Why the iPhone didn't support Flash in 2007

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Why didn't Apple support Adobe's popular Flash plugin way back in 2007 when it first launched the original iPhone 2G? Because Adobe still can't get it to run on the most powerful, most modern 2010 devices Android, Palm and others have to offer. That's why.

"We have a number of excited partners who are working aggressively with us to bring Flash to their devices, whether they be smartphones as well as handsets, and so companies like Google or RIM or Palm are going to be releasing versions of Flash on smartphones and tablets in the second half of the year."

Maybe Adobe will finally get it working in Q2 2010, but we've heard that "it's coming!" line once too often now, so forgive us if "partners working aggressively" gives us a something diametrically opposed to confidence.

The facts remain, however, that the iPad will run HTML5 video inline today (and iPhone OS 4 this summer) without even getting warm to the touch while our laptops and multicore desktops turn into noisy miniature blast furnaces when the plugin spins up on their far more powerful hardware.

Flash, like Internet Explorer 6 and ActiveX filled a need and became a popular if proprietary and problematic solution. Years without competition finally caught up with Microsoft by way of Firefox and WebKit, as it's now catching up with Adobe by way of HTML5. Many years and incredible loss of mindshare later, Microsoft is scheduled to finally ship a standards-compliant browser with IE9. Maybe Adobe can work a faster miracle with Flash. But even if they do, HTML5 will have had months of mobile video delivery under its belt on a platform Apple predicted in their iAds (which also uses HTML5) introduction will soon be 100,000,000 strong. That's a heck of a head start and Apple is not a company known to look back.

You didn't have Flash on the iPhone in 2007 for the same reason you don't have Flash on any mobile device outside a Nokia netbookphone today. For the same reason you can't jump on a Corellian star-freighter and hit hyperspace for Endor. The technology doesn't exist yet, and when and if it ever does, for Apple and the iPhone it will likely be too little, too late.

[Business Insider via PreCentral.net]

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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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Why the iPhone didn't support Flash in 2007


God I hope HTML 5 catches on. It would be nice to not have my laptop burn my legs whenever I want to watch hulu.

Embedded YouTube and Quicktime videos work phenomenally well on the iPad. The experience is better than browsing on a desktop. I think the last thing keeping Flash alive is Hulu. Once Hulu releases desktop computer/mobile phone/TV box apps, Flash's slow but inevitable death will accelerate.

Flash was a great start when it was first released. I mean it opened up new oportunities to the web developing community. Adobe needs to figure out a way to keep it from using so much CPU. It's crazy, and the flash player for Macs just suck. They did a really job with that. And well if they don't flash will be probably be done history.

Its amazing to me how so companies innovate and fail to improve their product. They should be making it better, faster, more streamlined but since computers get faster and faster they are content with using more and more resources until its a cyber world equivalent of jabba the hut. Screw adobe. If u fail to innovate and get with the times then you should get left behind.

Where were the pro-Flash whiners back when Microsoft was doing everything it could to incorporate non-standard web coding into IE? I cannot tell you how frustrating it was until just a few years ago when I could not access a website in anything but IE. Some government websites still are written in a manner that requires it.

About burning your legs...
On the Mac, use ClickToFlash to reduce FLASH scabs and uglies...
Windows probably has an equivalent...

Where exactly does this idea that Flash is some sort of crazy CPU hog come from? I have a Flash app open right now, and my CPU is not running any higher than it does with it closed.
I just watched a video on YouTube using Chrome. I watched it using the HTML5 version, then the Flash version.
CPU usage was basically identical: 8 - 10%, with the occasional spike to 15%.

Not to be an asshole, but isn't the competition falling, cause IE6 is still the number one browser...
Not saying anything by it, I prefer Chrome above all browsers.
But as for mobile Flash, I'd like to wait to see a fully functional version before making conclusions.

Rene, I can understand your objection to Flash but the fact still remains that there are a host sites that use it not just for advertising but for streaming video. It's absence on mobile platforms does mean that a lot of content is inaccessible. My chief issue here in the UK is the BBC website. all of their video and audio content is in flash. It stops me from even being able to listen to the BBC radio stations on my phone. I'd be delighted if everyone changed but that is not going to happen in the short term.

