Flash on Android. The End?

This morning I woke up to a popup screen on my Motorola Droid. It was a system update that would (finally?) allow me to install the Flash plugin on my device. At long last I was going to be able to test out this "full web experience on mobile".

I'll start out with my conclusions: Flash is most likely dead. The "full web experience on mobile" marketing scheme is a total bungle, one from which Flash will have a nearly impossible task of recovering from.

Here's a conversation that probably took place at some point:

Marketing Guy: "Can we get Flash applications to run on portable devices"
Tech Guy: "Of course, a computer is a computer. Code is code. It can be done"
MG: "So we could advertise the full web experience on mobile right?"
TG: "Well, I wouldn't go that far, the technical specifications of mobile dev..."
MG: "You're saying we can't get Flash applications to run on portable devices?"
TG: "We can, technically, but current Flash applications are not optimized to run on low-end equip..."
MG: "FULL WEB EXPERIENCE! We'll definitely kill Apple with that. Forever. We rule. Marketing FTW!"
TG: "But..."
MG: "No time for arguments, get coding, I take care of the press releases!"

So they've spend the last year overselling Flash. And now the smokes and mirrors are gone, and the end result pretty much sucks. People were expecting the full web experience on their mobile (wonder who put THAT in their heads) and they're experiencing what they would if they pulled out a 7 year old computer out of the closet, installed Vista on it and started browsing.

The backlash is violent, and based on what people have been sold, justified. But is Flash truly over?

First of all, I think it's fair to separate Flash development into 2 categories: website design/navigation and visually heavier web applications (such as games and movies).

As a website design and navigation tool, Flash is dead. Finished. Over. Its hardware requirements are too steep and the added value vs. HTML5 is becoming non-existent. You used to need Flash for things as simple as decent rollovers and any form of movement. Not anymore. Is it worth it for a website to maintain both an HTML5 version for mobile and a Flash version for laptops and desktops? I don't think so.

And since HTML5 now embeds videos, that too is over for the little plugin that could. Sorry Adobe, time to move on.

Here is, I think, the last thing that could both save Flash and also tremendously help Android as a platform: Flash games.

Flash is a unique and incredibly well-crafted integrated development environment. One that has been in heavy use for the past decade. You have legions of Flash developers out there ready to make new or port old Flash games. There are thousands of Flash games spread throughout the Internet at the moment. Many of these games exceed in quality the current Android offerings. Offer Android Application as a target platform for Flash. Of course developers will have to optimize their code, test their games against the actual hardware it will run on. (Meaning Flash applications would suddenly run well on mobile devices). You could then boost the catalog of good Android games. As a developer, the cost-benefits of porting existing code and assets on the platform with just a few adjustments would suddenly make more sense.

Android wins by getting more content, and Flash wins for staying a pertinent development environment (for a few more years). For Flash, that's kind of a last hope. For Android, although the platform did lose face and credibility for not really being able to offer that "full web experience" it promised, its current adoption rate makes this issue a non-threat.


Unknown said...

I'm so tired reading about this. Everybody seems to have his very own uninformed point of view on both sides. Btw. here's somebody who thinks Flash on Mobile Devices actually rocks.

HTML5 Video has still a long way to go to be a full flash replacement. And everybody who uses Flash for Navigation or simple rollover animations is a complete moron anyways. There, my $0.02

Unknown said...

From a technical standpoint, I can't be against options, and I think it's good that the option exists, and makes Android browsing superior to browsing on the iPhone.

I just believe flash on mobile has been hyped as something that couldn't be delivered. The regular user will be frustrated, and for better or worst, he's the one running the show. So it's not a technical flaw, it's a marketing flaw.

Companies will want a mobile site that works right now, smoothly, and on as many platforms as possible. For that, Flash becomes a poor choice for website development. And once you have a working flashless mobile site that could then be upscaled to a full-sized site and you end up with only one technology to maintain, why keep Flash at all? For me, Flash is a dying tech in that regards.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure I would qualify saying that there's no reason to take away the option of using Flash on a mobile and statements such as "Flash on a smartphone may not be "magical," but it is practical" are such a ringing endorsement as to let you declare that this person "thinks Flash on Mobile Devices actually rocks".

Of course there is a case to be made for the inclusion of Flash on mobiles, especially because it is only an option, and is not forced on you. But if you have tried flash on a mobile, selling it as "the full web experience" is disingenuous to say the least, and counterproductive.

Had it been sold as the article you link to does, i.e. not perfect but useful as an option, it would not have been met with such negativity.

Finally, if we go by your last statement, you'll have accept that the world is full of morons.