Snow Jobs

i’m sure i’ll be one of many, many, people dismantling Steve Jobs’s recent argument against Flash line by line, but the more voices chiming in to combat Apple’s spin on the subject, the better. Jobs’s article reminded me a lot of the US political campaigns that we Canadians watch from a distance, shaking our heads … the truth is pretty clear to us, but it’s fascinating to see how the powers that be twist words and spout half-truths in an effort to sway uninformed public opinion. This is exactly what Jobs is doing with his argument: it’s pure politics, baby.


As corporations more closely resemble countries, their PR more closely resembles political tap-dancing.

Here are a few glaring Fox News-like issues i had with what he said:

they [Adobe] say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues.

Yes, and the Iraq war wasn’t about oil, but about removing a cruel dictator and bringing democracy to the Middle East. And Osama Bin Laden didn’t attack the twin towers because of America’s meddling and destructive foreign policies, but because he “hates our freedom.” Lines like these are so hideously transparent and bald-faced they get my bile brewing.

Make no mistake: more free games on iPlatforms outside of Apple’s control means less money for Apple. This is so undeniable, it mystifies me that he’s even trying to spin it. This one statement paints the rest of his article with a dishonest brush.

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc.

Pot, meet kettle. Jobs goes on to point out that “Apple has many proprietary products too”, but goes to laboured lengths to uphold WebKit as the shining example of open web technology. Forget the iPod, iPad, iPhone, App Store, and the closed technologies that are at the center of this debate. We’ve got WebKit. In magician’s parlance, this is called misdirection: get the audience to focus the shiny coin in your left hand, while you pocket the Eiffel Tower with your right.


You tell ’em, boys.

HTML5 … lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins

The implication here, though not explicit, is that HTML5 can do what Flash can do. This simply isn’t the case. While many writers have focused on the fact that HTML can run video admirably, they’ve glossed over the fact that with Flash, you can put that video on a 3D plane, map it to a cube, spin the cube, and on click make the cube explode into a flock of bats, with each bat holding a placard that has another embedded video on it, and all those videos have cue points that change the values in a web form. Some of you will argue “wait! Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t mean you should!” Of course, i’m offering a ridiculous example, but the fact remains that HTML5 simply cannot do what Flash can do. And if you want to claim that video is enough, then i’ll happily leave you behind in the Old World and continue exploring the Wild West, and its ever-expanding realm of possibilities. And whorehouses.


Golly! You shore do look purdy, Miss Marlene.

There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.

This is a lie, plain and simple. There are more entertainment and game titles on the venerable PC platform than the 2-year-old App Store could ever dream of. You can call an elephant a house cat all you like – you’re still going to need an awfully big litter box.

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices.

From what i’ve seen, i’ll actually hand it to Jobs on this one. i have yet to see a convincing tech demo by Adobe showing a practical piece of Flash (ie something other than the sleazy swarming coloured dots) moving at anything above zero frames a second on an Apple device. But the stuff i’ve seen running on Android looks a lot smoother.

Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.

“Most” is not a statistic. There is no empirical research behind the word “most”. Wikipedia calls this a weasel word – it’s like saying “some have said that Steve Jobs has a third nipple”. Really? Who? Who, specifically, has said that? Because you’re not backing your words up with actual data, you’re being a weasel. Knock it off, Triple-Tits.

A less slimy way of putting this would be to say that “Flash developers who want their games and websites to take advantage of the new touch screen interfaces developed by companies among which are Apple because we’re not the bloody progenitors of this interface style may have to redesign some elements of their projects … much the same way that web developers have decided to redesign their websites to offer more smart phone-friendly layouts.”



If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

Because the time difference between removing a few rollovers and learning an entirely new technology and re-coding a project from the ground up is immense, you git.

Even if iPhones, iPods and iPads ran Flash, it would not solve the problem that most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.

Even if Apple were to release a new iPhone that had, say, an increased resolution somewhere between the resolution of the iPhone and new screen resolution introduced by the iPad, it would not solve the problem that most Apps would need to be rewritten to support all three resolutions, as well as a growing number of operating systems that lack backwards compatible feature sets.

Oh snap!

Fourth, there’s battery life.

Jobs focuses on video here. That’s fine – there may be well-documented benchmarks there. But i don’t really watch video on my iPod – i play games. And some of those games suck juice like a Hoover. If Flash was on the iPhone, and there was a less battery-intensive reason to use non-Flash video, that option is there for me (that is, as long as the video is available in a non-Flash format). But the implication here is wider: Flash drains the battery. That’s the buzz that Jobs is hoping people will disseminate from this article.

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

Again, outrageous. Apple would not be at anyone’s mercy if a third-party developer was slow to implement new features; rather, it’s the third-party developer and their customers that would be at Apple’s mercy, trying to keep up with their relentless device upgrades and planned obsolescence.

The other thing that galls me about this bit is that if Apple has such an issue with third-party devs, why is there no mention of Unity in this article? If that’s really such a problem for them you’d think Unity would be in the same boat. But they’re not. This is clearly a battle between Apple and Adobe, so Steve’s last point falls flat. As Mike Chambers from Adobe said last week, in reference to the Terms of Service change disallowing any App store submission that was not created with Apple’s own language and tools,

While it appears that Apple may selectively enforce the terms, it is our belief that Apple will enforce those terms as they apply to content created with Flash CS5.


i have no filter when i speak, and i’ve been told that i’m honest to a fault. Perhaps that’s why i wish Steve would stop spinning this issue, and say what he means. It’s like when George Bush went on teevee after dethroning Saddam Hussein, when the Iraqi people started setting their oil fields on fire. Bush urged them not to do that, saying something like “that oil is your inheritance, a valuable resource that will help you attain your freedom and blah blah blah apple pie Little House on the Prairie bikini contest.” i just wish he would have said “Now don’t set those oil fields on fire, because … because THAT’S MY OIL, BITCHES! And ima spend three trillion dollars of my country’s money sending troops over there to collect every last drop. Yeehaw! Remember the Alamo!”


