see what it has become. I took it off my résumé recently and put native iOS development in its place, which turns out to be more productive, enjoyable, and in-demand than Flash. The thing that surprised me about it is iOS development is easier than Flash, too. It is easy to move 90% of existing Flash content to HTML5, and the other 10% moves easily to native apps on iOS, Mac OS, and Windows. It all runs better, it gets a larger audience, it gets easier to maintain. What Android needs is not Flash but rather 1) native apps, and 2) better HTML5.

  23. Common sense Says:

    On the contrary. Whichever site asks me to install Flash to see their content, I avoid them afterwards. So, they are loosing visitors. Just try to find how many flash blocking extensions/add ons are available for Chrome and Firefox.

  24. zengxeng Says:

    Well, i guess some flash is better than none at all.

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  25. The CW Says:

    I sure wish Apple had held off on releasing the iPhone until Flash was ready. That would have been better for everyone.

  26. JefTek Says:

    Actually, the xoom does display the html5 content where it exists and flash content if it not html5. Html5 is great as long as you stick to the mainstream sites,but not everyone has switched away from flash to html5. As I said earlier, it will happen but we are not hereyet.

    You can switch the UAstring in the browser menu to ipad and you get all the content on all the sites, unlike the filtered experience on ios. You might want to actually use a Xoomfor a fewdays, you might be surprised at the content youare missing on ios.

  27. RastaMouse Says:

    Flash will be dead in 5 years. Too clunky, and uses an out of date paradigm for touch devices.

  28. Mark J Tyers Says:

    With flash disabled on by laptop I get 7 hours of battery surfing the web and a cool lap. With flash enabled I get 90min and a hot lap. Just flash adverts can cause my machine to overheat. If Adobe were serious about the future of Flash how come after over a decade of development they can't get the basics right? I will be running ClickToFlash for the foreseeable future and if a website wants my custom I suggest they remove any Flash content they use.

    Final gripe… Why do some sites use SIFR to build page headings? What a FAIL! It means having to have flash installed just to see a page title. Why not use embedded fonts?

  29. NoToTrolls Says:

    Why are you “trolling” the web? That’s probablynot the right choice of word.s Unless you are actually, you know, trolling.

    And forget the videos and boring photo apps. I need to know about Kongregate! Does Desktop Tower Defense work?

  30. Darren Says:

    Adobe does have the basics right. If it's coded right, a Flash animation will be smooth, fast and use minimal power. Flash performs much better than HTML5 Canvas/SVG on almost every metric. I really don't know how you expect Adobe to stop people writing crap Actionscript. Whatever OS you are using, I guarantee you that I can write a program that maxes your CPU and drains you battery in 1-2 lines of code. Does that mean that your OS sucks too?

  31. Darren Says:

    It's only beta for Honeycomb which, in case you hadn't noticed, has only been available for 4 weeks. The production version of Flash Player 10.2 is available for Gingerbread and Froyo on phones.

  32. Darren Says:

    Flash Player 10.2 (full, not beta) is available to almost all phones running Android 2.2 and above. That constitutes more phones than there are iPhones in total. If you'd used it, you'd know it works surprisingly well in most cases, given the 1GHz CPU in most of these phones. Not all content made for quad-core desktops is going to work flawlessly of course.

  33. Dudley Says:

    Having Flash through iSwifter us better than having crashy Flash in the native browser. Try visiting Adidas.com on an iPad through iSwifter and then on a Xoom with built-in Flash. Now try Hulu. Now try NickJr. How about ABC.com? Cartoon Network? Seriously? They all play noticeably better through your iPad using iSwifter. Shocker.

    Android users will likely want to use iSwifter when it's released. My wife and I kicked back and watched an entire episode of Fringe through iSwifter on Hulu. Then I realized I could just go to Fox.com and play it through SkyFire perfectly fine too.

    So, let's agree. Having Flash support as an option, is better than not having Flash at all.

    Having GOOD Flash support via apps like iSwifter or SkyFire is better than having native Flash support like Xoom. The best? Having HTML 5 video and animation support directly. Hardware accellerated, smooth, and video that's easily streamed to your tv when you decide you'd like that movie trailer you're looking at on the big screen (or to whatever AirPlay receiver you have).

    Many of these arguments are becoming very, very nebulous. FYI, iSwifter runs Firefox.

  34. Lelandhendrix Says:

    THANK YOU–I have been using iPad since day one, and now am on iPad 2, and couldn't figure out what all these people were talking about with sites they get to and can't see content because of flash. Two years ago, on iPhone 3G, I would occasionally run into sites that would not display entirely, but I haven't seen any of that in a long, long time.

    All the news websites I visit display properly, along with their videos. One thing I notice, when I visit CNN or msnbc on my MacBook pro, I have to watch an video advertisement in a flash window before my selected content. On the iPad, I just get what I wanted to see with no preceding video commercial advertisement.

    THANK YOU for explaining why I am seeing content using my iPad browser, when android products get broken sites–it's the browser ID!

    Sites can't ignore the millions and millions of iOS users, and have adapted their sites to work. O haven't seen a single broken site while browsing on iOS in well over a year!

    Good analysis and explanation, friend.

  35. Jay Says:

    At least Flash works on all browser. HTML5 has NO standards for video codecs so it will never take over for Flash until the standards are set.

  36. Watcher Says:

    Mac losers!

    Mist people want flash you idiots. No one cares about html5 and all the politics. People just want to view the Internet , not just the half of it that total idiot steve jobs decided he would let you watch. I have had 3 iPhones and I am typing this on my last iphone4! It’s android for me and millions of others from now on as this is the future!!!

    So long apple and your idiot leader jobs!

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  44. Clasificados PR Says:

    I was never a big fan of motorolla but I still like the idea that the xoom has a built in flash player which still makes it more suitable than an ipadClasificados PR

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