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The iPad-Adobe Flash Argument Concluded, Completely

apple versus adobe

Apple's iPhone, MacBook trackpads, and Magic Mouse all are jammed with multitouch goodness, as will the iPad be. What the iPad won't have is Flash. Because multitouch and Flash aren't compatible. The debate is closed.

Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once: The iPad won't get Adobe Flash compatibility, and this is a good thing. Ignore the public slanging match about battery life, processor cycles being eaten up, and the unicorn-torturing Adobe goes through to make Flash work...the issue is far, far simpler than this, and it's taken a Flash developer to point out why.

It's all got to do with multitouch. Or, touchscreen control in fact. Because touchscreen tech (in its current guise) can only detect when you "click" the screen. It cannot detect when your finger is just hovering over it, a direct parallel to the action when you scroll a mouse pointer over a Flash entity—or Weblink on a plain old HTML page—but do not click. This is an absolutely key tech in Flash, tagged in the code as MouseOver, and virtually every Flash implementation you've ever seen uses it in some way. Check it out for yourself, Google-up a Flash game and see what happens: Over and over again, there are two distinctly differently actions for hovering and clicking. The same thing happens in Flash-based pop-over or drop-down menus on Web pages, and even pop-over player controls on most Flash-type video sites.

Playing a Flash game on a touchscreen simply wouldn't work the same way, which in many cases would result in it being impossible to interact with at all—the same goes for those flashy, Flash-powered Web pages. The upshot of that, assuming you tell the user his device is Flash compatible, is one pissed-off user. To avoid this issue, every situation where the Flash event MouseOver appears in the code would have to be re-coded, causing many apps to be completely re-written...and that's clearly impossible.

Time and again, Apple has reminded us that it prides itself on delivering an extraordinarily high-quality user experience, and this Flash-crash would be completely in conflict with this. Hence, the iPad and iPhone and iPod Touch will not get Flash. With Google already working on replacing Flash in YouTube with HTML5 video, it's doubly underlined.

[Via RoughlyDrafted]

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  • Eggman321

    Apple does not support Flash so as to maintain the monopoly over applications for the iphone etc. Apple makes billions from a system that ensures that all applications for iPhone are sold through the apple website, with commissions to apple, and with the $100 USD license for app developers. Imagine how much Apple would stand to loose if iPhones and iPads etc would support Flash...

  • Greg Kourupes

    Lets face it. The biggest competition to Apple media services like iTunes are web applications based on Flash. This is very unfortunate for game developers like myself. Typically Apple hasn't cared much about games anyway. The question is what will companies with Flash websites (like clothing and cars) use to reach the Apple device market or will Apple remain blind to all of those markets.

  • Mark Aaron

    WRONG. Flash does support Multitouch.


    What is this garbage/propaganda you Mac fanboys are posting? Anything to justify the iPad's shortcomings (headed directly to the WNBA, Layups and Jumpshots).

    The iPad sucks, get over it.

  • Jason Kneen

    Christ another one on the bandwagon.

    It's nothing to do with gestures, processing power etc. It's EVERYTHING to do with control and money. Apple simple do not want to allow a competitor to the Appstore and that's what Flash would represent.

    This article is from Feb 2009

    Case closed.

  • Gary LaPointe

    All would be workable around. I'm not saying all Flash content would work perfect but much of it would work. Many flash items are just clickable (or with drop downs) and would work fine. For example museum displays with touch screens running Adobe Director applications (pretty much Flash these days) work fine with a just clicking the display.

    When I'm rearranging my icons on my iPhone it can tell the difference between tapping and holding down on an icon and lets me drag everything around.

    Besides I interact all the time with a touch interface with flash, it's call my trackpad. I can click/drag/double-click and everything. The biggest thing with the touch display would be the "cursor" magically appearing in the middle of an object (but I'd think it'd just count as if the finger moved from the last place it touched the screen; just as if I move the mouse from one side of the screen to the other, it doesn't actually get redrawn across 1200 pixels, it just appears to do this.

    What are all the people with Windows tablets experiencing? Or converted Mac tablets?

    I'd think the display can tell when you push and really push (if just based on time or more pixels pressed?), therefore allowing a hover option. Or requiring a double-tap to count as a tap. I'd think lots of ways to make it work (for people smarter than me to figure out).

    I AGREE AN ACTION GAME might have issues, but "regular" flash-based web content (sometimes it's not even interactive) could work quite fine.

    Worst case scenario (and Apple wouldn't want to do this) is once you touched a flash object on the screen, the object could enlarge to fill the screen (like the iPhone YouTube vids do), and an actual mouse-type pointer could appear to control the flash app. I still think most web page based-flash could work without doing it this kludgy way.

  • Davide Melis

    I have to say that is the most imaginative argument brought into this debate.
    Unfortunately is utterly and totally false. Some more research wouldn't hurt next time.

    Few weeks ago Adobe released the beta of flash player 10.1:
    which, among other features:
    "New mobile-ready features that take advantage of native device capabilities include support for multi-touch, gestures, mobile input models, and accelerometer bringing unprecedented creative control and expressiveness to the mobile browsing experience."

    And since we're talking about this, have a look at the demonstration of the flash player 10.1 on Nexus One:

    So, as things are now, the technical reasons for supporting flash (the way that Apple stated them) are non existent. Which leaves ONLY political reasons to not do that.

    But that is definitely not a problem of flash not supporting multitouch

  • Derek Kinsman

    Dearest author of this article, perhaps you should have done some research before even considering writing it. Is Fast Company running low on traffic and the only way you could bring it up was to provide your mighty opinion to the Apple vs. Adobe debate?

  • Bradley Edward

    Multitouch and Flash aren't compatible? Wow, that is news to me seeing how I have a Palm Pre - a multitouch device - that will be able to support Flash as soon as Adobe releases the mobile version of Flash. Currently on my phone when I browse to a page that has flash on it, I get a place holder for the flash file. Once Flash for Mobile is released, I will be able to interact with Flash content on my multitouch device.

    Maybe this author should have a firm grasp of basic facts before making grandiose proclamations about what a technology can or cannot do.

  • Adam Love

    While html5 is coming out with supported video and audio html tags, there still is benefits to using flash for video. Google and Youtube are running test cases like any big company would do for their R&D with using emerging technologies. However, with Flash Media server, there's documentation that the media server can stream a mp4 at a more consistent frame rate than quick time can play them.

    The more flexibility an IDE gives you, the more people can crash it. In the apple development software you can program an infinite loop and cause it to crash every single time. Since flash and actionscript are very easily accessible to new users, they don't focus on more advanced topics like clean up of event listeners and what not and their programs are more susceptible to crash.

    I experience crashes in illustrator, photoshop, maya, indesign, protools more than flash on both os's (mostly due to ram issues). So Mr. Jobs, do you want to take those programs off your os's so they don't work too?

  • Baris Caglar

    If Apple allows Flash, it will lose its control over what content (Game, video, app, etc) can be accessed by iPhone (or iPad) users. This is my opinion.

    What's not my opinion, but the ugly truth is that there's no technology limitation. Period. Whatever the reason might be, Apple won't let Flash apps on iPhone. I wish you asked someone else other than your "flash developer" before you misinformed public.

  • Steven Krapp

    Follow the money. Flash has the potential to "over-the-top" the "iDevice" and provide either content or apps that are not approved by Apple or worse yet not purchased via iTunes. Denying Flash is simply standard Apple anti-competitive behavior. The open Internet as we know it is slowly being closed by Apple, Facebook, and others and we the users are willing participants.

  • Gypsy Rogers

    OK, so I get that that there are very specific limitations of flash vs ipad, but what I don't see in this article is anything that says adobe or apple have decided not to go forward with it. Is the concept that flash won't happen on the ipad just conjecture on your part or do you have more to support the title?

  • Daniel Karpantschof

    @Jason - I agree. Flash is in many ways inferior to alternatives.

    Yet it is however the standard. There are many argumens, pros and cons, about Flash. But the mouseover in this article is by far the very lowest FastCompany has sunk in a long time (well... since they published the list of innovative companies... so well; a week).

    Arguing that Flash won't come to touch platforms because of mouse over is arguing that nobody will buy into the iTunes appstore when it was launched, because there were no apps in it.

  • Jason Van Pelt

    This is a ridiculous argument. I've written Flash apps for tablet PCs for years. You do lose the mouse over state - but that's not imperative for all flash apps, especially if you are designing FOR tablets. If anything it is a short-coming of tablets, not Flash. Are HTML hover states are any different?

    Then there's multi-touch support for flash...

    How can we not argue that this is a content-control issue on Apple's part? Flash isn't the answer to everything, but neither is Apple.