My political leanings aside, it makes me a tiny bit sad to live in a world where, increasingly, you can pass off a bald-faced lie as a talking point for inexperienced “citizen journalists” to distill and disseminate across the Internatz. When you start seeing bloggers post “FLASH IS BAD FOR iPHONE BATTERY LIFE”, you can think back to this article.

For my part, i’m going to play along and generate a sound bite of my own: Apple fuels its App Store by drinking the blood of Christian babies. Happy blogging!

Further Reading

The HTML5 Experience on the iPad:

42 thoughts on “Snow Jobs

  1. theRemix

    Awesome, I totally agree. Thanks for writing, This should clear up the bs that was spewed. I’m not going to hold my breath for apple to grow a pair.

  2. Ian Betteridge

    “Again, outrageous. Apple would not be at anyone’s mercy if a third-party developer was slow to implement new features; rather, it’s the third-party developer and their customers that would be at Apple’s mercy, trying to keep up with their relentless device upgrades and planned obsolescence.”

    Jobs isn’t lying about this. He’s almost certainly referring to the situation that Apple found itself in when making the transition between 680×0 and PowerPC, when Metrowerks CodeWarrior was the only IDE that supported PowerPC. They did, indeed, find that Metrowerks did not support new features in Mac OS when they were launched.

    The Flash packager is a case in point. It doesn’t support multitasking in iPhone OS 4.0 (in fact, from what I’ve gathered, packager-produced apps break in iPhone OS 4.0, period). Any developer using it would not be able to take advantage of multitasking until Adobe updated its tools – and when would that be? Adobe does not have a great history of keeping its Mac software up to date.

    1. Ryan

      Ian – i don’t know the history, but it appears that the difference is that “CodeWarrior was the ONLY IDE that supported PowerPC”, whereas Flash is the ONLY tool people could use to create App Store content.

      “Any developer using it would not be able to take advantage of multitasking until Adobe updated its tools.” <- Yes, and that's the risk you'd taking using Adobe's tools instead of Apple's.

      "Adobe does not have a great history of keeping its Mac software up to date." <- Adobe all but hinged its entire Flash CS5 release on the iPhone packager, and you can bet that was a calculated call designed to drive a lot of sales. Again, i don't know much Apple history, but i do know that iPhone publishing was the biggest Flash 5 selling point. i hope a feature that huge would be continually supported, as long as it kept driving product sales.

  3. Jeff

    My comments may not directly relate to what Steve Jobs said in this letter, but more to just all this hype over this lately.

    To start I will say I am not a Microsoft fan-boy or a Google fan-boy I simply hate Apple and everything they stand for. Steve Jobs has always been a sleezy liar and that has not changed over the years. Back in the days of the Power-PC macs it was always claimed that Apples new Power Mac was 10x faster then Intel’s Pentium whatever, but of course if you actually did the research it was always BS. Apple would go as far intentionally crippling the computers they ran comparison benchmarks on by inserting 5 year old video cards or other such shenanigans. The current situation is no different it simply serves Steve Jobs agenda.

    Most of the flash haters our there probably go to a site and don’t even realize which elements on the site are Flash and which are not. If people think that abolishing flash will mean the end of “annoying adds” ( which seems to be a reoccurring theme in peoples comments I have seen around the web ) they are mistaken those adds will just be replaced by another median. If an application tries to do to much whether it is Flash or HTML 5 it will choke your computer. Bad programming is universal and not exclusive to Flash! Both ActionScript and JavaScript ( the programming language you will have to use to make applications with HTML 5 , no HTML 5 is not a programming language !! ) run on Virtual Machines for cross platform compatibility at the expense of performance. In fact what most people don’t realize is that ActionScript ( specifically ActionScript 3 ) performance is on average better then JavaScript. Many tests have been done to show that for Rich Media Flash still has the performance edge ( I will supply some links ).

    In general the processing power of smart-phones pails to that of PCs so what is doable in Flash or HTML 5 will be greatly different on the PC then on a mobile platform. For example this demo of Quake 2 for HTML 5 that has been making the rounds if anyone expects that to run faster then 1 frame per minute on a iPad they are mistaken. The processing power of an iPhone, Nexus 1, Pre , or Ipad is still 1/20 or less then the average desktop. Video and Graphics processing may be an exception to those performance levels as hardware acceleration comes into play. The truth of the issue is that to get a good experience on mobile platforms the application has to be optimized for mobile regardless of platform. With such a big range in processing power between phones and desktops a 1 size fits all approach is not realistic.

    For me another big issue with HTML 5 is the way HTML itself is structured. If I build a game in html 5 and decide to put it online it is as simple as the user hitting “view source” to steal my valuable code. The SWF format is hackable as well, but it is far more protected then just HTML / JavaScript.

    This is a topic I could rant on forever, but I will leave it at that for now.

    Some links related to HTML 5 / Flash peformance.

    JavaScript / ActionScript performance

    HTML 5 vs Flash performance.