Adobe is definately in the need to put more effort into the flashplayer. But it's like any big company. Do we really have competition? Do we really need to work harder? Up to this year, the answer was NO! It's like Apple vs Google. Apple wouldn't release such a huge OS4 Update if android wouldn't exist. Apple knows how powerful Google is.
HTML5 is fine, but gosh, it's html, it can do videoplayback and maybe a animation from a to b and that's it. However, videoplayback alone is a big market today.
Since Google now purchased On2, which created the on2-vp6 codec, there might be a new standard with video playback, IF Google offers it for free. It's a great Codec, but currently pretty expensive.

If the mac x code development can be used as a cross compiler for wp7 then adobe will win their lawsuit.

Agree with paul penny, im always on the internet on my iphone and theres nufin more annoying than geeting a click to play sign with a line thru it, i like to watch things on the net and i cant because its flash

Let me get this straight... all the Android fanboys who whine about the iDevices not having flash don't have it either?
Flash is all but dead. There is really no reason for anyone to hang on to it unless they just dislike Apple and are picking sides. They are picking the wrong side.

It's terrible to hear this. Love my iPod Touch, but it (or an iPad) can never replace my laptop unless they do Flash...
...Because the best of the web IS Flash.
If you're not using Flash on your site, you're behind the curve.

Behind the curve? Someone here woudln't make a very good IT architect. Even the doubt raised by Apple should raise a question on any developers mind that has half a brain.

Um, dudes--a little fact checking: "For the same reason you can’t jump on a Corellian star-freighter and hit hyperspace for Endor. The technology doesn’t exist yet..."
It has existed for quite a while a 'long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.' This is just more anti-Adobe rhetoric!!! j/k

Adobe needs to abandon flash and just make some really amazing dev tools for HTML 5. I'm not saying this just cuz I'm on apples side, i'm saying it because a universal standard ruled by no one company that works on all devices is the future!

Flash CS5 has a flash-animation-to-HTML-canvas converter. It is simple, but gets that particular job done. Imagine how much further they would have gotten had Apple told them up front not to waste 16 months on an iPhone cross-compiler they knew they would rject.

Do you think I really care about Flash? I'll tell you what, you want Flash that bad, let me undress and take a picture with my iPhone and post up it here for ya and then you can kiss my Flash! ;)
Sent from my iPhone

OMG you guys dont even know what you are talking about. Flash itself is not a resource hog. Flash is a platform for developing multimedia content, not just streaming audio/video. You can make an exellent efficient and performance-friendly flash app. Now if you put 3D graphics with antialiasing, tweening engines, complex animations and calculations, physics, hd video, sound, etc. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?! You need CPU for that. It is not the platform, its the usage that requieres CPU.
The real deal here is Apple wanting to control everything. Spoon feeding us with incremental updates. Thats pure bullsh*t. Apple is the one that innovated with the iphone, but now 4 years later we still have a 3G iphone and a akwardly big and underpowered ipod touch that is not up to the demanding hardware standards. Lets be real.

Hi Rene, I hadn't thought of that... why, the ability to see three whole years into the future and predict every other competitor's shipping schedules, simply amazing.
Too bad it's so much harder to see three-and-one-half years into the future, eh...? ;-)
(I've been using Flash on Internet Tablets for a few years now, mostly Nokia and Archos, but it's Android 2.1 and Player 10.1 when we get the real performance boosts and full desktop compatibility. The pre-release versions I've seen from partners have been amazing. The whole world's moving there.)

Q: what is your alternative to a rich internet experience without flash, which is ofcourse currently sluggish for mobile ? Up to now nobody there that can even compete with flash, not in a near way. Html5 is definately no solution.
I know, you are right, but what should we do? We might buy adobe and then we optimize the flashplayer. Need to talk with our finance manager. Stay tuned.
sent from my iPhone

Has anyone of u noticed tht while you try to watch YouTube video on iPhone facebook app, it doesn't play the video ... N shows tht flash player upgrade required????
Plz reply if you all r facing the same problem,.

