Apple VS Flash


February 16, 2011

I know your inbox, feeds reader and maybe your Twitter timelines are flooded with news about Apple's latest gadget, or toy as some people like to call it, the iPad.

And maybe you are fed up with all the talk about it, whether it is good or bad, and its endless apps, and you just cannot stand it anymore. You flip any tech page to avoid an iPad invasion, but fear not, I am not going to talk about it, at least for a couple of weeks.

The right time to do so will only come when things calm down a bit. But my column today is about something that may be related to the iPad – its lack of a Flash player, the multimedia platform for the web, to be precise.

Apple took a stand against supporting Flash player in its latest iPhone OS based devices, giving its slow performance and hogging of resources as the reason. This may be true for poorly developed Flash movies and applications, but it is not so for the other well optimised applications or the small banners.

This, as anyone can guess, is just a way for them to protect their app store. A big share of the paid apps in the app store are games, from mini games to advanced ones, and if Flash player were available on the iPhone, it would give users access to thousands of freely available games online.

They will not be of the same quality as iPhone/iPod Touch games, but many users do not pay attention to the details, which means Apple will lose a big amount of its share from the sale of digital content. Some experts may look at Apple's case against Flash as a bigger story, but it may be as simple as that.

Apple’s other possible reason for not supporting Flash on its latest devices is its aim to support open web standards like HTML5 and to bury 'dying technology,' as they call it.

It is also to prevent people from this source of security lapses, but we know Apple has not gone all the way with its 'open' policies. From their strict restrictions on the App Store to the closed process of the apps approval system, they may be not in a good position to negotiate open standards.

There is no way that Apple shares the vision of Richard Stallman, the free software movement starter (who was recently in Oman for an open source symposium), who said, "

The use of Flash in websites is a major problem for our community." I partly agree with Apple's movement against Flash support, because it pushed developers to use open standards instead of Flash for simple tasks.

It annoys me to see websites using Flash for unnecessary tasks. A simple menu, images slideshows and news tickers don't need the complexity that comes with Flash.

But again, no one should put limits on customers' own devices. If Apple is worried about the performance of the device, they can just warn the user when they enable it, just like when you turn on 3G on the iPhone, it warns that it will drain your battery faster.

To conclude, I would say that there is no perfect product, which is why we have so many alternatives. If you really want Flash on your mobile phone or on your next tablet computer, there are many devices coming with the full support of Flash, if, and only if, you can ignore the lure of the delicious iPhone and iPad apps.