  4. Lorenz

    Your blog is always interesting/funny to read. The words you said are so true… I am just sad people doesnt get it. For the same reason they listened to Bush and his crappyness now they are listening to Jobs… when is people gonna learn? Maybe is true, maybe interNats is bigger than what we think…

  5. Chris Harshman

    Hoesntly apple doesn’t even except to be able to keep flash off there, but they have a history of throwing up roadblocks and forcing people to then fight it with a antitrust lawsuit. Apple will lose that fight, because they cannot from any legal footing make it stick, they can tie it up in courts for years though.

    I am not really on one side or the other, I will use the best tool for the job, but that said I have looked at some of the Html5 demos and I am not overly impressed for the amount of work that was required, Compared to a Flash File, the development times are seriously lacking and in the development world time is money. Even if they can come with with better toolsets I don’t see Html5 taking over Flash, or Silverlight, and neither does microsoft since they plan on supporting Html5 99% if not 100% including the Canvas. SO it is quite clear they don’t see it as a threat, I am pretty sure Adobe doesn’t either, and really adobe has a shit ton of money to throw behind flash, look at there product sku’s some of which will never be replaced in the next 10 or more years except by newer versions.

  6. Paul

    The problem with Flash has been Adobe. Games are driving Flash forwards now, and have been for some time, but Adobe has pottered along not adding feature after feature. But they added 3D planes – yes just what I needed for my 2D game! Where’s the accelerated bitmap engine? Where’s the accelerated physics engine? Where’s the modern IDE? For that matter, where’s the debugger? I could go on.

    As a platform, Flash is unmatched in it’s ability to enable newbies and pros alike to get good results on screen in a very short time. And then distribute across the largest and cheapest platform in the world: the web.

    Apple’s devices are impressive, sexy and popular. But at 80 million devices they have a tiny fraction of the future market. Microsoft simply needs to lose its pride, copy the AppStore and release some decent devices for all the Visual Studio dev’s to come running. I haven’t used .Net in 4 years but I’m eager to get back into a proper IDE and create some cool stuff on a phone. I’m too lazy to buy a Mac, learn to use it, learn to use iCode , learn to use Objective C, learn to use the iPhone SDK and finally learn to use Cocoa. Just give me a language I already know, on an IDE I already know. Thanking you please, Microsoft.

  7. Nerfgun

    Well as a primary instigator I feel compelled to respond in this arena, where I’m not hamstrung by Twitter. :)

    I have a different perspective on this. Maybe it comes from watching Apple pretty closely for the last 15 years. I’ve also used Flash since it was FutureSplash Animator. (Please don’t take that as a boast; this is just to give you some context). In my view the Jobs screed was definitely a spin/PR tactic, but unlike a lot of others, I think he genuinely believes his position. I don’t think SJ thinks it’s bullshit. It’s what he genuinely believes (why would he print anything else, really?) and aside from a couple of niggling points, I also think Apple is essentially justified in the Flash-blocking decision, at it’s core, given the history and track record of Adobe when it comes to the Mac platform, ever since OS X launched.

    Adobe and Apple are the parents of much of our digital culture, and when the parents fight it’s the kids that get hurt the most….

    I’ll go through your points.


    This is 100% correct. Of course at the end of the day practically any biz decision is about money, but not as straightforwardly as you imply. Flash crashes Macs like a bad day at NASCAR. They are really not kidding when they say that it is the #1 cause of crashes on the Mac platform. Lots of us have known that for years. Their track record on that platform, frankly, is pathetic.

    When OS X first shipped Adobe (and MS and Quark) completely balked at using Cocoa. They freaked and threatened to pull all support. Apple created Carbon specifically for those companies, did demos on how easy it was to convert your existing code, etc. Carbon was always a stopgap. And here we are, 10 years later, and the entire Adobe CS bundle is only just now getting the Cocoa treatment. Flash too. 10 years of using a stop-gap framework, one that you literally get a warning about how temporary it is every time you export the project. And the Flash player has been crap that entire time, mostly due to Macromedia dragging their heels, but Adobe certainly has not stepped up their Mac player (until *extremely* recently, and because Apple handed them some code to do it). And the new “packaged” apps from CS5 reportedly shit all over Apple’s new background-tasker scheme for OS 4.0.

    It is a technology issue. Stability and responsiveness are even more crucial on a handheld than on the desktop. You can’t rely on something that has proven to be that flaky – it’s an irresponsible business decision, besides just being outwardly daft.


    I was kind of surprised he said this because it’s actually not 100%. There are parts of Flash that have been opened, at least partially. But the reason he mentioned WebKit is that it is the foundation for the HTML5 argument, and it is in fact a popular browser technology, picked up as it has been by Palm, RIM, etc. They contribute to that all the time. What they lock down are the *devices*. Because Apple sells devices, primarily, as always. The software has always been in direct service to the device. OS X doesn’t even have a fucking serial number. iTunes DRM is to placate the labels, it’s not there for any other reason (and what the Store makes compared to the hardware sales is tiny). You’ll find that practically all of Apple’s *software* dealings are entirely open standards. They are. OS X itself is a shining example.


    I’m with you on this one. I’d love to know how they developed those iAd mockups. I guarantee it took a level of knowledge and workload much higher than it would in Flash. But that is Apple’s point: Adobe makes creative tools, why not make a design environment that exports to HTML5? If I need really fancy interaction on the web, sure, Flash is it. But if I just want a video to play I’d rather not have to invoke a plug-in for something so basic. HTML5 does fill a very real, very overdue need.


    Agree on both points. The number of games argument was dumb and beneath him. Hell there are probably still more PS2 games out there.


