iPhone: Flash R.I.P

While it’s easy to think of Flash as being a mainstay of the consumer internet era, the reality is that it was the equivalent of a Spray Paint Gun, in the hands of an artist, it was and can be art – bringing complexity and depth to a 1-dimensional webpage. However, the reality is that for 99.99 of people using Flash, it’s the equivalent of a can of Krylon and your city wall – just a random series of stuff on a wall intended as art but never getting there and ultimately, more of a nuisance and a crime on your bandwidth and patience.

You can’t win a web design award without using Flash so of course, every designer interested in those accolades (after sending in $79.99 as an entry fee) is going to insist on it. Again, there are many instances where it is absolutely a great tool and it’s put to good use – however, most often, it’s simply a nicer version of the flashing GIF.

It was not until YouTube popularized it as a video delivery framework that it actually become something more than just er, “flash-y.” It was ubiquitous and even with the greater bandwidth available played to a strength of allowing faster streaming – part of that was due to its compression but most people were willing to trade video quality for video delivery speed and in this case, Flash is great.

But of course, like all good things, this too shall pass. Adobe wanted much more from Flash. In fact, the only reason they bought Macromedia was to get Flash. They admitted they tried to create a Flash-like environment but couldn’t figure out so they did the next best thing (yea, shocker, Adobe couldn’t create software and had to go outside to buy it).

But Adobe has proven over the past 20 years is that as a software company, they are pretty slow on the schnide and frankly has managed to tick off Apple, Microsoft and consumers – anyone else left? That’s not an easy accomplishment to get both Microsoft AND Apple mad at you enough to try and crush you.

Their feud with Apple is an oddball one considering that without Apple, Aldus PageMaker (that they bought) and Photoshop (also bought), and later the Laser Printer (Postscript developed by Adobe founder at Xerox PARC), where exactly would Adobe be? But somewhere along the line in the 1990’s, there was a tussle over display technology – I’m not going to bore you with the details – but when Apple chose their own versus Adobe Display Postscript, they got all huffy and then when the Mac didn’t grow as fast as the Windows side, Adobe did their best to kill the Mac by slowing down the release of most their apps … or perhaps it was laziness, cheapness or incompetence … you can decide 🙂

In the past 10 years, when Apple made major OS transitions – from OS6 to OS7, from OS9 to OSX and from PowerPC chips to Intel, Adobe is ALWAYS late to the show – sometimes by 18 MONTHS. Yea, not much happens in the software market these days in 18 months, why hurry, why spend money? “Maybe this will be the final straw that kills the Mac and we can save money to develop on one platform?” But yet, the Mac and its creative professionals stubbornly insist on buying much more Adobe products percentage wise than Windows users … all you have to do is look at Apple releasing APERTURE for pro photographers who were tired of the scant tools for working with RAW files, lo & behold, 6 months later, ADOBE pulls LIGHTROOM out of some deep recess and yet it took 14 months to upgrade Photoshop.

Video editors know that PREMIERE on the Mac basically had no upgrades for 5-6 years and ultimately was not just dead dog slow but dead-dog buried in a time capsule and covered in cement slow, in fact, the original programmer wanted to re-write it to take advantage of the “slight” computing increases from the past 6 years but Adobe didn’t want to spend the money so they gave it back to him and he sold it to Apple – a little something called iMovie.

Sure, the Mac was not exactly a growth industry in the late 1990’s – you can understand them getting cozy with MS and sure, MS as a partner is like reaching into a 30-foot python to pull out an capybara but to go out of your way to feud with them – over PDF?

And then to complete the troika, why make friends with consumers? Sure, computer prices have fallen 90% but damn if we’re going to sell any product of ours for less than $400 or £400, damn the conversion rate. You can buy a powerful computer for $2k now or you can almost buy Adobe’s Creative Suite. Add in dongles, phone activation and apps that call home (Adobe Reader, WTH?) – what else can we throw at consumers?

Finally, Adobe saw Flash as a chance to create an OS for the web so they wouldn’t have to do business with Apple or Microsoft … not sure how they can make money ignoring consumers but I’m sure Adobe is working on that (presumably the ad deliver feature in the new Flash).

