Daniel Eran Dilger
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Steve Jobs pans Flash on the iPhone


Over the last year, many observers have wondered when Apple would deliver Adobe Flash support on the iPhone. At the company’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday, Steve Jobs made comments that indicate that support isn’t coming anytime soon, thanks to architectural limitations in Flash itself. A full explanation of those limitations follow.

Continues: Steve Jobs pans Flash on the iPhone

Previous coverage of iPhone Flash support and Flash Lite:

Apple iPhone vs LG Prada KE850
The iPhone Threat to Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, Real, BREW, Symbian
Gone in a Flash: More on Apple’s iPhone Web Plans

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  • http://benjamin-newton.com/ bhuot

    Great reasons for why Flash doesn’t work well on small devices. I always just assumed Flash Lite was a Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers. I wonder what will happen with all the sites that are Flash only. Will they have to be redesigned from scratch? And then what happens to the user who is caught in the middle – they are the ones really hurt by this? Either only access the web from your PC or not be able to access Flash content.

  • jody

    Actually this is all totally wrong. It is wrong in so many different ways that I cannot even begin to list them all. But let us just say that nearly every point in that AppleInsider article is wrong!! Not that I even like Flash, but this sort of complete idiocy just annoys the hell out of me.

    But anyway, for starters I have a Nokia N810 tablet. it has full desktop style Adobe Flash enabled in the browser. It uses the same general ARM CPU as the iPhone, but it is running at HALF THE SPEED. Flash there well enough that I can watch youtube videos at a reasonable frame rate (not that it is so important, but a good indicator of Flash efficency).

    So Adobe Flash would be fast enough on the iPhone, Flash is already ported to the ARM architecture. Adobe Flash works fine on a mobile device with flash memory storage.

    [The Nokia Internet Tablets use a Ti OMAP processor runing Meamo Linux, making it a bit easier to port the existing Flash runtime. The biggest problem I articulated wasn’t porting Flash to ARM, but optimizing it to work within the guidelines needed to maintain the iPhone’s power use and thermal envelope. The Internet Tablets are a pared down laptop, not a mobile phone with WiFi browsing features added.

    Watching Flash videos is not much of a measure of Flash effeciency, as Flash is doing very little to package videos for delivery. The real problem for Flash is that all the web applets designed so far have never been designed to work on mobile devices with the limitations I outlined.

    You can ignore the facts and call me names all you like, but it doesn’t change reality that Flash is a hog and the majority of Flash applets and elements pay no attention to the requirements of mobile devices. – Dan]

  • Thomas Menguy

    I’m fed up by those completely irrelevant and inexact statement from steve Jobs: on the nokia internet tablet n800…there is a full flash 9 plugin… and:
    -Processor is ARM9@400MHz compared to the ARM11@620Mhz of the iphone : the ARM11 core is much more efficient than the 9 so very roughly the iphone is 50 to 75% faster than the n800
    -RAM: 128 MB for the n800 vs …128MB RAM for the iPhone
    -n800 screen : 800*480 vs 320*480 for the iphone so a lot less pixel to draw.

    => the iPhone is MUCH MUCH more powerfull than the n800, and the Flash9 player on the n800 is running fine, so mister Jobs, are you sure this is a technical issue?

    (I have both a n800 and an iPhone)

  • duckie

    @Thomas Menguy
    so what kind of battery life do you get out of your n800? Isn’t that the point?

    I’m delighted that Flash support is not on the cards for the iPhone. It’s one of the annoyances of the web, mostly used to no benefit to the web page consumer and an overweight successor to the blink tag

  • jody

    The Nokia N810 gives about a week standby time and about 5-7 hours usage browsing, playing music, videos. N800 should be about the same.

    [“Standby” is generally used as a term related to mobile devices ready to receive a call but not actively transmitting one. The Nokia N series Internet Tablets do not have mobile functions, they are simply stripped down laptops that can hibernate for a week. The iPhone has to be ready to receive a call during its 7 hours of WiFi or ~20 hours of standby. One can put the iPhone into hibernation for a long time too, if the mobile radio is turned off.

