iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Flash
April 12, 2010

I've really grown sick of the constant whinging about Apple's iPhone OS not supporting Flash. There are actual real reasons that don't have to do with some spat with Adobe (who now makes the Flash program) or making cold, hard cash.

Think about the websites which are currently built in Flash. Many of them rely on a programming event "mouseover." On a touchscreen, where is your mouse? Can you hover over something with your mouse on a touchscreen? How sensitive does the touchscreen have to be in order to differentiate between hovering your finger lightly over something and pressing down for a button action?

Touchscreens are an awesome thing to me, but they are still a fairly young technology and simply don't have all the capability that we have via a computer. It's not so much a fundamental flaw of the modern touchscreen as it is a developing tech - we're just not there yet. (And should we be or should we be searching out new paradigms?)

Now, what would be more frustrating to you as a user? Seeing a little brick icon on a bunch of sites because they use Flash or attempting to interact with a site, but not being able to make it work - and having no idea WHY it wasn't working? Frankly, I like Apple's solution once I thought about it.

Maybe I get this because I'm a web designer who knows Flash. I'm no great ActionScript programmer, but I know the basics and have made my share of animated Flash banners using ActionScript rather than keyframes. But I've heard a lot of grousing from other web folk who really ought to know better.

All of the grousing that iPhone doesn't support Flash, the iPad's mere existence on the face of the planet, Adobe's premature development of a Flash to iPhone conversion ...

... it all sounds like sour grapes from people who couldn't tell the difference between a shriveled, sour grape and a plump, sweet grape if the good grape ran off the vine, onto the table and did a dance routine right in front of them.

Instead, they'd complain that now even grapes want their fifteen minutes on So You Think You Can Dance and begin naming all the reasons why the grape should be smashed and made to feel inferior instead of marveling at the fact that the grape is freaking dancing in front of them.

Thoughtful criticism is an important part of life.

Constant complaining because every little thing doesn't suit your every little need shouldn't be a part of our lives at all.

Criticizing the iPad for not being "as good as a netbook" is lame. It's not a netbook. It's an iPad. It's not really an e-book reader; it's not really a computer or laptop or netbook; it's kind of but not really an overgrown iPod touch. It's a new thing. There's not exactly a comparison for it just yet. Relax. What does it matter to you if this product fails or becomes the new big thing? Why the hatred?

Why snap to instant judgments?

That said, I'm also sick of Adobe's attitude. (For the non-designers, Adobe makes the Flash program)

When Apple first launched OS X, they did it in a way that really impressed me because it offered both users and developers time to get used to the OS before requiring upgrades to all of your programs. There were three ways to develop a program - but at first, this didn't impact users at all. You could load a program in "Classic" mode and continue to use all of your old programs you'd already bought and paid for. Developers could use an intermediate way of producing code that would make a program work in OS X without relying on Classic. And finally, developers could write a program "native" to the new operating system. The best choice would be a native program because those would run the most smoothly. Classic programs would have to be "translated" to run and like a kid's game of "Telephone," that usually leads to odd snags. The same with the intermediate solution.

But Adobe waited forever before finally writing their software native to OS X.

The iPhone OS / Flash debacle is honestly more of the same. Adobe seems to believe that "translation" is a good and acceptable way to code rather than writing programs in native languages. Personally, I feel that's a flawed way to code.

Let's put it this way - all computers speak machine language, a series of 0s and 1s indicating "on" and "off." A particular type of computer uses a language optimized to the hardware to translate from human coding to machine language. So, we have human thought to programming language to machine language to action. Plenty of room for translation mistakes already. But if you choose to write your program in a format not native to that machine and its hardware, you're introducing yet another translation to the equation and increasing the likelihood of mistranslations and errors ... or just slow-downs as the machine tries to translate so many levels.

So Adobe thinking that a Flash to iPhone export option was a good idea was, in my opinion, a fundamentally flawed thinking process. At best, it would create a flood of mostly-functional apps for the iPhone (and iPod touch and iPad). More likely, it would flood the marketplace with bug-laden, slow apps which did not please the customer, partly due to the translation issues and partly due to the number of additional non-programmers who would have access to a fairly easy way to slap some pieces of programming together and calling it an app.

Is Apple's move about the bottom line? Yeah, it's about money. Is it about some long-standing dispute with Adobe? I don't think it is, at least not in the way that some think. It might be a reaction to Adobe's perceived programming philosophy, but I think that's rooted in bringing about Apple's tag line ... "it just works."

And you can't say, "it just works" if the software is terribly buggy and mistranslated ....

Posted by Red Monkey at April 12, 2010 7:37 AM | Design | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

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