In typical Adobe fashion, the first thing they added to Adobe Flash was DRM.

That is how they think. Here’s something that works. What can we do to roil the works?

Of course, Adobe is not exactly fast nor brain-smart so they can’t envision a world where Ajax (& others) are already eating into their dream of Flash as the internet OS.

How can this be?

And then Apple decides to ignore Flash.

Adobe throws a hissy fit but the reality is …

What is more likely to crash a browser page? HTML or Flash?

flash.jpg

A typical “commercial” page on the web? How many elements are Flash advertising?

If we think AT&T’s EDGE is slow now, how much slower if we kept waiting for the looping FLASH ads? Hey, it’s like AOL 1998 again!

Flash, a thing so good most pages have to put a SKIP INTRO out so consumers don’t bolt?

Flash, with its constant updates with no visible improvements other than so Adobe get free branding when you arrive at a page that is blank except for a link & command to go to Adobe.com to get the latest Flash? (well, presuming you don’t think DRM or can’t-skip ads are an improvement to Flash?)

If Google converts everything on YouTube from Flash to H.264 and 10 million iPhone users simply ignore websites that insist you download Flash a year from now?

Is it then Flash in the pan? The beginning of the end? Like animated GIF’s – amusing in the infancy of the web but out of step & place?

Another strike against Flash might be that Apple doesn’t want to encourage any proprietary web “standard” that they don’t have a hand in – and perhaps particularly because it’s Adobe.

Microsoft of course, is already aiming at Flash with Silverlight.

Again, not exactly smart to tick off Apple AND Microsoft.

Web designers are going to still use Flash to prettify their animation but web programmers are not going to be enticed by Flash as a programming langauge – even or especially with DRM & ad delivery.

Flash may be just that – a bright light that shines ever so briefly by already dimming, in the words of Billy Ray Valentine, “You can hearing them panicking right now …”

Flash – When it’d done right, it’s AWE INSPIRING. Leo Burnett (move the pencil).

Sadly though, this is 99% of the Flash out there …

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19 Comments

Filed under Apple, Computing, Gadgets, Internet, iPhone, Media, mobile

19 responses to “iPhone: Flash R.I.P

  1. Dead on the money, my brother. On the flip side, if you want to know of a firm that kicks a** in the customer service department and is Mac friendly to boot, my hands down favorite is ViewSonic.

    I bought one of their monitors for my trusty old 7600/132AV (upgraded with a Sonnet G3 card in 2000) and when I went to connect it, no mac adapater. Thinking I had to order one, I called ViewSonic customer service on a SUNDAY afternoon. After one ring, I get a real person. She says no problem on the mac connector, how about I send you one? How much I ask? Oh, no charge, sir…it’s free. If you provide me with your home address, I will fedex it to you so you’ll have it on Monday.

    Jaw drops…

    That was in 1999 and I have always looked at buying ViewSonic monitors first (I haven’t always bought them but I ALWAYS try to do business with them first)…CMO’s should read this comment, print it out, and tape it to their wall. True story.

    No if anyone has ideas of what to do with that old Mac that is still in my closet…

  2. monkey

    Yeah punish Adobe, a major Mac developer. Flash made sites like YouTube popular and has m,ade the Web a more interesting place.

  3. Snafu

    Isn’t it a bit unfair to criticise Adobe for buying software products and companies to get into some certain areas when that’s just what Apple and Adobe have done over and over again? Just Final Cut Pro has a trail of at the very least eight to ten software companies and/or products carcasses behind, beginning with the very Macromedia Key Grip/Final Cut.

    Plus with three imposed Macintosh transitions impacting software development big time , plus now canceling the already built Carbon 64 HIG APIs, effectively closing Adobe and others’ route to 64bitness, I don’t know who ought to be furious with who, after all.

    Plus the view of Flash it’s presented here seems rather unimaginative. What about Flash games, for a start? That Apple doesn’t want neither Flash nor Java on its iPhone browser (even while having it powered with a Java-native capable ARM processor) tells a tale of exercising utter control over the platform’s sources of income, games among them.

