Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th May 2010 10:45 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless While most of us here on the OSNews team are proponents of HTML5, we're all fully aware that Flash serves an important role on the web today, and will most likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Flash has a rather spotty record when it comes to performance, and so far, hasn't been able to run well on mobile devices. It seems this is about to change, as an Adobe evangelist has showed off Flash 10.1 on Android 2.2 (Froyo) running on the Nexus One. And eerlijk is eerlijk, it looks pretty darn impressive, especially considering how far they've come.
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hazydave
Member since:
2010-05-11

Flash does a bunch of things. One of these is video, with or without DRM. Another is structured graphics, and another still is basic Web stuff you could probably do with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript... if you had the same easy development tools.

Flash is not going to be significantly more CPU intensive on these latter two things than any other web technology. Which is of course why Jobs has been trying, successfully, to frame the whole argument around video. Sure, an action game in Flash would be fairly inefficient on a handheld. So would an action game done in Javascript.

Of course, Flash video is either VP6 or H.264... and here's where Apple cheated most of all. There's no reason H.264 in flash shouldn't run just as fast as any other H.264 on your portable device... and in fact, YouTube players on both Android and iPhoneOS do exactly this. Flash itself can't do this on the iPhone, simply because they don't have the necessary video acceleration APIs in the OS. MacOS didn't even have this until earlier this year. Windows has for several years, and the new one (DXVA 2.0) is very good... takes 1080/60p playback on my desktop from stutting video at close to full CPU (all cores) to about 12%, since I have a GPU that can help out.

Jobs really wants to kill Flash, or wound it enough that no one cares he won't support it. Right now, it's clear that Flash is popular enough that iPhones are second-class web browsers.. they can't see much of the web. It's not just video... I tried to order a hamper for my wife on JCPenney.com last week. You need Flash to check-out. Stupid, sure, but it's widespread enough that websites use Flash this way, and there's absolutely no reason that wouldn't work just dandy on a smartphone (of course, I was browsing on an Android phone... I expect to get the "full web" soon enough).

So misdirecting this toward free video, Apple can make Flash sound evil and "open" things like VIDEO tags (albeit with proprietary format H.264 being their only intended target) sound good. But it's more complex than that.

Having made Flash non-essential, Apple won't get chastised for not supporting it... the Macfaithful and iPhonies are already parroting Jobs' denouncements of Flash. This leaves Apple and the iTunes store as the only source of paid video for the iPhone, since paid video invariably means DRMed video. And you don't get DRM in HTML5.

This is also why Microsoft is doing the same thing, pushing H.264 and only H.264 in the web browser and claiming to dump Flash support in IE9. It's not just that Microsoft copies everything Apple does (they do, but it's more). But Microsoft, of course, owns Silverlight, a direct competitor to Flash. They can deliver DRMed content via Silverlight... partners like Netflix already do. MS will have Silverlight on Windows, no Flash, and Silverlight on all devices.

Devices accelerate H.264, but not Ogg Theora, thus the push for H.264 only. But this also makes things difficult for small companies like Opera, who can't afford H.264 licensing in their free browser, or FOSS folks, who can't legally provide an open source H.264 CODEC. And that's just fine with Apple and Microsoft... making them the second-class browser is just not a problem, but a side-effect advantage. And of course, the FOSS people are playing right into this, building Theora into the browser, rather than using any CODEC supplied by the OS, which could include H.264.

Curiously, only Google is doing the thing that most benefits customers: support everything. They have H.264 and Theora support in Chrome, and they're working with Adobe to extend Flash. If Flash is truly evil, the market will move away from it, but only when that's possible. HTML5 isn't even finalized until 2012 at best, and there are no replacement authoring tools that make HTML5 as easy as Flash. Maybe they will but, but keep in mind, most Flash is "programmed" by content people, artists and all, not programmers. So these tools matter. They are the sole reason Flash is popular.

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