Do Users Even Want Flash on the iPhone?

Forget about peace in our time. Readers who responded to InfoWorld's online poll have made it clear that they back Apple in the dispute over allowing Flash on the iPhone and iPad. As of 5 p.m. PT on Monday, 45.0 percent said that Apple had the right to block Flash, while 33.5 percent said that Apple should place no restrictions on Flash or other technologies if users chose to install them. Only 21.5 percent supported InfoWorld's peace plan, which outlined four steps to allow Flash to run on the iPhone OS while satisfying the technical complaints Apple has made about Flash.

READ THE INFOWORLD FLASH PEACE PLAN DETAILSTHEN VOTE ON ITPoll: How should the Flash-on-iPhone dispute be resolved?

The results show that 55.0 percent of respondents (the pro-Flash and pro-peace-plan respondents) support having Flash on the iPhone, though of that group 39.9 percent wants Adobe and Apple to first adopt InfoWorld's peace plan. But the overall results also mean that just 33.5 percent of all the respondents would be satisfied with Flash as is running on the iPhone OS.

[ Stay up on tech news and reviews from your smartphone at infoworldmobile.com. | Get the best iPhone and iPad apps for pros with our business iPhone apps finder. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

The poll, which is still open, had 1,314 respondents as of 5 p.m. PT on Monday. You can see the current poll results and vote yourself at InfoWorld.com. You can also read InfoWorld's proposed Flash-on-iPhone peace plan there as well. The peace plan's four basic recommendations were:

Anti-Adobe passions run highReader comments at InfoWorld.com and Slashdot indicated strong antipathy to Flash and Adobe's handling of the technology. For example, InfoWorld reader "editorsteve" wrote simply, "Flash crashes drive me nuts." Reader "eww" wrote, "I don't want Flash on my mobile devices until it's stable and far less power-hungry." And "BurkPhoto" commented, "Users worldwide lose over the long haul if a junky technology like Flash is allowed to flourish unchecked. Apple is correct on this one. I hope they pull off an HTML5 revolution and clean up Web video for everyone."

InfoWorld reader "systemadministrator" described the Flash issue colorfully: "Bringing Flash into iPhone or iPad is like bringing farm animals into your living room. They mean no harm, yet, they will have no remorse in stinking up your house, leaving droppings on your floor, and making a mess. Some things should not be on a device that was not meant to support it. Just because there's a browser on the iPhone or the iPad doesn't mean that somehow someway every known plugin must work in that browser."

Several readers blamed Adobe for the problem, criticizing its products and history with mobile Flash. "Steigdg1" wrote: "I don't think Adobe has the capability to develop a mobile application. All of their applications have grown incredibly resource-intensive; each version takes twice as long to load as the previous one as it loads up hundreds of DLLs, which eats up the entire resources of the computer. They seem to have no idea how to dynamically load just the necessary parts of a program. I hate Apple almost as much, but I am pulling for them to supplant Adobe on this one."

And "jragosta" blasted Adobe on mobile Flash: "Three years ago, Apple introduced the iPhone. Adobe promised Flash 'real soon now.' It's repeated the promise over and over. Today, still nothing from Adobe that works on any mobile device. It's not just the iPhone. There's no full version of Flash on Symbian, Android, WebOS, Windows Mobile, or iPhone OS. How is that Apple's fault? Even the vaunted Flash 10.1 is only in beta. Apple couldn't have it on the iPhone even if they wanted. More important, Adobe says the minimum requirement for Flash 10.1 is an 800MHz A8 processor -- so it wouldn't work on the iPhone anyway. Even if Adobe does release it, and even if it works well on supported hardware (which doesn't look too likely from published reports), less than 1 percent of smartphones have hardware robust enough for Flash today -- even if Adobe does meet its latest timeline."

InfoWorld reader "sleepygeek" had similar sentiments: "Adobe hasn't got a viable mobile product anyway. That's because it has failed to develop one. Beneath the bombast, Adobe knows a usable, secure product is still a long, long way off."

Reader "mrrtmrrt" was scathing about the poor quality of the iPhone app export tool in Flash Pro CS5 (the export tool Apple banned shortly before Flash CS5's release): "Have you actually tried the Flash to iPhone Exporter in CS5? It's very poor quality code, doesn't support dozens of iPhone OS features (like copy and paste, for crying out loud!), can't run against the latest iPhone OS dev betas, and basically demonstrates that Adobe has failed to deliver yet again. Apple was absolutely right to ban such an execrable product -- a prime example of lowest common denominator cookie cutter code generator that would drag down the whole iPhone platform. Adobe should be ashamed."