    (METROXING: No, I’m not criticizing Adobe for buying software companies – just saying that most people tend to think that PageMaker or Photoshop sprang from their loins and creative genius when that’s not the case. That’s not to diminish their growing the business and adding add’l features going forward … and you’re right, I’m not saying Apple is entirely in the clear but the main focus is that Adobe has not done itself any favors with consumers either – in everyone of those transitions, Microsoft’s Mac BU was almost nearly always nearly first with an update (still doesn’t excuse Word 6.x ;-( ) and whatever motives MS might’ve had, at least they were developing, Adobe? Me’h. They figured all it would do is help sell more Macs, what did they care about hurrying? The transition from OS9 to OSX took like 13 months and they added maybe a handful of midly useful updated features but nothing of real value but I believe it was a $199 upgrade – and they didn’t even upgrade the “color spinning beachball” portion – defaulting to a monochrome version. The question begs – how hard were they working and it’s not like OS upgrades were not nearly a yearly part of the business anyway (before Windows XP))

  4. Snafu

    Silly error there: by “when that’s just what Apple and Adobe” I meant Apple and Microsoft.

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  7. Snafu

    Well, I know Adobe always looks like an oil tanker everytime it has to manoeuvre, but as I understand OS X was far from complete in its first incarnations (the audio crowd had to wait a couple major releases to have something usable, for instance) and Adobe had to cover a lot of holes itself (Quark decided to wait instead for Apple to do it, and it arrived even later to the party). Also, the nature of Adobe’s suites imply getting closer to the metal and dirtying its hands far deeper than something like Office would mean.

    On the other hand, Adobe itself admits it was still trying to unify the codebases of each app it bought, these days.

    Going Intel was probably the hardest: changing IDEs (yes, XCode, “writing in the wall”, etc., but the fact is if XCode was a better dev environment they would have moved to it sooner. Certainly, it wasn’t), it happening mid-upgrade cycle (just because Apple actually managed to fully transition to Intel before expected, If the timetables would have been met met as predicted, Adobe would have arrived on time). So what were they expected to do: paralyse CS3 development to UB CS2 because Apple just drops the bomb on you without warning, and do it gratis? That makes no business sense at all. Waiting for CS3 was reasonable, and I think we got a few proofs of goodwill (getting Premiere back to a platform where FCPro is superentrenched is risky; those Intel-based apps ports, Lightroom, which began development before Aperture was launched, etc.).

    The same complaints could be made about Apple and Microsoft. OS X Leopard was supposed to arrive in mid Spring (actually, initially there was talk of it doing it by 2006), fully 64 bit, with “secret weapon” features, etc. Now it arrives in October (we’ll see), Carbon64 has been cancelled, and the new Finder tries so hard to beat Vista eye-candy-wise it commits every kind of UI sin known to man. Logic Express and Pro haven’t received an overhaul in two years (and several bits of them still have ye olde 31-char filename limitations), Shake’s replacement is nowhere to be seen. The iPhone is a closed platform, and Ajax is not a solution as long as it is network-dependent and won’t provide something as basic as knowing if the device is in portrait or landscape mode, This was the strangest of WWDCs.

    Microsoft… well, I don’t think they are really explaining themselves well about what they are really meaning with Vista. Plus the usual Katamari code politics. Nothing new here.

    So I don’t see nothing strange about Adobe and the rest of the gang: just the same disfunctional business as usual.

  8. There are some great uses for flash, but it does seem the it is inappropriately used more times then not

  9. Okay Snafu… I am sooo over Adobe products. You see, we’re talking about Adobe here. Not Ajax. Not Apple Shake, etc.

    Premiere? You’re kidding, right? They didn’t (re)release that as a favor to mac users my friend. Photoshop? First it rocks on a mac, then abandoned for PC development. If you used a mac you were snickered at for years. InDesign? Oh please. Remember what happened to PageMaker and FrameMaker? Dumped! (On a Mac anyway) Why do you think Apple finally released InDesign lite, i.e. Pages. So normal humans can use it, that’s why.