    The Internet Tablets are also larger and have have larger batteries: 1500 mAh vs 1400 mAh on the iPhone. They are not directly comparable in terms of their thermal envelopes and power consumption, and it’s not clear why you are suggesting they are. The N810 is not a mobile phone. The more comparable iPod Touch has a 980 mAh battery and lasts as long or longer than the Linux Nokia tablets. – Dan]

  • Thomas Menguy

    For the battery life …this is also a false debate: Adobe Flash consumes battery power only ….when it is using the CPU, has any other software, so the impact will only be when running some flash website, removing the CPU cycles used by Webkit to the flash runtime.
    If flash were running all the time (ex: making the whole iPhone UI), ok it would consume more CPU cycles, so more battery, but it is not the case, it is like saying that H264 or MP3 is consuming to much battery…

  • Rich

    Flash, whether people like it or not, is ubiquitous on the web. Like any ubiquitous technology, it is sometimes used for good and sometimes used for evil.

    As mentioned, there’s no technical reason why it can’t be done on the iPhone. The N800 and N810 web tablets are bundled with Flash 9 and the N95 currently supports Flash 8 (aka Flash Lite).

    I’d love to be able to use Flash on my iPod touch. Strongbad and Zero Punctuation alone make Flash worth it.

    Battery life seems to be the catch all excuse for the iPhone’s short-comings. 3g? Can’t add that, battery life would suffer. GPS? Can’t add that, battery life would suffer. A2DP? Can’t add that, battery life would suffer. Flash? Can’t add that, battery life would suffer. Surely by this argument, the iPhone should feature a monochrome, one line display!

    There’s obviously a trade-off to be made between battery life and features. It will be interesting to see what happens when the 3G iPhone is released and people crack it open. Will it feature a radical new 3G chipset that drains a tenth of the power compared to previous designs? Or will it feature a fuel cell to give massive improvements in battery capacity?

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    Yes lots of people like the idea of running Flash. However, advocating Flash is looking at where the puck was prior to 2006. As I noted last year, Apple has better things to do than try to get Adobe’s proprietary legacy working well on the iPhone, an objective that really doesn’t do anything for Apple or users.

    Seriously, you want Apple to provide Flash support so you can play some worthless web game? WTF.

    And to all the people talking about Flash support on other mobile devices: THEY DON’T MATTER. The iPhone already has 71% of the US’ mobile web traffic despite its avoidance of using a Flash runtime. How many Nokia Internet Tablets are being sold around the world? Compare that number to the iPhones being sold plus all of the sales of iPod Touch.

    Don’t forget that many Linux or embedded devices promising Flash support (such as the Playstation 3) use an ancient version of the runtime that can’t even render most newer Flash content.

    Apple is driving the car, and it has better things to do that pick up stray drunks and ask them for directions. Adobe’s Flash will end up the DOS of the early 2000s, and good riddance. It’s a bloated piece of crap that gets too much attention for the amount of value it actually adds.

    If you’re interested in where the puck is going to be by then end of 2008, take a look at Apple’s Cocoa Touch SDK and then tell me all about how great Flash looks for mobile developers.

    One can already nearly match Flash using open web standards; native development on the iPhone will be so far superior to using anything related to Flash that it’s simply absurd to insist that Apple dig back into the late 90s to find a crapware runtime with a populist halo in order to impress pundits checking off feature boxes in their columns.

    Adobe is pushing Flash as a brand, not as a technology. It’s no different than Windows (and WinCE), which exist because of industry momentum, not because of any particular technical advantage. I’ll gladly celebrate the death of Flash and hope Silverlight goes along with it.

  • jody

    You are missing the point entirely. Steve Jobs is LYING. Why make up pointless crap excuses when he can just say “We don’t like flash”.

  • Thomas Menguy

    @Jody: agreed!, just a comment TI OMAP IS an ARM processor (it has an ARM9 core + a DSP that is used for barely nothing on the tablet)

    What disturb me is not the relevance of flash, I tend to agree it is not that important (except the fact that more and more web site and corporation are shifting to Adobe Flex, to make web app, so it is becoming a pretty strong service delivery platform)…what is really annoying is this constant steve jobs lying around technical issues, aimed at non tech people that are not really understanding this kind of issues …to hide the real reasons of this lack of support…that are perhaps fully legit and acceptable but not “apple’y correct”.
    Steve : your SDK announcement is GREAT, the model in place is amazing for app developpers and users, really I think you made it right…but please don’t be as arrogant, other people do understand stuffs and this industry.