This is what happened.
Adobe sent Apple a prototype for flash on the iPhone.
It used too much CPU and would've destroyed battery life.
Apple sent back to Adobe asking them to try to improve it or to do flash in a self-contained app, but that Apple wouldn't support it in this incarnation.
Adobe chose not do put their name on it either, because they knew it sucked.
Then Adobe decided to cry about it.

@Paul Penny - Pocket Tunes Radio sir!
"It stops me from even being able to listen to the BBC radio stations on my phone."

@Jaym Esch - 1997 called and they want you as their spokesperson!
"If you’re not using Flash on your site, you’re behind the curve."

Q: what is your alternative to a rich internet experience without flash, which is ofcourse currently sluggish for mobile ? Up to now nobody there that can even compete with flash, not in a near way. Html5 is definately no solution.
A: I've seen dead dogs that are less sluggish. HTML5 is the solution, and learn how to spell definitely!
sent from my iPhone

Q: Steve, who are these people writing in your name... don't wanna do something about it?
Ah, na, these are my fanboys, if i jump from the bridge, i have about 10k followers. As long as i get money from them for buying my products, who cares.
sent from my iPhone

firstly, if you are happy giving up your right to choose so be it. but please dont be ignorant and think flash would not work on the iphone. all apple decisions are profit based and this one is too. iad is big money so screw adobe. That is the attitude. Same story with multitasking and iphone3g. Clever to cite incapable hardware as cause to tech illiterate iphone owners to boost sales of next iphone. open your eyes you tunn el-visioned fanboy you are being taken for a ride and lapping it up.

Yup. Been saying that all along. The reason flash isn't on the iPhone, is because Adobe doesn't have a version available. The 10.1 betas are aimed at x86 netbooks!

@nborg of course it would WORK just not in a way that doesn't destroy battery life -- seen 10.1 run on Android? It runs (sometimes very jerkily) and still decimates your battery.

Even if their reasoning to not have Flash on their product is completely up to them. If you choose to use a device that is not going to use a service that you would like it to have it's on you. Now let's say that Apple chose to let this Flash ino their OS and it's terrible. Who are you gonna blame Adobe or Apple? From reading these posts I believe most will blame Apple. As long as smartphones been out why hasn't this been implemented? Why hasn't it been widely used on other products?

I'm amazed at how incensed people on both sides get in Flash-related threads. The hardcore Apple fans seem to feel personally insulted if anyone so much as expresses a desire for Flash on an apple product, and the pro-Flash people seem to think that not having Flash on certain products is tantamount to oppression.

You still have a long way to go with the battery life issue on mobile devices - a key one in Apple's decision to not support Flash on the iPhone. Three hours for Flash content still isn't enough considering your average Nexus One gets 6 hours of web usage and talk usage on HSPA.
Also, I don't know how you drew your observation about "seeing into the future." Grasping for straws a bit much John? I dont' think Adobe is lazy per se, but they are seriously overloaded with debt and in need of more programmers stateside and fewer outsourced programmers working in India. New leadership in the office of CEO wouldn't hurt. See the comments on the Android Central blog about this interview, it's not just Apple fanboys going after Adobe.

wasn't the point of this post to claim that Flash was NOT available on phones. However, now in the comments we are arguing about how the battery life is not good enough for phones.
The truth is Flash Player 10.1 DOES run on mobile phones. There are early builds for Android, Palm and soon to come Blackberry.
These are not final builds and have not been fully optimized, so 3 hours is a starting point not the final results.
Also, on mobile devices Flash has instance management, which allows for click to play on content. So sites can choose to only show Flash content when someone taps on it. Information on the new mobile improvements for player 10.1can be found at: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flashplayer/articles/mobiledemosfp10.1.html

Adobe Flash, the point was to say that it wasn't available in 2007 to deal with the long canard about "Flash isn't on the iPhone" when they didn't support full out Flash until, well, soon.
PS - Flash light was available but that's not the same as 10.1, is it?

