Flash on Apple Devices – Not a Near Future Possibility

The one thing common between the Apple iPhone and the Apple iPAD, except the fact that they both have an aesthetic appeal, wonderfully working touch screen and the illustrious brand name of Apple is the fact that both of them do not support Flash, which is one of the most prominent rich internet applications from Adobe. The spat between Apple and Adobe has been going on for many years now, and the exclusion of Flash from iPhone and iPad is just another chapter to this ever growing war between the two.

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Flash is not only used for viewing videos, or creating multimedia websites, but it also can be used to create various applications and games, which has increased its popularity and reach many-fold, making it one of the de facto installations on the computers of people who surf the internet. The decision that Apple is not planning to provide support has made a lot of iPhone owners whine, more so, since Adobe came up with a Flash version for all major mobile operating systems like Windows Mobile OS, Palm’s webOS and even the Google Android, missing out only on iPhone’s Safari OS.

Apple’s Side of the Story

Apple has been adamant in not supporting Adobe Flash, since allowing Flash is against the Terms of Service Agreement of the iPhone. The main reason for this as per Apple’s software engineers is that allowing Flash will open a lot of backdoors or open up loop holes for malicious applications to misuse the information and even hamper the usability of the iPhone or the iPAD.

Moreover, historically, Apple’s MAC OS has never been in proper sync with the Flash player. Most complaints that the Apple Inc gets for the browser crashes is due to the use of Flash plug-ins and hence Apple is trying to stay safe by not providing the support for Flash at all, rather than allow Flash to compete for the battery life and the CPU cycles on the iPhone and the iPAD.

The “Other” Side of the Story

Apple is known to be a strongly coupled company when it comes to protecting its proprietary stuff. Allowing Flash to run on iPhone will not only enable users to view Flash content on their iPhone or iPAD, but it will also allow a lot of Flash applications and games to compete with their counterparts on the App Store. This will surely result in huge revenue losses for Apple.

Moreover, in the current scenario, all the things related to Apple iPhone and iPAD are owned completely by Apple and hence if they wish to make some drastic change like a Platform or architecture change, they can port and recompile their codes and libraries. However, if they allow Flash and then decide to do such a change, since Flash remains owned by Adobe, Apple would need to maintain some sort of a backward compatibility to ensure Flash support remains ON, until Adobe gets them the ported version of Flash.

Consolidating the Facts

The funny fact about Adobe Flash is that while all the major building blocks of the internet like HTML and CSS are open source, the most prominent proprietary software in the web-world is Adobe Flash. The popularity of Flash feeds itself and the result is it gets used more often. So the people who oppose the one company ownership idea like the fact that Apple is slowly weeding out Flash by sowing the seeds for HTML5.

[ad#r]Moreover, it is a known experience that while Flash works pretty well with Windows, it cannot do the same with Apple’s OS because the later does not allow Flash to access the lower level APIs and squeeze the maximum benefit from the hardware. However, while Adobe cribs that Apple doesn’t allow its platform level optimizations to be used for Flash, Steve Jobs rubbished Flash for being buggy and that was the reason why Apple is not too keen on granting support to Flash, and instead it supports HTML5 more getting the newer web-based applications.

Final Verdict

The reason why the Flash support on iPhone and iPAD isn’t encouraged is a combination of both Apple’s way of trying to preserve its supremacy for the games and applications that get shipped for the iPhone and the iPAD, and also Apple’s intolerant behavior towards very stringent quality standards which currently Adobe Flash is not being able to adhere to.

For now, the situation is a dead lock and in midst of all odds, Adobe has come up with a bunch of tools which allow the Flash applications to get converted to a format where they can be loaded on iPhone. However, these applications match neither the performance, nor the elegance of what the original Flash could have offered.

And this leads us to the final big question is: When will Apple step down and allow a third party plug-in provider like Adobe access to its lower level APIs?

For now, the answer seems to be NEVER.

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