    What about LiveMotion? Display Postscript? Explain to me how a proprietary system like that is good for anyone. Flash? Bwaahaaa. It once had promise, now its a joke. A processor hog. The preferred tool of the “we need something flashy” set. Adobe had some of the greatest and coolest applications under the sun. Look what they did to GoLive. At least now mere mortals can use Freeway, or Rapid Weaver. Dream Weaver? go for it… Just hope that Adobe doesn’t find another web app to concentrate on and kill DW too.

    You see, Adobe is fickle. They’re fair-weather friends. They are so profit driven that they make me cringe. So I’m out. I’ll keep using Illustrator, PS, and GoLive as long as they’re useful, which isn’t long by the way. Then its on to the next best thing. The next best thing without draconian license enforcement every 5 minutes.

    Creative suites? If you’re not a corporate user, or a working professional, you’re not buying. Buy an iPhone with the money instead, and use the rest to hire some poor schmuck fresh out of college who bought it with an educational discount to freelance the work for you. You can call him (or her) on your new iPhone to ask when the picture/video/flash animation/web site will be finished!

    I say, good riddance to Flash. Hey, just stick to the web standards and keep things simple. Flash video can’t compare to H.264 anyway.

    PS. Shake was updated a while back, and now it cranks on Intel Macs. Cheap! Just what kind of replacement are you looking for? Are you having trouble with 4k images or what? Cineon? What then? I don’t know if you’ve checked lately, but nothing has the sheer speed of Shake. Oh… And which feature film was edited in Pemiere again? I thought so. And if you want to throw stones at pro compositing apps, where’s Autodesk’s combustion? In the same dark place as Commotion I bet.

    Adobe has too many products, and not enough attention to make any to make them worthwhile. Yes, I mean After Effects too. Keyframing is soooo 20th century. You just keep rendering. Even Motion lets you apply movement in real time.

    Peace.

  10. King Rat

    I have been a mac user for over 15 years and first got my hands on Photoshop around 10 years ago (2.5.2 or 3.5.2). My suggestion: STOP WHINING!!! If Adobe quit making its software for the mac 10 years ago Apple could have been out of business. That would save Adobe money because they would get the same profits and only have to program for Windows when mac folk would be forced to switch over. Adobe has helped keep Apple going and what do they receive? Constant whining from mac users who bite the hand that feed them. Grow up please!
    Photoshop isn’t perfect but it is the best there is at the moment for what it does, even on the mac.
    If I were running Adobe and all I ever received from mac OS using customers was complaining, I would cancel all future mac-based products just to stop the complaining. Luckily for me and many fellow mac users, Adobe has more patience on the matter.
    Disclaimer, I own AAPL but not ADBE.

  11. Tom Hobbes

    Whoa. This is a problem with blogging. Anyone can write anything, true or untrue, and they only have to answer to their own thoughts, and not an actual editor.

    I won’t pick this apart piece by piece – but I will write on one inaccuracy:

    “Adobe did their best to kill the Mac by slowing down the release of most their apps …”

    Spoke like a true Apple apologist. Most likely this is in reference to the Intel-based macs and the time it took for Adobe to create software that would work on these machines. The truth is that Apple changed their core processors without telling Adobe until they announced the news. You’d think that true partners would have discussed a huge change like this before telling the world — in order to line up dev schedules etc. Apple did not feel inclined to do so. Thus, Adobe, who by the way sells more software for the Mac than Apple (not including the software that’s bundled on a new machine of course), had to answer the inevitable question “why is it taking so long for your software to be ready?!”

    That’s what Apple does. They are in it for themselves. Always have been. They are more proprietary than MSFT.

    Please, for the future, if you are going to blog with a “reporter’s” tone – do a bit of research first. The rest of us on the Internet would appreciate it.