"“If you’re not using Flash on your site, you’re behind the curve.”
2 years ago my clients starts to ask " modern website ,not flash".
yes,i am blessed

HTML5 will be fantastic for video and audio content deployed to websites. It is a service I already offer (and it also rolls back to Flash in the event of a non HTML5 browser detected).
Flash is however used for more than just Films and HTML5 canvas whilst a step in the right direction is much, much slower than flash for animations.
I want to see the Flash IDE used to create HTML5 content as canvas evolves beause this is an area where I think Adobe can win.

Im not sure if should laugh or cry reading this sort of anti-Adobe bullsh1t... This is not a debate about which technology is the best. Its a debate fueled by companies that wants us to think they are the best. Apple wants you to think they are the best. And some have joined their cult. Fine.
Here's what this all means in layman's terms: Apple isn't allowing Flash to become more efficient on their Mac OS X/Safari platform (or their iPod/iPhone/iPad one, either) by not providing the access to the hardware it needs to reduce its CPU load. Adobe is waiting and watching to see if they do, but, as Ozer says "the ball is in Apple's court."

Yeah, cause Adobe does so well on battery life and CPU cycles on Windows machines where they have full access... right. It's an architectural and programmatic problem to some extent that can't be completely fixed without a rebuild that may leave older swf objects incompatible. 3 hours is not the start, the start was long ago, this is a beta -- in alpha it was under two hours. The fact is they may not get much better battery life.
Look, I applaud the work they've done and believe me I would rather have the choice whether to use it or not, but I'm not really broken up about not being able to punch the monkey to win prizes. The video sites I care about are offering alternatives and to be frank I don't really care about the small number of sites that don't offer an HTML fallback.

Only 10.1 has decent CPU utilization on Windows and that's because it relies on hardware acceleration, which Adobe only started caring about with 10.1, about 5 years after it should have. Don't get me wrong, I'm alarmed about the potential for this rule change to block code interpreters inside of games that I love, I just don't think Adobe is the sweet innocent victim some people like to imagine.

But.... My Win Mobile has Flash for, at least, 2 years now..
Although not with PocketIE, but with Opera for WM.
So, if almost anything can be published on multiple platforms,
why can't Flash?! Well, there is one party who decides what will
go on the i with an appstore. And what do you get when
you allow flash, exactly, free games. And apple doesn't like the
word "free"..

OMG I can't believe anyone is buying in to thinking flash is a cpu hog. It is a programming language. I could write a do loop that would take 100% of the cpu in objective c. A very simple flash form app uses almost no cpu at all. Apple is essentially deciding to kill a great standard that was installed on 95% of browsers for their own selfish reasons. Now if I write a piece of code for my business I have to pay apple $99 and wait for approval to install it on my OWN computer? WTF?

The other issue is that Flash is a pretty big security hole right now. I'm willing to take some chances on my laptop, but I really don't want somebody else rooting my phone. I like the idea that the iPhone doesn't run Flash, but I'm not nearly as sure about the iPad.

oh and btw a vast majority of children's applications are flash based. (check out Disney.com) so an iPad is useless for my kids. please hurry hp.

Just remember, almost 90% of the apps you have to buy in the app store could be made just as easily in Flash and be free on your browser.
This nonsense that flash is dead or that HTML5 somehow makes it irrelevant is not just short-sighted, but shows a completely lack of any objective thinking.
Not all of flash is video, not even close. That's great that HTML5 has it's own video playing capabilities, but that doesn't address the other 80% of flash that's found on the web.
You can't play any of the popular flash based games in HTML5. You can't watch any of the millions of animated videos made in flash.
As for Flash being a CPU hog, well I guess that depends on who builds it. Like any programming language there is the right way to do something and the wrong way to do something. A properly built flash application takes very little system resources.

