Flash versus The World

David Murphy

Dominique Jodoin, President and CEO of Bluestreak Technology, considers Apple's and Microsofts decision not to support Adobes Flash format on their mobile platforms

DominiqueJodoin Adobe piece Does it seem to you like everyone is ganging up on Adobe these days? Apple and Microsoft have made some bold moves lately in an attempt to prevent Adobes Flash technology from transferring the same dominance it has on the PC onto mobile devices.. 
At the recent Mobile World Congress exhibition, Microsofts Steve Ballmer announced that the new Windows Phone operating system would not support Flash out of the gate and gave no indication on when Flash support might be available.
Apples Steve Jobs took the battle a bit further when asked why the new iPad doesnt support Flash saying We don't spend a lot of energy on old technology and reportedly telling Wall Street Journal staff that Flash was a "CPU hog" and a source of "security holes."

Ego battles
Tough talk. Kind of reminds me of ego battles between the popular kids back in my high school days. However, with Apple leaving Flash off the iPad and iPhone, Microsoft's announcement of no Flash support in the new Windows Phone, and the emergence of HTML5 as a new standard to compete with Flash, this situation presents a serious challenge for Adobe going forward.
Frankly, this battle is also one I am paying pretty close attention to as well since my company, Bluestreak Technology is the second largest provider of Flash-enabled solutions in the world. As a result, you can imagine that these days I am answering a lot of questions about Adobe and Flashs future, including: Why would your company choose to support Flash isnt it going away?
Mark Twain once wrote that reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Adobe could clearly use this same messaging. Steve Jobs and some frenzied analysts may enjoy positioning Flash as a dying technology, but lets just look at the facts as they stand today:

  • 1.2 billion mobile phones are Flash capable

  • 70% of online gaming sites run Flash

  • 98% of Internet-enabled desktops use it

  • 85% of he top 100 websites use Flash

  • Its the No.1 platform for video on the Web 75% of all videos use Flash (including Hulu, Disney and YouTube)

  • There are 2-3 million people in the Flash developers community

  • 90% of creative professionals have Adobe software on their desktops

With numbers and penetration rates like that, the better question is why wouldnt I choose to support this technology? None of the facts indicate that Adobe Flash is disappearing anytime soon.

Rich experience

There is a reason so many have embraced Flash in the past and continue to do so: Flash delivers the richest visual experience and easiest video streaming technology around. Period. Until Flashs 2-3 million person developer community and companies like Bluestreak Technology see another underlying presentation technology that could compete with Flashs graphic and video capabilities, we will all continue to support it.
Another question people are asking me is: Wont the new HTML5 standard replace Flash?
Maybebut not today. Not tomorrow. Not even in 10 years. To displace a technology as deeply embedded as Flash is in the worldwide market would take a tremendous momentum shift. HTML5, as it stands today, doesnt offer all of the same capabilities as Flash, and it will take several years before it can catch up.
And lets not forget that, most importantly, people who browse the web and watch videos want Flash. The popular Apple-focused blog site TUAW ( recently asked iPhone owners what they most wanted on the next version of the iPhone. The number one response, from 80% of survey respondents: Flash support.
Consumers like Flash. They like the fluid graphics, the sexy animations, the visual touches that you just cant reproduce with other technologies today. Typically, what consumers want, consumers get.

Emerging technologies
That said, if you ask me: Does my company, Bluestreak Technology, support HTML5 development for the applications we build across mobile phones, TVs, set-top boxes and consumer electronics devices? then my answer would be yes. We are fortunate that we can be both a strong proponent of Flash-enabled application development, but still embrace and offer support for alternative, emerging technologies.
So do I think Apple will ever support Flash on the iPhone? Probably not, but not because of the reasons Steve Jobs conveys. If it was just Flashs supposedly ageing technology, speed, CPU usage, or battery drain issues that Apple was concerned about, I am sure they would find a way to resolve them to give consumers the ability to browse the entire web rather than just some of the web like they are limited to on the iPhone and iPad today.
The reality is that Apple simply doesnt want developers to have an alternative platform for developing applications for the iPhone and iPad. It wants everything to be built using the native application development kit and sold through its closed marketplace, iTunes. It would take a pretty intense consumer uprising to change that vision for the future.

Competitive pressure

There is an outside chance, though, that Googles support for Flash on devices like the NexusOne could eventually put enough competitive pressure on Apple that it could change their strategy in regards to Flash. That is doubtful, however.
To keep things in perspective, according to analyst firms Gartner and Strategy Analytics, the iPhone, while hugely popular in such a short time, still only makes up 17.1% of the Smartphone market and 2.5% of the global handset market. That leaves 97.5% of phones and many consumer electronic devices for Flash applications to penetrate in the future.
So whos going to win this battle going forward? I dont believe there will be a single winner. Apples not going to knock out Adobe. Adobes not going to eradicate HTML5. All of these technologies and vendors will continue to evolve and, ultimately, consumers will be the real winners. Its the consumers who will reap the rewards from the innovative solutions and new technological breakthroughs that this competitive spirit ignites.