The Other Side of Flash | webOS Nation

The Other Side of Flash

by Jason Robitaille Wed, 21 Oct 2009 1:47 pm EDT

There's been a lot of talk about flash lately. Between the Flash 10.1 announcement with Adobe's demonstration on the Pre and the Adobe MAX presentation, it seems like everyone is gaga over Flash on the webOS.  However, at some point we need to step back and notice Flash has some notable downsides that need to be addressed and considered.

First and foremost, Flash is a proprietary format developed by Adobe. It's nowhere near as open a standard as html/css/js. Everything is developed in Adobe-created tools and the format is defined by what Adobe sets it at. That a lot of power and control in the hands of a single company, especially if Flash for the webOS were to gain momentum. And if iTunes has taught us anything, one company have singular control over a format can be detrimental. Kinda funny that the Flash Mobile development group was called the "Open Screen Project," eh?


Then we need to consider the battery impact. Active embedded Flash objects can take up a fair bit of processing power, especially when they contain animation audio and video.  During the Adobe MAX conference, this topic was mentioned with the following statistics mentioned:

Active state with video  --  3.4 hours battery life
Active state with animation  --  6.5 hours battery life
Low power with animation  --  14.5 hours battery life

That's a pretty significant hit on the battery. So if you plan of using Flash on a regular basis, be sure to carry extra batteries, you'll need it.

Next, we should address the quality of Flash apps.  Will embedded Flash animations be smooth? Will audio run uninterrupted?  And more importantly, what kind of quality video can it handle?  From what we saw in the video demonstration, the video was a low resolution, and that is worrying.  Frankly, the game Adobe used in their demo was something that could look equally as good in html/js/css; there certainly wasn't that much that was impressive in their animation demo.

What would've excited me would be something like a racing game or something a bit more fast-paced, to show off flash animation, because at least then we'd know the additional battery life is worth it.  Even today the question of whether Flash for the webOS will support the GPU is unanswered.  Hopefully it will, because if it doesn't, chances are Flash won't be nearly as smooth as it could be.

And let's not forget how annoying animated web browser ads can be.  Sure, WebOS Quick Install has an ad-blocker tweak, but users shouldn't have to tweak their Pre just to hide those "punch the monkey" ads. When Flash arrives, I pray there's a browser option to disable it, so I can only enable it when needed.

One last thing: native webOS apps, like any web page, can work at multiple screen resolutions - i.e. if properly coded they can work both on the Pixi and on the Pre - will it be just as easy to code up Flash apps to do the same?

It should be made clear, I am not anti-Flash.  If it's done well, I'm all for expanded developer options.  These are just the inevitable downsides that needed to be brought forward before we get away with ourselves.