    Here’s the thing I disagree with: you absolutely can do a “rollover” with touch. You do the rollover on touchDown, cancel with drag-off-release, and click with touchUp. So Steve’s wrong about the concept of a rollover not existing; it’s just a touch-hold now.

    What Steve’s right about is you’re still going to need to readjust your Flash site in a lot of cases, because of the tiny little hit targets that Flash designers are so fond of. There are so many Flash things that you would never ever be able to nail with your finger. Sure you can zoom but think about how crazy that could get from a user experience. It’s not like zooming a web page – you have expectations for a web page (mostly that it will scroll vertically) but with Flash, anything goes. Something like Newsmap would never work. You have to accomodate for our fleshy meatpointers, and that’s the bigger problem, in my opinion.


    Agree with you. Flippant thing to say. Very Jobs.


    This is essentially a re-hash of the tech argument. If the code runs inefficiently of course it will eat battery life. But that’s not a single, un-adressable technical issue the way it’s portrayed. RAM is a much bigger problem.


    Now, you call this assertion outrageous, and with that you show your lack of history. I couldn’t agree more with what Jobs wrote here, because I *watched it happen*. The MetroWorks CodeWarrior example in an above comment is bang-on. Apple was at the mercy of a completely extra 3rd entity for their entire development platform. And they paid dearly for it, in features and timeliness, again and again and again.

    The reason Unity (and everyone, except Adobe) get off the hook is because they play nice with XCode. There’s no interpretive runtime package pooped out by CS5. Imagine: you get a bunch of those in the App Store, Flash-exported apps, a critical mass of them. Then something breaks. Apple calls Adobe and says, fix it. Users are screaming at *us*. Apple is at Adobe’s whim, again, just like with CodeWarrior and pre-X Mac OS.


    Time for my own famously un-filtered opinion.

    Flash has owned interactive web animation for about 8 years, give or take. It is de facto on the PC desktop. It’s in 98% of browsers, which tend to ship with it. It’s been working pretty well on PC, and pretty badly (but serviceably) on Mac.

    And now Adobe wants to naturally extend their dominance into the mobile space, specifically Apple’s mobile space. And given the track record, my take is that they can stay on the fucking desktop, where the belong, and where someone wants them. ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t. Browsing with ClickToFlash is an incredible experience – pages load *fast*, my laptop doesn’t die as fast, I don’t have things spewing audio and unrequested video (!) at me unprompted. Unfair as it is, Flash too easily enables resource-sucking situations.

    In short I think Adobe should be happy with their total domination of vector animation on the internet. I also think they should take Apple’s advice and make tools that export to the native dev environment for Apple’s mobile stuff. It’s Apple’s platform and they are not about to get fucked again. Adobe should suck it up and adapt. For once.

    I really do feel for all the devs who have so much invested in Flash that this is greatly upsetting to them. But I would say to those people: stop chasing this white whale of write-once-run-anywhere. It’s a fucking myth, snake oil for programmers, a golden dream of doing a merely Large amount of work for a Very Large number of platforms. You always have to customize if you want your app to feel right. You have to. It’s why the web apps were rejected outright by Apple’s developer community, and they DEMANDED native apps. And they got it. Like Java apps, which felt just gross. AIR apps feel the same way.

    Everyone wants a piece of Apple’s stupendously popular platform, something that sprang out of thin air not even 3 years ago. If you want in on the gold rush then you need to play by the rules. If not go elsewhere. Believe you me, as they approach their 100 millionth iPhone OS device sold, they will not be worried about what the customers think.


    1. Ryan

      Nerfgun – Thanks so much for sharing your perspective! i really liked something Dan Cook had to say this year at GDC that meshes (i hope?) with your points: if you make something for the App Store, you’re not necessarily helping yourself. You’re helping Apple sell more iPhones. A smart developer will bow out of the 1% hit, 99% miss game, and develop instead on the fringes, where the gatekeepers are grateful for the content, and there are no dominant, controlling interests holding all the cards. Stay in the Wild West, in other words. i think that’s wise advice, especially for very small operations like my own.

      You nailed a good source of he moaning and wailing, too. There’s a group of people out there who have only ever seen success with Flash, and feel that they can only ever develop with Flash. i count myself among them. For my whole life, i’ve wanted desperately to make games. The Commodore 64 didn’t cut it. i flopped with AmigaBASIC. i tried a number of other smaller, more obscure languages, with no luck. It wasn’t until Flash came along that i was actually able to make something, and to get my head around coding … mostly because in 2000, when i entered the arena, Flash was in version 4. All the coding was drag n’ drop, and you could just fill in the blanks with variable names. What a great, great introduction to programming for someone who had failed at it so consistently.

      Now that i’ve been using Flash for 10 years, i’ve had more luck building games for stuff like XNA/C#. i feel that i *could* learn OBJ-C, but not without a lot of hair-pulling. i’ve already given it a try, and moving from automatic garbage collection in Flash to no garbage collection and memory allocation shook me up a bit. Not only that, but Objective C is wordy like a Jewish mother on a free long distance plan. Oy.

      To your point about creating a tool to export to HTML5, i think Adobe does have something like that in the works.

  8. Nerfgun

    oops. my fancy double brackets confused your comment system you’ll have to guess at what points I’m addressing, sorry.

  9. Pingback: Lots More Rants, But Not From Me « Microsoft 2 Apple

  10. Mike Bentley

    Let me cut to the chase. How hard is it to write a properly working version of Flash for Apple platforms? Since it is simple enough to provide a working Javascript for Safari, I don’t think it would be very difficult to provide Flash.

