Sunday, June 13, 2010

Gone in a flash

Adobe really wants Flash on smartphones. They know that if they fail to make flash a compelling platform for mobile devices, then the platform is dead in the water.
However, they need to suck it up and start showing that. Time and time again they've said that Flash runs well on smartphones (Which, to their credit, they have demonstrated). Time and time again, they have said that it won't do terrible things to battery life.
Well Adobe, I've yet to believe that one. Flash performing well depends solely on you making it perform well on a platform to platform basis. I have a laptop running OS X, it takes approximately twice the processing power to run the same youtube stream on here as it does on a Windows machine with equivalent specs. Yes, the Gala beta adds hardware acceleration (thank you Apple, for actually allowing that), but it's still a crapshoot if a video will fullscreen properly in firefox. That's not good. That's to say nothing of what my estimated battery life does the instant I start some flash content (flashblock ensures that it doesn't run all the time). A youtube video approximately halves my estimated battery life. Now, I'm not watching youtube all the time, so that is a momentary dip, but it's demonstrative that flash sucks CPU power.
Personally, I think that it's a symptom of the architecture. Flash runs on so many platforms (once Adobe supports them) because it runs inside of a virtual machine. Thus, it's another layer of abstraction from the hardware, and thus a greater hit to the CPU than equivalent technologies.

To be fair though, Flash has done wonderful things for web design. It has allowed people to create fantastic websites with relative ease. The problem today is that it is still a closed standard. As much as Adobe can talk about the published specifications, Adobe still controls the platform. Until it is either open source or submitted to a standards body like the ISO, it is a closed standard. More than that, Flash locks up content. Before Scribd went to HTML5, you couldn't get text out of a flash object. That's bad news when you're trying to quote something or analyze the text with an algorithm.

Adobe recently claimed there would be 250 million smartphones running flash in 2012 (53% of the market they say, so the 250 million number is an estimate). Whether or not 250 million smartphones ship in 2012, 53% is a lot. Adobe had been on a PR warpath to convince everyone that Flash was, is, and shall continue to be A Big Deal. Personally, if Adobe really wants it to happen, they can make it happen. But they need to stop talking about how much better Flash is getting, and shipping Flash that is better (to their credit, 10.1 is a big improvement).
Words can only do so much. Let's see flash everywhere, and maybe we'll start believing that it has a place everywhere, because while you're buying full page ads in the Washington Post others are working to make flash obsolete. Get in the ballgame.

No comments: