The future of the Flash Player

I think many will agree that 2010 is going to be the year of mobile and devices. With Android becoming a serious contender and Apple reportedly coming out with some innovative new hardware its no surprise to me that there’s a lot of buzz around the Flash Player and whether or not Adobe will be able to deliver a good experience on mobile platforms.

Enter Flash Player 10.1 – a few years in the making, the engineers are specifically targeting this release for mobile consumption and added critical features like hardware video decoding, GPU graphic acceleration and serious CPU and memory optimizations.

Its fundamentally flawed to compare this Flash Player release with previous versions which were primarily built for use on personal computers with very different constraints in terms of CPU and memory usage. We’re finally seeing the first results of the Open Screen Project — call it a marketing effort if you must — but partners like Google, HTC, Intel, Nokia, Palm, Sony Ericsson and many others have no incentive to support and invest in a sub par technology.

Will it be perfect? Probably not, but we’re getting a hell of a lot closer to a full web experience on the majority of mobile devices.

Enter Flash CS5 – with Apple not playing nice with supporting a Flash Player initiative (or any other plugins for that matter) on the iPhone browser, we’ll now get the next best thing. Exporting native applications from Flash CS5 is going to be an easy way to port Flash content (including accelerometer, geolocation and other new APIs introduced for mobile) to iPhone ARM binaries for distribution on the iTunes store.


My prediction is this will be good as a way to port typical Flash content to the iPhone, not necessarily an IDE you would want to use for developing iPhone application where you need fine grained access to the underlying code. Objective-C will still be a good choice for your iPhone development, though Flash CS5 will now open up a very approachable development environment for the iPhone to Windows users.

Moving beyond just mobile phones, the Flash Platform is reaching out and the Flash Player is being used on set top boxes, digital television, on board computers on cars and boats, even user interfaces for refrigerators and microwaves.

What bothers me is how all sense of pragmatism seems to be lost on some bloggers. Wanting the Flash Player to die because of the unfounded believe that its not supportive of an “open web”, not SEO friendly or claiming that its been made obsolete by HTML5 (which will incidently take at least half a decade to come even close to being supported on the percentage of web users that the Flash Player can target now). A full decade of Flash content out on the web and 90% of video is not going to go away.

I am not an Adobe employee (though I am involved in their community programs), call me biased but I’m incredibly excited about what is in store for Flash support on mobile and what it promises for user experience. But more importantly I’m not ready to dismiss new technology before getting a chance to play around with it, a view I wish more people would share.



14 thoughts on “The future of the Flash Player

  1. Nice post peter.

    One thing:
    “but partners like Google, HTC, Intel, Nokia, Palm, Sony Ericsson and many others have no incentive to support and invest in a sub par technology.” <- Nokia, SE were some of the 1st OEMS to license Flash Lite, Peter … meaning they actually paid to put that "subpar" (as you put it) player on devices. πŸ™‚

    Also, Flash Enabled devices are not going away. There's an influx of constrained devices that are always coming to market, and sometimes FP 10.1 will be too bloated a runtime for hardware. Choices will be made. πŸ™‚

    When it comes down to it, it's all Flash and ActionScript, and sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to develop the experiences and applications you want. For end user's it's about the end result, not the tools. πŸ™‚

    Flash CS5 publish to iPhone is a stop-gap. Thing is, it'll probably be a stop-gap for a while. Apple is not going to kill their store until the market gets competitive … with Android, webOS, and RIM I think this is just starting to happen.

  2. Ain Tohvri says:

    HTML5 or no HTML5, plugins will remain attached to a browser in one way or another and all the airheads from cloud cuckoo land, who have never closely seen any ActionScript code but merely know few of the CSS 3 properties at the stage of W3C Working Draft, should all be disregarded.

    Apart from the latter, recent disappointment of many members of Flash community can be understood. Yet there’s more to it: there are always those pointing fingers and calling something names and unfortunately considerably less those who make things happen. And we can all make things happen by taking 2 minutes to file a bug report or vote for it even if Adobe asks us more for CS5 than it did for CS4. Make your presence.

    To start up, I’m passing you guys a feature request and a bug report to vote for:
    add excludeInvisibleChildren to getBounds(), feature request by Colin Moock
    Keystroke triggers double entry in input TextField, bug report for Flash Player 10.1 by myself

  3. vivek says:

    well, i agree with scott thoughts πŸ™‚
    Flash enabled devices are growing day by day and off course for an average user final experience matters a lot rather he may don’t know what technology is behind the scene!!

  4. Peter says:

    Thanks Scott!

    With “support and invest in subpar technology” I didn’t mean to reference Flash Lite, rather say that because of the involvement of these partners Flash Player 10.1 is likely to not be as much of a CPU hog and battery drain as some claim it is going be.

    Definitely agree with the fact that some Flash enabled devices for the time being will still ship with Flash Lite because of hardware constraints (we’ve seen examples of that at this years CES).

    On Flash CS5 to iPhone, ideally we’d like to see Flash Player support in the browser and this is an alternative to at least be able to use the Flash Platform tooling to target the iPhone.