    Yet Adobe has had a hard time of it. Why? What is so difficult about crafting Flash properly for Apple platforms? If I were given the Flash for Apple platforms project in, say, 2006, I think Flash for Apple platforms would be the best version of Flash available today.

    If you know anything about Apple’s history, you know that when Steve Jobs took the CEO position in the late 90’s, the biggest problem the platform had, among the numerous problems that existed at the time, was the commonplace behavior of third parties who developed software products for multiple platforms to build incomplete, “half-hearted” versions of their software for Macs. Many decisions were made by Apple in the late 90’s specifically to address that problem. You want the software developers for your platform have some skin in the gam, take their work seriously, and create competitive software products, not just port some to Mac and sell the real version on Windows.

    Today the Mac platform is doubtless superior to what it was in 1997. The hardware is more capable and better designed. All of the software runs a lot better. The whole system is much more reliable. But today we read about Adobe blaming Apple for Flash’s bad behavior on Mac OS X.

    I think it is very easy to get Steve to move mountains and fix problems. He’s done it several times, and the results are apparent. If Flash were a critical element, Apple would have written one by now.

  11. Matan Uberstein

    Apple’s little out cry caused major disappointment in my company. We really wanted to develop for the i-Devices, but now we can’t. We focus on the children’s market so it’s primarily educational applications. Thanks Steve for UN-educating our children’s lives…

  12. tomsamson

    Some of your points are valid, others are just as much off as those points you try to argue against. Especially sad that you end with one of those things you got wrong, cause of course flash is indeed a resource hog and therefore also a battery drainer on mobile devices, just as it gets the fans spinning noticably louder on desktops.
    Its of course right that one can´t do a lot of things with HTML5 which one can do with flash and compared to html5 flash also performs better in many areas. But compared to native apps made in many other ways/middleware solutions flash of course performs extremely bad.
    Adobe can try to put a spin on that all day long, but there is a reason why they do performance comparisons between flash and html 5 and not flash and native iphone apps made in let´s say cocoa or unity.
    There´s also a reason why all flash mobile sample apps are usually basic 2D content, because flash at its current performance level just can´t handle more, while with other creation ways one could easily get way more complex content running on the same device. Flash still does most graphical things cpu side only and constantly uses way too much cpu and memory resources for in comparison very basic content.
    So yeah, of course its a battery drainer.
    Pointing that out as flash developer because the sooner Adobe and close in mind to Adobe people accept that the sooner there maybe is a proper solution for the problem.
    You are doing the flash developer base a disservice by constantly neglecting the downsides flash has for many years.

    1. Ryan

      tomsamson – “all flash mobile sample apps are usually basic 2D content” because Flash is a basic 2D authoring tool. It’s not that it’s crippled to 2D stuff on mobile – it only does 2D stuff on the web as well. The 3D stuff that people have been doing with Away3D and Papervision is pretty tortured and far-reaching when you compare it to, say, Unity3D, which was built to push polys from the get-go.

      Flash is far from perfect. But the web owes an incredible debt to it, and i hate to see it getting shat on like this. When i started using the program back in 2000, the only other animation you’d see online was animated gifs and the occasional java applet. Shockwave content would take a hideously long time to load – remember, this was back when most places had 52 baud dial-up connections. Flash brought fast-streaming animation and sound to the Internet, and while i haven’t been entirely happy with its upgrade path, it’s nevertheless remained relevant and cutting edge for a decade or more. To claim that Flash is dead or to suggest that it’s a technology that has had its day (as if it’s RealPlayer or VRML or something) is beyond ignorant.

    1. Ryan

      findie – w00t. i saw you triple-tweeting … how’s that working for you? :P (though i must say, your article was far better than mine)

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  14. Jeff

    Some comments were made about 3d flash content on the mobile player and although I am skeptical about performance levels for graphically intense apps the demo video here is pretty impressive . Everything I have read about performance in the mobile player suggest that adapting your coding styles to take the most advantage of hardware acceleration makes all the difference.

  15. Paul

    As all Apps are vetted by Apple itself I don’t see how it could become beholden to any single technology or company. To broadly paint all future mobile Flash based apps as bad is insulting. Totally agree that Adobe is the problem here, not Flash per se.

    Design once for all platforms *is* a myth and I don’t want to do that. But I sure as hell don’t want to learn a C based language to create a game. C is an old language and makes the dev jump through too many hoops. Fast code is not the be-all and end-all of programming for the consumer space. Time to market & innovation should be the driving force which is why all the innovation in the gaming space is happening in Flash right now. 90% of the games I have seen on the iPhone are ports of Flash games with different graphics. It takes so long to create an iPhone game, why risk innovation?

    So while Apple heads towards console territory with the large brands and a lack of innovation. Flash is enabling whole new gaming ecosystems. Farmville, the largest game in the world, took 6 weeks to code (the initial release). It used an open and free technology stack. The lesson to learn here is to code fast, create fast, innovate fast. Why hasn’t Zynga entered the mobile space? Because they can’t innovate fast enough on it yet.

    I appreciate what Apple is trying to do (I have an iPhone and an iPad) and I think what they have done to move the mobile space forward is epic. But ultimately their approach will (and must) fail. Or they will become the man on the (small) screen telling us what we can and cannot do.

  16. Nerfgun

    Yeah I would agree with Dan Cook. I think it behoves many small/indie devs to just wait it out. The Wild West isn’t going anywhere (except up, actually, these days… stories from big publishers about the Death Of PC Gaming notwithstanding… it’s bigger than ever frankly) so I say stick with what works.

    The iPhone just takes up a huge shiny volume of discussion, of mindshare, so it looms larger than it actually is. I do think the situation will calm down at some point.

    Also I completely understand w/r/t Flash, and enabling a visual person to actuall dip their toe in development and get shit done. This was always the promise of Flash, one that it (more or less) lived up to. I was a Director hack before then so that was my beginning. (And yeah I tried programming assembler on my C64 way back when, as a little kid. My dad stopped me; told me some Korean kid would kick my ass at math. He said figure out application design. He’s a smart dude. That was 1985!)

    So I’m hoping Adobe adjusts a bit and does what they do best, which is to provide rich design environments that will export to *whatever*. At the end of the day I don’t actually make a big distinction between Save as Flash vs Save as HTML5, should be the same as Save as QuickTime or Save as MP4. With requisite adjustments to interactivity level of course, but we all know what it’s like to save down to previous versions of ActionScript. :)

    If you want to see something interesting and depressing, do some reading about mTropolis. It was this amazing breakout dev environment, pre-Flash (was a Director competitor) and I loved loved loved it. Object-oriented everything, drag-and-drop everything, really cool modalities. Quark bought it just to kill it which makes want to hate them to death.


  17. Brendan C

    Excellent writeup! Here’s a few additional thoughts:

    – People who say Adobe is “lazy” because they only just recently ported their apps to Cocoa need to look deeper. Apple’s own Final Cut Suite and Aperture aren’t ported over to Cocoa yet either, and it’s THEIR friggin’ language! The fact is, CS5 is by far the most ambitious Cocoa port to date and Jobs essentially shat all over those efforts by making it sound like a negative for Adobe.

    – Steve Job’s comments about Flash security are interesting as well. I went and read the Symantec 2009 Security Report he referenced, and here’s what it said:
    –Safari has the 2nd most security exploits, behind only IE (big surprise).
    –Safari was twice as slow as any other browser in issuing patches when exploits were discovered
    –Quicktime has 46% more security holes than Flash

    Flash did make their “top ten” list, which is interesting in itself. Internet Explorer accounts for well over 40% of all security exploits, whereas Flash represented a meager 3%.

    Consider the numbers above in this context – Flash has a 98% install rate, 2X that of Internet Explorer, 5X that of Quicktime and 10X that of Safari. Yet ALL of those other technologies suffered at least equal number of exploits as Flash, and far more in most cases. We all know that hackers target the most widely used platforms to maximize damage. With Flash’s massive install base it is very likely the most targeted platform out there, yet according to Symantec accounts for only 3% of exploits? That sounds like a pretty impressive number to me. Again, Jobs found a way to spin a (relative) positive into some ominous negative, completely ignoring the security flaws in their own software because he knew no one would actually go read that report.

    I own an embarrassing number of Apple devices (including iPad), but I’m also a media professional who has relied on Adobe products for over a decade. I’m neutral in terms of the company politics. That said, it’s clear that apple has hit that point – a few successes led to massive ego which led to major over-reaching, and they go from a great company to an “evil” one almost overnight. This fight against Adobe was a bad idea because, if nothing else, it exposes certain attitudes that drove a lot of computer users from Microsoft to Apple in the first place.

  18. tomsamson

    @Ryan: Yes, i know what you mean, i started using flash even earlier, back with the first version released as acromedia´s flash, so i remember very well what the internet landscape was like back then.
    Yeah, connection speeds very super slow and in many parts of the world one had to pay per minute and connection fees were very high.
    Next to that average pcs were of course way slower. It would take long to load a very basic website only made up of text and ugly compressed static images or very long loading gif animations, java applets or director files.
    I was blown away seing the first flash fullscreen animation on the browser, loaded while it was playing and i could enjoy fullscreen animation without any long wait times. Then shortly after also the first websites with nice transitions and smoothly animated effects done in flash, too.
    I knew right away that was a game changer and started learning and using flash right away. Over the years flash has evolved and so have our skills, machines, internet connection speeds etc.
    I´ve done many projects with flash alone and also coupled with other technologies.
    I still use flash today for what its useful for today.
    I also find it childish uninformed nonsense when somehow now many try to tell us that html5 is ready to fully replace flash, because someone who says that is either very ill informed or a liar.
    I also don´t find it nice when people bash anything flash has brought to the web, because as we talked about a bit already it was a lot.
    First fullscreen smooth animation, first smooth nice flashy interactions, transitions/animations on websites at fast load times, then also first mainstream grade video broadcasting and playback with well working progressive loading based and later fully streamed playback for such things etc etc.

    But just like i see it as total nonsense to downtalk everything flash brought to the web or dismay every use case its still a good choice for i also find most things Adobe says and does in the last few years on the flash front quite a downer.
    In my eyes, and that view is shared by many, Adobe has not evolved flash further as much as is needed and in the right direction that is needed.
    I see them constantly hyping up the performance or how many platforms are supported, but the reality is the performance SUCKS compared to anything native and even other plugin technologies like unity and i´ve yet to try a full api supporting version of the flash player that performs competitive to other technologies.
    The best thing they bring out now is something that is cut down to only the as3 subset/vm functionality and even there it only performs well enough thatcontent feels like playing back on a 10-15 year old pc without 3d card.
    Adobe wants to get all developers to use their solutions for deploying to all platforms but is not going the extend needed to propperly make full use of the hardware the content runs on, like using the gpu for all graphical operations.
    Therefore no matter which device flash content runs on it always runs way worse than when made with other options which make propper use of the device.
    And yeah, as much as i loved flash in the past, i find this arroganze, lazynees and ignorance by Adobe unacceptable since its going on for several years and i have to agree that its time for something else when Adobe is not willing or capable to do the right moves and instead keeps on trying to go their old way of saying: nana, there is no such problem, see, the new hyped up ridiculous made up performance test scenario we have here that prooves it..

  19. tomsamson

    @Jeff who said this:

    Some comments were made about 3d flash content on the mobile player and although I am skeptical about performance levels for graphically intense apps the demo video here is pretty impressive . Everything I have read about performance in the mobile player suggest that adapting your coding styles to take the most advantage of hardware acceleration makes all the difference.

    Man, are you working for the Adobe Flash Evangelists team or have you just listened to their hype and lies theories too long?
    Don´t want to attack you personally but man, those statements could come right of their mouths.
    You´re seriously saying the performance shown there is impressive? Impressive compared to what?
    Impressive compared to 3d stuff running on a 20 year old pc without 3d card: yes!
    Impressive regarding comparing it to 3d content made with propper solutions for these devices? Heck, no, not in the least of course.
    This looks like 3d demos made for pcs without 3d chip over 1.5 decades ago, not something they should show without being ashamed on any current device, because even despite its ultra low poly models or even just 2d particles, the performance is sucky and it seems to not even run at smooth stable fps with such basic content that does as much in fake 3d way as possiblle.

    Then its also total nonsense when i read this:

    Everything I have read about performance in the mobile player suggest that adapting your coding styles to take the most advantage of hardware acceleration makes all the difference.

    I´ve actually read several statements in similar vein on several Adobe enthusiast and team/ evangelist sites when people complain about performance its often said you just have to code in the right way.
    Which would be ok as statement though is a shame when used to argue for still super sucky and not compeititve at all performance due to what Adobe delivers.
    So many here moan about Apple wanting to tell developers which languages to use, but at the same time you´re totally fine with Adobe not just telling you which language to use but also in which way you have to use it because they were so lazy that if you don´t do it in a certain way the performance will suck even more?
    How does that make any sense?

    I think its time for Adobe getting bought or at least a good part of those doing the wrong things over the last few years getting replaced since there seems to be no hope that they get off their high horse of unlimited arrogance and while i think Apple is now overreacting if they block out more middleware than just flash, because others actually do a good job, i think its positive that Adobe/ Flash gets a good wakeup cal, either they act and act well now or well, at the end those wishing it to go down will become the majority.

  20. tomsamson

    Yeah, this is really the ongoing problem with Adobe: they never admit the problems that are undeniably there for many years now, instead they try to make up weird example cases where they try to prove the problem would just not be there, which is a total insult at their customers´ faces.
    That “3d” demo was nice, but only regarding what flash can handle, a few years ago when it aired on the web.
    Already back then it was not impressive at all to anyone who has an idea what is possible on the same machine when done natively or even with other plugin technologies like unity3d.
    Now they dig out that several years old demo and try to sell it as great achievment that it runs at what seems like very jumpy way below 30 fps on a device that has quite a capable gpu which is prooven by some quite intense 3d games. I mean 3d games with big open worlds, many characters moving around, textured poly 3d pushing up to over 20k polies at good framerates, not fake 3d with at most one less than 1k poly object chugging along at 15 fps.
    What does Adobe think, we all live in their small bubble not hearing or knowing about anything else out there so they can sell total bs as if it was true?
    The same guy who posted that video about 3d “performance”, Michael Chaize (is that the newest addition to the group of people Adobe has in the frontline to pimp hype bs like that now btw? Mike Chambers and Lee Brimelow already lost too much cred? Ay..) put up a few more videos of which one is more ridiculous than the other.
    Like this here: which is intended to prove that flash would be no battery drainer.
    Video is playing, not even for extremely long and already over 10% of the battery is drained. What is that intended to prove? And if he seriously wanted to show it not draining battery in general why didn´t he show an intense (regarding what fash can handle at best) game or app and let that run for a while?
    Of course because then it would have drained even way more battery in even way less time.
    I mean come on Adobe, how stupid do you think your entire userbase is for falling for such stuff forever?
    Everyone knows that when you run various types of flash content even on medium- highend desktops fans usually start getting louder, so whom are you trying to cheat with such nonsense?
    Maybe Adobe can keep on cheating investors and shareholders for a while longer, though let´s see how flash sales go now..
    Or maybe Adobe should reconsider if its such a good idea to outsource a large chunk of their developer side, if its a good idea to drop AS1 and 2 support and then moan about others elling their developers which of few languages they can still use, if its a good idea to not make propper full on use of the gpu in 2010 and try to fool people into thinking they´re actually doing it full on now, if its a good idea to have people being evangelists who are dishonest in such crazy ways, if its a good idea to spend more money on marketing than on the product development and well, maybe then things look different again in a year or two then. Otherwise, well, Adobe´s Flash Evangelists will only have the mirror in front of them whom they can tell how oh so perfect their tech is and the one on the other side won´t go away laughing in a few years.

    Again, sad when it hits other middleware providers and i hope it won´t, but yeah, its about time Adobe got this wakeup call because i get really pissed off when i see one such “proof” statement or video after the other put out by them which are all just there to cheat customers and its a shame so many still fall for it.