@people who say they already have flash on their mobile devide: NO YOU DON'T. You have Flash MOBILE. I have it on my HTC Magic too. It plays LESS THAN HALF of flash content out there on web pages. FULL flash for ARM and other mobile-centric platforms, just like 64-bit flash has been for years, been in endless alpha/beta/test with promises to be officially release "real soon now". It is sufffering a case of "Duke Nukem Forever Syndrome".
@ flash fanboys who say it's Apples fault: The Flash codebase must be suffering bitrot worse than Netscape 4.x was if it takes years to port to new architectures and requires "special access to the system Apple won't give it". Translation: to work right requires risking sketchy-ActiveX-scale security vulnerabilities.
@ apple fanboys: I do like the side effect of the lack of flash on your little preciouses pushing new web development away from Flash, but keep this in mind--there IS a reduced-functionality version of flash out there and Adobe DID make meaningful efforts to make dev tools and frameworks to do native iPhone app builds of apps originally developed for Flash (I'm all for encouraging Adobe to move past its delusion that flash has a future). Steve COULD play nice with Adobe but he is a techno-Nazi and wants everyone to learn Objective C and Apple tools ONLY. You cannot even put a full C84 or Atari800 emulator in the app store because Steve is afraid people will create "unauthorised apps" in old-school BASIC! Also, your preciouses are very pretty and capable enough devices but they just AREN'T INSANELY GREAT TECHNICALLY. They are middle-of-the-road devices inside that deliver a seamless, elegant but tightly controlled experience that makes them LOOK "insanely great". Flash's shortcomings would make the iPhone look like the average device it really is.

I don't see how IE falling out of vogue really hurts MS. IE sucks, everyone knows this, but realistically, they gave the thing away. What you're suggesting is a bit ludicrous, it only makes their job easier if they don't have to work on making freeware better, and are able to leave that to someone else.

I'm a bit confused. My HTC Hero seems to be able to handle flash without a problem. I've had it for about 6 months now. Checking out my applications reveals "HTC Flash Player" for Android. Have I missed the boat? What's the problem here? Is this a joke? Am I delusional? I could go probably go on.
Oh, and the HTC Hero is running a ~500 MHz Qualcom processor.

My answer in http://xftechnews.blogspot.com/2010/04/flash-vs-iphone.html
Are this people retarded?
Since when Flash is the CPU main eater? How many people around the world play their flash games, watch youtube, browse flash sites without getting their hands or lap melted? I guess all of us right?
Now, lets see... If iPhone or iPad supported Flash (or Java or even Silverlight) from day 0 we all know that they wouldn't sell so much in the app store and that's a fact! Apple made a commercial move and stuck to it. That's a crime? NO! But that's not also a reason to hate flash.
Now that we can port games to javascript will also turn our cpus into micro-waves or will iPhone OS stop supporting it?
Grow up and do what you want with your things!

Flash still needs to happen on iPhone/iPod touch devices for the fact that not all sites will instantly move to HTML5. There will always be sites still using Flash, and without a flash plugin, those sites can hardly be use, if they can be used at all. Try browsing http://square-enix.com/na/ on an iPhone OS. Its a major flash using site and most navigation and content is in flash. If Apple is so high and mighty in their "most powerful, most modern" device, why haven't they come up with a flash plugin substitute themselves, so they can truly claim that their devices are the "most powerful, most modern". I don't think Apple is quite as inventive as they want you to believe, otherwise they would have found a way to display sites with flash, without forcing Adobe to figure out a way and rejecting Adobe's attempt to bring flash to the iPhone OS.

@MSHYYC: "who say they already have flash on their mobile devide :NO YOU DON’T. You have Flash MOBILE." & FULL flash for ARM and other mobile-centric platforms, just like 64-bit flash has been for years, been in endless alpha/beta/test with promises to be officially release “real soon now”.
Not realy that great to shout in capitals : especialy when what you say is er at best incorrect.....
Both of those statements are "untrue".
We used the full flash player installed on the Pogo Mobile device back in 2001 -(google - Pogo Technology) - we got "best runner up" at the Cannes GSM that year . The ONLY reason it was dropped as an instalation was that Macromedia (as where at that time) decided they wanted an exhorbitant licencing fee for the player instalation.
I love this iPhone mythology of "cutting edge" technology...
the Pogo/nVoy was there 6 years before the iPhone ever hit the shops....
now I wonder where they got the idea ?? ;-)
see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PogoMobileand_nVoy

Who wrote this rubbish??? Apple doesn't want flash on the iphone because it cant control the applications built with it and take their peice of the pie. It had nothing to do with technology.