    I don’t see it going away though, even in the unlikely event we would get Flash Player support on the iPhone browser there will still be people looking to export to standalone applications (though in that case SWF content in an HTML wrapper might be a more lightweight option).

    Great feedback!

  5. sascha/hdrs says:

    I’m fine with Flash! I don’t need SEO on my refrigerator! %-D

    Still very skeptical about how development for iPhone will turn out. I’m curious how the graphics and performance improvements will look on a desktop.

  6. Peter says:

    lol Sascha πŸ˜‰ There’s some apps out in the iTunes store you can try, the small hardware acceleration demo on iPhone Lee Brimelow posted looks encouraging though.

  7. Lee Brimelow says:

    Great post Peter. One thing you said that I want to emphasize again here is that things will not be “perfect” when 10.1 and CS5 roll out. You will absolutely still need to use Objective-C to build the majority of stuff for the iPhone. Remember with Flash CS5 you don’t have access to any of the native iPhone UI elements and the performance will not be quite as fast and Obj-C. What CS5 will be great for is for Flash developers who want to simple games and apps for the iPhone. But this is far from being an Objective-C killer, nor was it ever meant to be.

    And like Scott mentioned, Flash Lite 4 will be coming for mobiles and devices that cannot handle the full blown Flash Player. This includes things like smart TVs.

    I truly believe we are finally doing the right things when it comes to mobile, but it is a massive undertaking so hopefully everyone will be patient while we work out any kinks that come up, because you know they will πŸ™‚

  8. lordB8r says:

    Great post and nice way to sum it up. I agree that Flash isn’t going away anytime soon, but quite the opposite, it’s base is growing stronger and people are very accustomed to it. The fact that Adobe is putting so many resources into the mobile platform should be proof how seriously they are taking the growing medium.

    Only question I have (as a developer in the Flex framework I have to ask), “How can we optimize the framework for making apps without going through CS5?” I’m constantly looking for ways to lighten the load, and mobile apps certainly don’t want all the overhead a desktop app could handle, so do we avoid UIComponents for DisplayObjects, Labels for TextFields?

    Regardless, I’m happy to see other people recognize that FP isn’t going away, but just trying to make the experience better (even if the first few tries are bumpy).

  9. Hey everyone I don’t mean to be a real downer on all of this… But I must say I was rather disappointed with this years Max. I just believe there was way to much focus on mobile, odd to say I know. Don’t get me wrong with the explosion of the IPhone and developers creating apps for the app store makes absolute perfect sense why Adobe would put all their focus into that. But I mean if all of you can remember the crazy shouting of devs on twitter and blogs all summer long about so many other things dealing with compiler optimization, gpu acceleration in the browser (or heck even desktop would be nice), and just how much more work Action Script 3.0 needs to be improved (seriously… I still can’t overload stuff, really?), and lets not forget the Flash bums long series of rants on how broken CSS support is in Flash.

    The news from Flash on the Beach with all that craziness Joa Ebert was doing, was amazing stuff! Way more interesting then anything that came out of Max… Now I could be completely wrong on this because I didn’t attend Max… Perhaps it was in the sneaks, stuff I wasn’t able to see because I couldn’t afford to go… I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong I loved that they introduced global error handling, and the new features for AIR 2.0 are pretty nifty, but seems like they could have spent their time better on improving the language, player, etc then working on a way to export to IPhone. Or at least give us some more details on the progress of Alchemy. I mean that stuff blew everyone away at the last Max, and it clearly has an amazing amount of potential why isn’t it being supported more?

    Apologies for my rant, but a lot of the Flash/Flex devs I talk to feel the same way, that all this crazy focus on mobile could have been put to better use… Not saying to stay away from Mobile… But, idunno. I can’t be the only one who feels this way, right? Multi-touch, augmented reality, and all that other craziness is fine to I guess, but just want more love where it actually counts.

  10. cosmin says:

    Well RIAs on mobiles just started to move really fast. They need to keep up…

  11. Yesterday i was looking at some code examples for the JavaScript ExtJS framework. Brrr,i don’t want to go back there. Therefore i hope, ActionScript will become bigger. We only have to be careful, that ActionScript doesn’t suffer the same fate as Betamax against VHS.

  12. […] their multitouch capabilities etc., aspects that Peter Elst correctly pointed out in hisΒ The future of the Flash Player article as […]

  13. Frank Pepermans says:

    Have to agree with everything Joseph said.

    I’m kind of waiting for Adobe to announce truly groundbreaking stuff with a next Flash player.
    Developing for Flash is still fun, but its limits are becoming quite irritating lately.

    I used to pick up on anything new which the Flash Player tossed at me, had a lot of fun experimenting with new features and pushing the player to the limits.

    Excited about mobile flash? Only when a client asks for it :-/ Still, great to see good mobile support finally…

  14. buy r4 says:

    I think the future of flash player is great as its use is increasing day by day and its all features and functionalities are good.I m also using it.Ne ways i will keep looking around for more information.

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