And Slashdot reader "s.p. oneil" lamented his experience writing Flash code: "From a developer's perspective, programming in Flash is like programming with half a language that only has half a runtime library. That wouldn't be so bad if it was fun to program in like some of the more modern scripting languages, but it's not. Regarding performance, I found that the only way to make Flash code perform well is to write spaghetti code."

Slashdot reader "DJRumpy" provided a calm defense of Apple's anti-Flash position: "Apple and Flash-haters in general have very real arguments against the use of Flash (for the record, as to performance, if Flash improved in that arena, I wouldn't see an issue from that side of the argument; I could simply make the choice to use or not to use). It is proprietary, it encompasses an framework within itself, and it is out of Apple's control. If Apple were to allow Flash 'apps' on the iPhone, and Flash introduced a security vulnerability across such a large scope of applications (and you know there would eventually be thousands of such apps), Apple would be totally at the mercy of Adobe, which has a terrible track record when it comes to security. In such an instance, it would be Apple who suffered the scorn, not Adobe. Why would any sane person want to put themselves into that situation, when they obviously do not need to? The lack of Flash has arguably not hurt iPhone sales in any significant way."

Many readers at both InfoWorld.com and Slashdot lauded Apple for drawing a hard line against Flash, some noting that Microsoft also was pushing Flash away by focusing on its Silverlight technology, and that Google, Microsoft, and Opera had all joined Apple in pushing the emerging HTML5 specification.

Peace plan criticized for helping Adobe but not AppleSeveral readers criticized InfoWorld's peace plan because they viewed it as supporting Adobe with no benefit to Apple. "John0879" summarized that viewpoint: "I fail to see what Apple gains by compromising with Adobe. Your argument for Flash benefits Adobe as their technology remains entrenched."

Reader "eww" seconded that sentiment: "Apple's not interested in allowing Flash-based applications onto the iPhone at all; and their argument is a sound one. And it's one I see applying to Android and Windows Phone 7. They shouldn't want someone else controlling how their platform features are adopted. They don't want to see the lowest common denominator govern which features are accessible to developers. What's Adobe's motivation for allowing or supporting platform differentiation between say Android and the iPhone or Android and WinPhone 7? Nothing. They'll probably want a uniform experience for Flash across those operating systems -- not allow the platform to really excel based on its own differences and merits. This would really reduce platform-specific advantages."

Adobe can succeed without Flash, some argueOf the fewer readers who were positive about Adopbe, several noted that Adobe's tools can deliver the Web-standard formats such as H.264 video that the iPhone OS does support, making a battle over Flash unnecessary. Reader "sharkbyte" wrote, "What's all the brouhaha is all about? I have made very high-quality iPhone-compatible videos exporting from Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 using the Adobe Encoder. My client are blown away when they see them on their iPhones. Adobe supports H.264."

Apple, Adobe both considered suspectSeveral readers apportioned blame to both parties, such as "captaindigital": "I'm a Flash developer. I've created a ton of Flash-based Web sites. The issue everybody seems to overlook is that Apple's embargo against Flash screws over Flash developers that use the technology not for annoying ads or video -- but to design rich, interactive experiential Web sites. There are two big problems here: Adobe's done a lousy job supporting the Mac OS, and Apple's more concerned with protecting its iTunes profits and insulating its platform than it is listening to users. Adobe needs to write players for the Mac OS and iPhone OS -- not port the bloody thing from Windows. Apple needs to allow SWF content on the iPhone and iPad. (I can live without FLV support.)"

Apple seen as pushing a proprietary agendaOther readers squarely blamed Apple, such as "markshancock": "I think the whole Flash instability thing is really more of a smoke screen. Apple has also said no to Java and Silverlight on the iPhone. To me it appears that Apple does not want application platforms that allow applications they cannot control through iTunes to run on their mobile products. Apple has never been an open platform company."

InfoWorld reader "soubrase" blamed Apple's business interests for blocking Flash: "Apple doesn't want Flash to work better on its systems; it doesn't want users to have access to Flash content. Why would you buy that 99-cent game for your phone if you could play a Flash version for free?"

So did "jacks smirking reven" in comments posted at Slashdot: "The Apple/Adobe fight is about money and control. Apple wants to wall people into its garden, and Flash is an impedance to that. Apple's banking on customer loyalty (accept that owning an iPhone or iPad equals no Flash) and that HTML5 will replace Flash for video. If this was only about technological and security hurdles, it'd be done and done already. Apple and Adobe have the resources to get this working in short order. The issue is money. No amount of standards and compatibility will get past that."

Slashdot reader "Azureflare" also blamed Apple: "Apple wants total control over the tools used to create applications on their devices. It can't do that with Adobe Flash. Peace is not possible."

This article, "Readers back Apple in iPhone-on-Flash dispute," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at infoworldmobile.com.

Read more about the industry standard in InfoWorld's The Industry Standard Channel.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter

Comments