Do we need Flash anyway? Apple says hell no!

Unless you have been living in a box for the last couple of months or so, you're probably noticed that there's somewhat of a controversy dealing in the subject of Adobe Flash and Apple Inc.'s not so new policy to not support this widely used content type in their mobile devices.
In short, Apple cry fault on several things like CPU usage and instability, using these as the foundation for it's "no Flash content on our devices" policy. But, is it really that simple? Here's my take on this soon to be "greek tragedy".

What is Flash?
First of all, Flash is a type of media content, like images, movies and so on. Flash by itself doesn't do diddly-squat, it's just a description and a file format. In order to view Flash content you'll need an interpreter, in others words a player. What Apple is calling "the great evil" is (hopefully) the Adobe FlashPlayer, not the content type which is actually Flash.

Is Flash crashing my browser?
No! As described above, Flash all by itself can't do anything. If anything related to Flash is crashing your browser, it is the Adobe FlashPlayer. So you may ask, is the FlashPlayer the reason (most of the time) my browser is suddenly crashing? In my opinion it probably is. The Adobe FlashPlayer is quite unstable and buggy and slow. Why? Read on..

Is the FlashPlayer a "CPU hog"?
Yes it is. The Adobe FlashPlayer runs a constant loop of so called frames, driving animation, UI and so on. This will create a constant load on the CPU, because the content can change without reloading the webpage holding the Flash content. In contrast, HTML will create a heavy CPU load when initially loading the content and then it becomes static, thereby not using any (almost) CPU cycles. So, what if you where able to create the same content as you can show in the FlashPlayer in say.. HTML and JavaScript. What do you think would happen to the CPU load of that HTML page then? Of course, it would use more CPU cycles.
So, Adobes FlashPlayer is slow, no doubt about it, but this does not make Flash itself a "CPU hog" or anything like that. If Apple wants a faster FlashPlayer.. write one!

Will Flash die, what might prevent it?
Flash will die, or evolve into something else, eventually. But, it won't happen tomorrow, or the next day. Event though Apple does not support Flash in the iPhone and the iPad, almost any other device does or will support it. However, if you're a smart developer you'll use this time to widen your skill set beyond the Flash platform.

Development time and cost
The time spend creating an online application or website will in many cases be the deciding factor in a project, unless you're Google or Apple that is. Using the Flash platform compared to JavaScript/HTML solutions leaves the latter far behind in the dust when it breaks down to actual production time. This factor will no doubt change with the advent of advanced frameworks like JQuery and SproutCore. But still, anything you can do in JS and HTML, Flash can do better and faster from an time and design standpoint... today.

Dropping legacy support is the way of making a more stable player
One of the biggest problems with the Adobe FlashPlayer as I see it, is it's reluctance to get rid of old and bad ways of creating content. If Adobe where to drop support for the old player model, supporting ActionScript 2 and Flash 8 and older, I'll bet money that Flash content around the web would run faster, smoother and crash way less. If they are willing to do this I do believe Flash content might have a future, if not it will be kept alive by the need for banner ads, for a while.

Why doesn't Apple support Flash content?
Well, Steve Jobs allegedly stated that Apple wasn't supporting Flash content on the iPhone and the iPad for reasons dealing in instability, performance and generally bad user experience. If that's all, why not support Microsoft Silverlight?
Flash could be a competitor for Apple, both in the apps section of their business model and in the media consumption part (buying videos from the web (e.g. Hulu) and not the iTunes Store).
This is why, in my opinion, Apple will not support Flash content on their mobile devices. And really, if you think of it, is is such a problem? If you depend on Flash driven web content, don't buy Apple hardware. For me, being both an Apple "fan" and a Flash developer, I don't see the need for Flash content on mobile devices. No matter how you word it, the iPhone and the iPad won't give you the entire web..

Screencast # 3 - iPhone web app Twitter viewer

In this Screencast I create a really simple iPhone Web Application using DashCode, one of the tools provided trough the iPhone Developer Tools.
I'll show you how to create a simple Twitter viewer, getting started using lists and how to use value transformers in DashCode.

Download DashCode Project