Aaron Sumner

One nobody's solution to Flash on the iPad

Not that anyone asked, or that this is at all timely, but here’s how I would approach the whole no-Flash-on-the-iPad (or iPhone) thing:

  1. Apple should stick to its guns on the development tool requirements for native applications. Aside from what Steve Jobs has said about third party layers, as a long-time Mac user I take offense to this approach to software development. Products like the Mac version of Word 6.0, which tried to paste a vaguely Macintosh interface on top of a Windows code base, should serve as a reminder of what can happen when developers get lazy and try to reuse code across platforms. To throw in a more modern software example, I quit using TweetDeck because Air is such a resource hog. (I’m also not crazy about its kitchen sink approach to features, which I’ll admit may or may not attribute to its resource hogging.) Write once, run anywhere should be limited to web-based applications.
  2. Apple needs to enable Flash-formatted content via plugins through anything that uses Mobile Safari. I think everyone knows this is technically possible; it just doesn’t meet Apple’s standards. My solution? Instead of enabling all by default, Apple should invest in ClickToFlash (or just hire the people responsible for it) and port it to the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch variants of OS X. I’ve been using ClickToFlash for several months now, from the standpoint that I find most Flash-formatted content to be obtrusive, and it’s been great in a standard Safari-in-Snow-Leopard environment. With some tweaking it could be made a seamless part of Mobile Safari (“tap to play”), but this would take Apple’s blessing.
  3. Adobe needs to stop being lazy. This doesn’t just apply to Jobs’ implication that Adobe is being lazy; this goes back to their acquisition of Macromedia in general and Flash in particular. Ever since that point (the last time they had real competition in the field of applications for creative types) Adobe has taken more and more shortcuts to deliver new products with minimal enhancements. Any given Adobe app’s overall user experience was almost always several notches above its Macromedia counterpart; since the merger I’ve observed Adobe’s suite slide more and more toward the Macromedia end of the quality spectrum (and going back to my bagging on write once, run anywhere, Macromedia was very guilty of pushing Windows-like software on us Mac users). Now, Adobe has its first real challenge since the merger with Macromedia, only this time it’s coming from Apple. How about we see some real innovation instead of calling this some sort of civil rights issue for developers?
  4. Apple needs a wake-up call. I thought last week’s slaps at Apple by Google’s Vic Gundotra were petty at best, but if Steve Jobs and company think Gundotra (or Google) is alone in actively pursuing the next iPhone killer or iPad killer, they should think again. Google alone can keep throwing engineers at a problem until it’s solved (though, in the case of Android, I contend that the problem is they’re not throwing enough designers at the problem). I am legitimately concerned of three things: One, that Apple will take the App Store, approved content only model to its desktop operating system; two, that said desktop operating system will cease to exist as we know it (and kill web development as I know it); and/or three, that Apple’s hubris will hurt the Mac platform as much (or more) as it did when an inferior Windows operating system took the world. This time around, it will be Google. And while I’ve joked that Google is still better than Facebook, the fact of the matter is still that one company is still one company, regardless of what the company is. I tried switching to Linux for Rails development, and frankly, I think the current crop of text editors suck when stacked against TextMate or BBEdit, but if a Linux environment is all we’ve got, then I would bet the small companies that have done just fine supporting us would do just as fine supporting us on a new operating system.

Ranting aside, I think points 1 and 2 have merit as practical things the people at Apple and Adobe could be doing to resolve this issue.

. Questions or comments? Let me know what you think.