Op-Ed: Flash is still relevant; perhaps more so than ever

Software developer Joseph Labrecque points towards a bright, positive outlook regarding Adobe Flash and AIR technologies on mobile devices, the desktop and the Web.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

Software developer Joseph Labrecque points towards a bright, positive outlook regarding Adobe Flash and AIR technologies on mobile devices, the desktop and the Web.

This article is the result of an invitation to offer a response article to Jason Perlow's One year after iPad: Is Adobe Flash still relevant?

While I do not necessarily disagree with all of the observations put forward in the article, I do strongly disagree with the title, focus, and central premise. In full disclosure; I've been making a living off of Flash Platform technologies for over a decade.

Point being: I have a strong affinity to the Adobe Flash Platform and have a bright, positive outlook regarding the long-term future of my platform of choice.

It is important to keep things in perspective when discussing mobile technologies. Smartphones and tablets are still a very new area and we are all only now discovering how these devices can be integrated into our lives in a productive way.

We are also just beginning to discover what works and what does not work on these devices from a technological standpoint. They all have high-resolution screens, are using aging energy cell technology, run on minimal versions of an operating system, yet are our constant companions throughout the day.

Some tasks that we take for granted when using a desktop machine are poorly implemented in a small form factor, while others are spectacularly refined and directed, such as TweetDeck on Android. It is a balancing act right now and most of the industry players involved are doing an excellent job walking this tightrope.

The amazing thing is that in some ways, these devices do provide a level of experience that is, at times, very close to that of their desktop counterparts. I know that Flash Player runs most content quite well on my Motorola DROID and even better on the DROID2. We have near parity of features across multiple screens: desktop, smartphone, tablet, and the digital living room. That is quite an achievement!

This point is often lost on those who only see Flash as a technology for creating banner ads and watching videos. As a platform, Flash continues to push ahead with stunning innovation while retaining full backwards compatibility with existing content even content produced with FutureSplash Animator!

Consider this: while the current crop of mobile devices are still in their early stages, they are still incredibly underpowered when compared with desktop or laptop machines. Yet, Stage3D (Molehill) functionality was recently displayed running upon an older model Samsung Galaxy Tab during the FITC conference in Toronto this past week.

This is the same 3D functionality that has been available to desktop users through the Incubator program on Adobe Labs, but running upon a severely underpowered machine. That is really something of significance. As devices get faster, we can expect Flash to take advantage of this as well.

Have you tried to run some of the more intensive HTML/Javascript experiences on an iPhone or iPad? These experiments will bring the device to a crawl. Should be blame Webkit for this poor performance? Of course not; there is an understanding that the device is underpowered and cannot process the experience quickly enough to provide the ideal experience.

It is no different with Flash Player on those devices which may run with slower processors. The important take-away here is that Flash Platform runtimes run really well right now on this current generation of smartphones and as these devices become more powerful coupled with future platform innovation we have a killer platform on our hands.

Users of iOS understand that there are limitations on that platform -- they accept these limitations and use the devices for what they are capable of, not for what they are incapable of. When given a choice, I believe most users would want to decide for themselves whether or not to install something like Flash Player on a device.

Considering how personal smartphones and tablets have become -- it really is an affront to the dignity of the user to deny them, by corporate policy, the choice of doing so. Thoughts on Flash is often brought up as if gospel but in truth there are many problems with all of the points brought up by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

[Next: Going beyond "Thoughts on Flash"]»

As noted by Jason in his original article, with the BlackBerry PlayBook, RIM and Adobe have done a tremendous job working together to create a device that really integrates well with the Flash Platform through both the Flash Player in the browser, and AIR with standalone apps. Apple is an innovator -- there are really, really smart people working there.

If Apple were to join the Open Screen Project and work collaboratively with Adobe in crafting a Flash experience on iOS, they could produce something really spectacular. All it takes is some friendly cooperation and a willingness to make things better to emerge with a stellar product.

When people purchase an iDevice, they generally know by now that they are not going to be able to view Flash content. They buy them anyway because they understand that with such a device there is a compromise to be had. Sure, they might have to bring up a laptop to interact with an experience built in Flash, but this is offset by the fact that iOS is providing them with additional experiences that they don't access from their standard desktop machine.

I own a couple Android smartphones and a BlackBerry PlayBook. I do not expect a desktop-equivalent experience on any of these devices, but I am okay with that because they do provide me something else; portability, directed experiences, and new ways to approach day-to-day problems. It's great that all of the devices I own run Flash content and I am glad to have that choice.

About the Author: Joseph Labrecque (@josephlabrecque) is primarily employed by the University of Denver as a senior interactive software engineer specializing in the Adobe Flash Platform, where he produces innovative academic toolsets for both traditional desktop environments and emerging mobile spaces. Alongside this principal role; he often serves as adjunct faculty, communicating upon a variety of Flash Platform solutions and general Web design and development subjects.

In addition to his accomplishments in higher education, Joseph is the proprietor of Fractured Vision Media, LLC; a digital media production company, technical consultancy, and distribution vehicle for his creative works. He is founder and sole abiding member of the dark ambient recording project "An Early Morning Letter, Displaced" whose releases have received international award nominations and underground acclaim.

Joseph has contributed to a number of respected community publications as an article writer and video tutorialist and is author of the forthcoming "Flash Development for Android Cookbook".

He regularly speaks at user group meetings and industry conferences such as Adobe MAX, FITC, and D2WC. In 2010, he received an Adobe Impact Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the education community. He has served as an Adobe Education Leader since 2008 and is also a 2011 Adobe Community Professional.

Editorial standards