Updated Twice: Adobe CEO Speaks! Mobile Flash Running on iPhone Emulation

Flash for the iPhone SDK

Here at TiPB we've covered the heck out of the Flash on the iPhone debacle. Will it, won't it, can it, should it, omgvidz!1 and privacy nightmares. But it just won't stop. Current case in point, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen was once again let near a live mic:

We have a version [of (Mobile?) Flash] that’s working on the emulation. This is still on the computer and you know, we have to continue to move it from a test environment onto the device and continue to make it work. So we are pleased with the internal progress that we’ve made to date.

Great. Only Flash for OS X was never fully optimized by Adobe, making it a resource hog and increasing the bugginess of browsers (any guesses on how it will run on the iPhone?). Also, Apple hasn't approached Adobe to do a MobileSafari plugin anyway, (though iPhone 2.0 seems to include a YouTube plugin...), and the iPhone SDK end user license still seems to disallow something like Flash (or Java) from running their own code. So, this means precisely what, exactly?

For those hoping to get Flex apps up on the iPhone, Apple already has an SDK and won't allow a "competitive" dev environment to murky up their Cocoa Touch and SproutCore plans. From a dev point of view, sure it may limit apps from people already familiar with Flex, the same way it limits those already familiar with Java. While this may sacrifice the ability to leverage code from other platforms, most SDK demos rave about how fast porting has been, and really keen devs will just pick up the aforementioned Cocoa Touch environment and run with it anyway.

For those who just want them their vidz, Apple seems to be banking on YouTube via H.264 app and plugin being enough to stop a general revolt while they establish their "next big thing" mobile platform without Adobe's tech being invited to the party. Will that be enough? Depends on how much people want everything beyond YouTube, from Hulu to pr0n. (And the obnoxious banner adds that will inevitably come with it).

Apple and Adobe need each other but also don't seem to have the best of relationships. They're both gambling big time, with huge stakes. Adobe has a more flexible hand (no pun intended) but Apple has a poker face that makes a mannequin look overly emotive.

My guess? No Flash for the iPhone remains the status quo. What's yours?


Iconfactory and Twitteriffic luminary Craig Hockenberry posts the funniest Flash on iPhone tweet ever on Twitter:

Hoping that Adobe will use a flash:// URL scheme. Would make it very easy to avoid on both the iPhone AND desktop.

Meanwhile, Adobe responds on their blog.


Kontra ponders if this is all really a fight over the future of user interfaces, with Adobe trying to set their own cross-device conventions.

And Gruber points out even Apple's own Quicktime content doesn't run in-line in Mobile Safari, but launches a [Quicktime X?] player.

Which raises an interesting point: How would running video be handled in MobileSafari anyway? If you tried to swipe, scroll, pinch zoom, double-tap, etc., wouldn't it create enormous resource demands on what's still a small, mobile chipset? And if they lock the multi-touch down anytime Flash content (including ads) pop up, it makes the browser otherwise useless. Seems this would almost guarantee the need for an external player. (Or do the video game demos show that it could handle this well enough?)


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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Updated Twice: Adobe CEO Speaks! Mobile Flash Running on iPhone Emulation


I'd really like to see flash on the iPhone, more so b/c of the new 3G network.
I can't think of how many times I was reading my feeds via Newsgator iPhone, and I had to add posts to clippings because I couldn't view the short video that was posted. Transmorgifying it isn't enough for me. Please!

Seriously... do we really need flash on our mobile devices? For what? more ads? more bogus plug-ins? more annoying animations? more resources lost to the bugs and memory leaks? No thanks!

What cracks me up is Apple obviously isn't helping them out at all. Emulator? That means they're not part of any beta program to allow them to test their software on actual phones. So my take is that Apple has zero interest in releasing Flash for the iPhone. And so what if Adobe does release a stand-alone Flash Player app (if Apple even approves it for distribution through the App Store)? That's not going to change anyone's browsing experience in Mobile Safari.

See the update with the link to Gruber's post, which reminded me that no video content plays inline in MobileSafari, so even if there was a Flash plugin, it would likely just pop up the "play" button and launch a min-player the way QuickTime does now for audio and H.264 web content.
I don't think its a 3G thing, I think its a CPU and rendering engine thing.

People keep saying that you 'need' Flash to have the real internet. That's like saying you need the "blink" tag just because everyone uses it.
Flash became a big force on the internet because it lets you design a website in ways HTML doesn't easily. It lets you make it flashy. People like flashy. If they didn't like flashy, we'd have phones that look like the HP 620LX from yesteryear. (That's not a phone, and it's not pretty either.)
Flash performs poorly on desktop computers with 2-core processors and massive GPUs. Why would it be so wonderful and amazing on a 600-odd MHz ARM and a little mobile PowerVR GPU? How would that enormous super awesome animated gee whiz band website display on a 320x480 screen?
I understand that Flash is really, really popular as a way to make 'rich' websites, except that I've never seen a single post on any geek site on the internet going "gosh golly, this particular Flash site is so well designed and accessible and allows me to re-style the content easily into my screen scraper for my RSS reader!" or whatever. Everything I see is, "FLASH SUX!" and then "OMFG WE NEED FLASH ON THE IPHONE OR ITS NOT REAL!"
Make up your mind.

@Rene, Yeah I understand that Apple could update Safari to open Flash links in a separate Flash Player, but do you really think that's likely considering that Apple hasn't even accepted Adobe into their dev program and that Apple is simultaneously pushing for the acceptance of open-standard alternatives to Flash? I don't.

Clearly you do need flash in some websites. No other format comes close to its usability in video or audio, and page design integration.

Flash apps rock. Lot of great stuff on the web that doesnt require a coding nightmare and spending all night figuring out which line of code is missing.

I thought the post made some good points on screen scrapers, For simple stuff i use python to screen scrape, but for larger projects i used extractingdata.com screen scraper software which worked great, they build custom screen scrapers and data extracting programs