The writer of this article obviously did no homework at all. The discussion is about the applications, flash cs5 has or would get a simple button to translate all your as3 to their objective C. Why, because the the iphone webkit sucks, it's not userfriendly at all and can only be coded on mac.
No Apple is forbiding to use apps that are not ORIGINALLY coded on their crappy webkit. WTF DOES THAT MEAN???
So if I code something and have an other developer port it to something for iPhone that's not legal!

What I would think is that, Adobe will continue milking the Flash format until HTML 5 truly subsedes it. Then they will release a cross-compiler that will compile Flash to HTML 5. And Voila! All problems solved.
That would be ingenious. And really simple too, considering they also invested quite a bit in Javascript, CSS and HTML with Dreamweaver and back in the Macromedia days.

Flash on my phone, flash on my wii. Flash works fine in many places. U don't think flash should be dogged so badly. Without flash there would be no YouTube, no miniclip and many other flash based services we've taken for granted. If anything people should be saying thanks tor making thing a little bit better.

Uh... Flash works FINE on phones. You can get ARM based Flash players in binary form right from Adobe. (9.X and 10.X). In fact, the N900 ships with Flash 9.5 enabled and installed, which uses the same ARM chip as it's cpu that the 3GS uses. I own an N900, and can tell you that Flash works well on the device. I can also tell you that if you jailbreak your iPhone, and install a native build of Firefox/Flash Plugin and do the proper magic, it works just fine.
I can tell you it can take a while to load monster flash apps (like "FarmVille") but simple flash menus and sites like TacoBell (which are totally Flash based) work just fine. In fact, most sites that use Flash for menuing and such work just great on my N900. :)
Apple didn't put Flash on initially because they had an underpowered battery, which was not user changeable and had heat issues when discharged quickly. Add to that, they didn't want anything running on their device that could provide a nice look or feel that wasn't designed in their app environment. They wanted to be able to control everything... There's not a Java VM for iPhone either, for the same reason.
To say it was because Adobe didn't have an executable for that processor, or that it was woefully over-taxing on the hardware is just not true. Flash ran fine on my 450Mhz PC, and runs just dandy on my 800Mhz ARM phone too. The fact that the iPhone doesn't have it has nothing do to with Adobe, and everything to do with "i".

I just want to say one thing. I'm a developer. I don't use flash, don't like action script. But I did develop both with the html/css/javascript combo and with silverlight. i like silverlight better. Why ? Better enviroment. And you can actually program in a meaningful way, and not have to debug every tiny thing that some browser does a bit different.
HTML5 sure, it's a nice standard, and for videos I agree, there's no need to use a flash player. Oh wait, unless you don't want to keep the all that public and ready to be downloaded by anyone. Or you want to use some smart buffering. Or you want to add encryption to something. And you don't want any idiot with a text editor trying to hijack everything. Sure, flash decompilers exist, but they're not all that great.
And for programming. My god. javascript ? really ? I am now developing a web application which has tons of vector data. And because i'm using silverlight panning is fluent. On javascript when I had even 10 percent, even on chrome it would work like crap.
Sure, make every browser use their own frikkin' engine and accelerator to make the web better. How long will that take ? With html4 it took 12 years to make it render corectly together with css2.1 and what's done so far in 3. if you have all major browser supporting something then that thing gets used. not before. Same for performance. The lowest performance browser determines the amount of things that will be done withing the program.
With flash (and silverlight) you have the option of developing in an enviroment where you know that at the end your result won't look like crap because of some random browser. A good implementation for the entire os is enough.
so yeah, sure, grind your teeth and hope that html5 will catch on. But by the time it does, its performance will still suck. Javascript did and always will suck.
If you don't believe look at bubble mark. Javascript performance on my computer is 63 fps with 128 balls. On silverlight with bitmapcache it gets to 330 fps. Both in chrome 4.1. On internet explorer it doesn't even want to do it for 128 balls in javascript. For silverlight 300fps. So yeah, please hope that anything large will be ever developed in javascript. By the time the developers figure out how to make all browsers happy, flash technology (and maybe even silvelight) would have evolved a hundred times.
I agree with everyone that said that this is just a move from apple to keep their profits from the appstore. That's all it is. The rest is just some monkeys throwing **** to add credibility to their claims.

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