  21. Jeff

    I agree with you guys. The 3d demo is still pretty weak, but was it still allot more then I was expecting out of flash on mobile ( which just shows I set the bar pretty low ). I haven’t seen any impressive html 5 demos on mobile either though. Right now I have no intention of bothering with flash or html 5 on mobile it looks like a complete waste of time for making games.

  22. Jeff

    @tomsamson what is “impressive” is all relative to your expectations. I had / have very low expectations for flash on mobile. From my perspective it is still more impressive then anything I have seen in the browser on my iPhone.

  23. tomsamson

    @Jeff: yeah, i understand where you come from. As i said before i used flash since its first commercial release as flash after Macromedia picked it up and went from being extremely impressed with it while it was a huge pioneerer in many areas to strong Evangelist for it before that term was en vogue in the tech word, pushed for using it for many big projects, then went over to being less and less impressed, then disappointed and then even feeling cheated and insulted as Macromedia and later even more Adobe cut down on bringing enough proper improvements, fixing longterm issues and then for many years hyping up “features” not relevant at all or only existent in isolated made up test scenarios.
    I had that “great regarding what flash can handle” stance for a few years, but really, why should we stick with that forever and accept it being like that?
    Ok, i get it, Adobe is lazy, unwilling or not capable to make propper use of the hardware, but its unacceptable in the current age that due to that then developers are forced to only use a single language, optimize their code and workflow way more than when using any other middleware, then still get laughable performance as result and then be told by Adobe its your fault, you´re doing it wrong, or hey, there is no such problem at all, let me show you this idealized fake test scenario video proving it..
    The topic is now that Apple doesn´t allow flash stuff onto their devices for several quite valid reasons and Adobe should better start properly addressing them instead of arguing against Apple for limiting developer options while their solution limits developer options way more (you´re restricted to 1 language variation (a large chunk of the flash userbase hates) and on most platforms performance is lacking so much that one can´t use most features and has to develop apps in very specific way to get them running at acceptable performance at all. Next to that thanks to the way Adobe does things of course one is also limited to using only a small chunk of those features the device/device sdk offers, the chunk which Adobe has exposed via their api).
    I meanwhile switched over to using flash only for what it still is the best choice for and for all else, which gets more and more, i use other options.
    I sorta gave up on the Flash team a while ago, but what they tried with their flash exporter now even affects all other middleware solutions, so hey, thanks Adobe, you don´t deliver what is needed and also get all other alternatives smashed down thanks to your actions.

    Realizing and admitting you´ve made a mistake is really the only way to do better in the future and from Adobe i only see the opposite: acting as if there just are no problems and mistakes on their side and if there are ones at all, it would of course be due to the platforms they run on, not at all due to what Adobe does..

    @Jeff regarding html5 demos: I agree. Well, those are nice for, well, regarding comparing it to pre html5 stuff, but yeah, not widespread enough, not stable enough and finalized enough to be used in most mainstream apps for most platforms/ browser (version)s. Next to that performance in many areas is way closer to flash performance than to native app or strong plugin (like unity) performance, so not ideal for many types of more demanding apps right now either.
    Nice to keep an eye on and use it for what its good for but yeah, not even a flash replacement yet in many areas.

  24. tomsamson

    @Jeff regarding this bit:

    From my perspective it is still more impressive then anything I have seen in the browser on my iPhone.

    On one side: probably yes when one disregards all html5 stuff. On the other side: I don´t actually want my mobile browser to show such things until mobile phones have a way faster cpu and gpu and/or bigger screens. I like it that with the iPhone when i browse websites it shows text, images and at most video and for most else i have the iPod app or other native apps.
    My browser performs great and native apps will always perform way better than anything running in the browser, too, no matter in which language it is made.
    Next to sides like with an app made for the device its made for that resolution of screen, for this input method etc, things which are not the case with for example a lot of games one can play on the web.
    Next to that with flash especially as i said i´m not convinced at all about performance and also it not draining battery in real life use cases, so yeah, no thanks until i try it for myself for a week and itturns out not to be a fake this time.
    So for mobile devices I understand it when some miss flash in the browser, just like i understand others who´d hate flash in the browser, me personally i´m just fine with it not being there when my device and apps in return run way nicer.

  25. Jeff

    @tomsamson I am pretty much in a agreement with you. I cant stand when web apps or games try to do to much with to little resources it just results in a shitty user experience. The way I see it though there is a plug-in on / off toggle on my phone and I know how to use it. When it comes to draining the battery I am not convinced HTML 5 will be any more efficient then flash, but I have no hands on experience to back that up with at this point. Currently I also prefer to have some native client app for sites I frequent as well ( Engadget for example ), but it would be great if browsers could deliver that experience without the need for installed packages.

  26. Brennon Williams

    I agree with most of what you say, however on a slightly less related point, the Iraq war made Middle Eastern oil prices go up for the U.S., and made much of it unavailable.

  27. tomsamson

    I´m with you, not convinced that html5 stuff will be better on that end (besides the performance side i think it will also be worse regarding not being able to turn off ads that easily anymore without also turning off site content you want to see).
    Like you i prefer native apps which are made for the device, run at nice performance and fleshed out functionality.
    I like web games and apps in the browser, too but more on desktops, not at all on mobiles right now.
    I´ve made web games and web apps for a good number of years and for a long time was believing in them replacing fully clientside/ native apps more and more. With the mobile devices now having nice store fronts integrated though i feel like its almost as convenient to download and run a native client side only >offline< app, and then the better functionality and performance makes me like that more.
    Curious to see how that end evolves in the next 2-3 years =)

  28. Pingback: Repository of “Thoughts on Flash” responses and articles | In Flagrante Delicto!

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