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Why is Flash such a problem on the iPad?

We've heard so many reasons for flash not being on the iPad that no one is sure what the real issue is. We take a look to try and find the truth.
By: Sean Kalinich | Tablets in Mobile Devices | Posted: Feb 26, 2010 4:44 am
Manufacturer: Apple

Why is Flash such a problem on the iPad?


Not that long ago Steve Jobs made a statement during an interview with the Wall Street Journal that if he allowed Flash to run on the iPad it would reduce the battery life down to 1.5 hours. Now, this is an interesting comment, especially coming from someone that has attacked Adobe on more than one occasion saying that no one should even use it. But what was Steve talking about? Is he saying that Flash is so inefficient that there is no way to get it working properly on a mobile device? Is he exposing (unintentionally) that the iPad's hardware is not up to running Flash? Let's take a look at some of the facts in the situation and see what we can find.




Adobe and Flash


Adobe Flash has become one of the standards for web animation, web games, video playback and many others. It was picked up by Adobe in their buy out of Macromedia some years ago and has been part of Adobe's web producer pack since. But Flash has had its problems. It is a favored vector for attacking both Windows and OSX and Adobe has historically been slow to fix holes in this. It can also be bulky code and has been responsible for slowing down more than one site that has put too many flash ads on it.


As it has become more popular (and more of a target), competition to Flash has risen up in the form of Microsoft's Silverlight, HTML 5 coding and a handful of others that can do pretty much the same thing as Flash without the overhead and security failings. In fact, Microsoft's Silverlight was chosen by Netflix to provide video playback for their website and also the player in Windows Vista, Windows 7 and the Xbox 360. On the other hand, HTML 5, Javascript and Silverlight have some of the same problems (in fact, there is no such thing as secure code or formats).




Of course, this all applies to the desktop, but in the last few months the push to get Flash on a mobile device has been pushed forward. NVIDIA and Adobe began working on using the GPU to accelerate Flash and with the release of Flash 10.1 for the desktop, this became a reality. This launch was (and still is) important in that it opens up Flash on Tegra and other mobile devices quite nicely. In fact, as of this writing we have heard of Flash on many devices including Google's new Nexus One. So Flash on mobile products is not a pipe dream anymore. It is a reality. But what is more, we are not hearing of any drastic reduction in battery life when running Flash.


Where does this leave Apple?


So we know that Flash can now run on a GPU and that it can and does run on mobile devices. Yet, for all of this Apple is still resistant (even openly hostile) about running Flash on the iPhone or iPad. There have been several stated reasons for this which include; security, battery life, and even claims that HTML 5 and QuickTime will soon replace Flash. So let's take a look at each and see if we can find the truth in them.


We have also heard that one developer is trying to claim that the lack of Flash on the iPhone/iPod/iPad is due to the touch screen interface and hovering/clicking. We are not going to cover this one in detail and will only comment that this is probably the most ridiculous thing to say that we have ever heard. If this was the case, Flash would not work on any tablet or slate PC on the market. So with that out of the way, let's look at some real possibilities.




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