Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Flash on mobile, the facts.

Yesterday morning I got an email from fellow Adobean Danny Winokur in my inbox discussing the state of the union with respect to Flash on the mobile. The synopsis of the conversation went something like this.

Flash Player 10.1 is now beginning to ship in volume on many smartphones.    Many of you may have seen the attached full page Motorola ad which ran on Friday in the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.  There are other similar ads being planned by major carriers and handset manufacturers.  This is the culmination of years of co-development to migrate Flash (not just Flash light) to the mobile.  Some have criticized Adobe for not doing this earlier but the reality is that the technology just wasn't ready earlier (hardware, software and infrastructure).

As the masses are starting to understand that video performance challenges on mobile devices, the truth has started to emerge that many of these issues are not isolated for Flash.  Many of the technical issues are a function of the hardware capabilities and the drivers which expose them.  Just for one example, if you take the same video with the same encoding and use any other player technology, and it is likely to perform about the same or worse than when played using Flash (the problem stems from code on their site which tries to use the hardware decoder for two snips concurrently, while the hardware only allows one - a constraint shared by any player on this hardware).

Flash video performance, along with other video experiences on mobile, should substantially improve.  We are all in still in the genesis days of mobile and the truth is that a consistent experience over multiple screens and devices is a lot of work.  As Adobe rolls out improvements such as StageVideo in future releases, allowing video to be sent directly to the screen (instead of being returned to the Flash Player) after being decoded in hardware, these experiences will get better and better.  This point, among others, is made articulately here: -html5.html?page=1

As others have right noted, the way to get great performing video on mobile devices is for content publishers to encode in ways that are supported by mobile *hardware*.

I don't expect the naysayers to be quiet any time soon.  Several of my brethren on Slashdot have already complained bitterly about the intrusion of Flash onto their devices.  The reality is that it is the users choice.  Adobe, as I understand it, has never been concerned about forcing things on users.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The exec's I talk to seem quite concerned about people having the choice.  If they don't want Flash, they can turn it off.  I myself turn of a lot of features on my Nexus 1 Android device when I am not requiring them to save battery life.  When I want my GPS data, I turn it on.  Flash is no different (although it has been architected and engineered not to squander device resources when not in use).   Long live choice!

I am stoked about the future of mobile. It took me a while to get there but now that we are rolling it out, many of the enterprises I am working with are bombarding me with new ideas for extendingh their infrastructure to mobile.  Some of these are simply items like extending a Livecycle ES business process to a Droid device or as complex as dynamic routing changes in task assignment due to geo-location.  Very cool.


  1. Congratulations with your win over the Apple ( ). You contributed a lot to make it happend.

  2. @wiispniper Thanks! Internally, we don't think of it as a victory, more as a reconciliation from Apple towards developers in general. I think Apple showed the industry that they do in fact care about developers and Adobe developers should rejoice. It is great to have everyone on board now as we move AIR, HTML5 and Flex into the next generation of applications.

  3. Duane,

    You've got a break in your link above:
    Glad to hear your getting back to better health. GWS.
    Rock on dude.


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