A day before Apple announced the iPad, I was contacted by Lee Simmons who writes for DigitalMediaBuzz.com. Lee would like to hear my opinion about the Flash and iPhone controversy. Here is the transcript of my answer to him a week ago:
What types of Flash apps do you develop for mobile?
I’ve done applications such as weather, news, device user-interface, built-in device applications such as photo gallery and video player, TV/set-top box user interface and shopping apps, and of course entertainment.
How long has Quantumwave been in business? What particular markets do you serve?
The company started in 1993, and was incorporated in 1998. Our clients are very diverse: from small shops, to agencies, to larger companies and international enterprises. In recent years, most of our projects are device or mobile related, but we also work on projects for other markets including international non-profit organizations on rich internet applications, video and gaming…etc.
In general, what is your take on the Flash-iPhone controversy?
It’s a combination of who has control over app revenue, and potential performance issues of the previous generation of the Flash Lite player. The Apple App Store is the only official method to get applications, and Apple has full control over it. If they allow Flash to run on the iPhone or iPad, users can get to a lot of content – games, video, applications…etc. without paying Apple anything. This I think is the main reason. The other possible reason is a common misconception that the mobile version of the Flash player, Flash Lite, is slow and CPU-intensive that will drain the battery life. I have Flash Lite players on other mobile devices and have not noticed significant problems as some are lead to believe.
Adobe is working hard on the next generation of the Flash Player for devices: 10.1, and it includes a lot of improvements such as hardware acceleration. However, if the main reason is about revenue, I don’t think we’ll see Flash on the iPhone or iPad soon. I do hope the two companies can come to some sort of agreement though, because as much as Apple likes to say their devices provide the best web experience, a lot of web content are using Flash for not just video or games, but enterprise applications as well. Without Flash, the web experience on the iPhone or iPad is frustrating to say the least. And HTML5 isn’t solving all the problems any time soon either. It may be able to play video, but Flash is a lot more than video. From a developer’s point of view, the rich programming language and APIs of Flash across multiple platforms have no match from other solutions at this time.
Would you rather wait for the companies to work out their differences?
No, simply because I’d rather be active then passively waiting for something that may never happen. For a lot of developers, the iPhone market is potentially a great income source. But with the tight control by Apple, there are pros and cons developing for it. With Flash and the Open Screen initiative, Adobe is in partnership with most mobile and device companies, and the Flash Player will be available on more platforms and devices this year and the years to come. To be able to develop using a single solution that can be deployed on multiple platforms is the main advantage of Flash.
Are you inclined to move forward and create Flash apps that look good and function properly on iPhones?
Yes, definitely. At this moment, there are a few other solutions that let developers tab into the iPhone market without coding in iPhone’s native Objective-C (which carries some old baggages from the past), and some of these solutions are looking quite promising. With Adobe Flash CS5, a lot of developers can use their existing knowledge and create iPhone applications in a much shorter timeframe than coding in Objective-C. Even though the content are created in Flash, the end result is a native iPhone application. As the product evolves over time, I’m certain that we’ll see a lot of developers using Flash to create content for the iPhone/iPad market. However, there will always be a need for Objective-C when these solutions cannot provide the adequate result or performance. As a result, I’m open to all possible solutions and potential markets to achieve the best balance between ease of development and performance. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple reacts to more complaints that their most popular devices cannot play Flash content.