    (METROXING: Well, if you actually read the piece, you’ll notice I cite the last 10 years of Photoshop being slow at EVERY transition but they can pull a new app out of the blue in 6 months when Apple releases what might be a threat to Photoshop? And slow upgrades to every other Mac app? Whatever the reason, the evidence is there. I never claimed that Apple wasn’t in it for themselves but I point out that Adobe is slow because they presume consumers will buy whenever? At at any price they set so what do they care if customers clamor for an upgrade – never mind Apple? Is it also smart to give that perception to consumers and then to pick a fight with MS & Apple? Sure, it’s my opinion but it’s based on facts. If you feel I am wrong, please read the entire piece and then either comment accordingly or feel free to add your voice and your words to the blogshere).

  12. Snafu

    (What I’d ask Shake to progress to? Well, first of all, to be kept alive and evolved! It has been end-of-life’d, talk about mistreating your customers. Second: I’d want it to be more like Nuke: have a true 3D environment able to accept textured .OBJs. That goes for Motion and After Effects, too: what’s the use of being able to put 2D cards in 3D space and not having a way of doing a simple cyclorama with a few 3D primitives, at the very least? What I can’t understand of Adobe is why there is no perfect sync between Photoshop Extended and AE 3D-wise)

    Pulling a new app out of the blue, as you say, it is actually far easier than reforming a very old big one. Given the original deadlines, Mac Intels were to appear around CS3 launch. And Adobe simply can’t instantly bend over every time Apple decides to pull a new transition out of its hat, specially when it implies half-assed products like the Rhapsody no-no and the pre-Panther OS X line.

    Let’s not exaggerate here.

  13. Chuck

    What about Flex+Apollo? Seems you haven’t even taken into consideration many amazing Flash based web apps built using the Flex+Apollo suite. Picnik anyone? Would picnik.com really be considered a “equivalent of a can of Krylon and your city wall?”

    While I agree there is a lot of crappy Flash out there, I don’t think eliminating it from the iPhone was the right move for the consumer. Perhaps require it to be enabled on a per-site basis so bandwidth is not clogged up by the advertising. Still, this really limits the boundaries of what can be “developed” for the iPhone–HTML + Javascript can only go so far without help from Java or Flash.

    Hopefully Apple will reconsider this poor decision.

  14. Kim Daniel Arthur

    I think this is a bit shortsighted, you can’t blame the tool for all the crap that is made with it.

    Are you going to say that html is bad because of the crazy use of tag in the old days? Are you going to blame the TV for all the rubbish shows that are aired? Or 3DSMAX for the insane amount of crap 3D art? Or the JPEG standard for all the bad photography that is out there?

    Flash is just another tool to get things done, any tool can be misused.

    This becomes nothing more than a rant which has been repeated too many times now.

    (METROXING: That was my point that Flash is not inherently bad but that you could see why because of the way it’s used, AT&T and Apple might prefer to to waste the bandwidth and processing power … again, you could argue Apple/AT&T are wrong and that’s totally legit also … as I noted with examples, when Flash is done right – you just go – damn! But unfortunately, often times, it’s like a guy who put diamonds on his front teeth – it’s just silly … and shhh … people have mostly forgotten the BLINK html coding … don’t remind people! 🙂 )

  15. Kim Daniel Arthur

    the press swallowed the BLINK tag in this sentence: “Are you going to say that html is bad because of the crazy use of the BLINK tag in the old days? “

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  17. Eytan

    I think you really need to make a distinction between Flash the graphics tool, and flash, or really ActionScript 3 the developer tool….
    While Flash the animator tool is used for little more than making fancy ads (and at times, fancy video players), ActionScript 3 (and the tools like Flex 2 and now 3) and AIR (Adobe Interactive Runtime, previously Apollo) are rich, cross platform (and I am referring to Linux and not just Mac and Windows) development tools that have been gaining in power, stability, and speed and portend quite a future. I would happily see the death of Flash Ads, and I to do not understand the need for Flash based instead o standards based video out there. But Flash the development tool, an specifically Flex and AIR are being used to create rich applications that work both tethered and untethered from the web. I think you need to reexamine the reasons Adobe bought Macromedia and what that plate of tools offers them and developers before writing what appears to be such an uninformed article.

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