Google +will+ save Flash, a developer who uses it says

I just recorded a 45 minute conversation on my iPhone while we sat on the deck at the Half Moon Bay Ritz with Luke Kilpatrick about Flash, Silverlight, Palm Pre, and a few other topics, but mostly focusing on what will happen to Flash.

Luke is a developer who uses Flash in his work for Altus Corporation and he also runs a variety of user groups in San Francisco. He’s one of the few people I know who loves his Palm Pre and he is a Flash believer so I thought it would be good to get a counterpoint to my post earlier.

At one point we talk about Adobe’s Openscreen Project where Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, pledges support for Flash and the Openscreen Project.

If you crunch the 45-minutes down it comes down to Google +will+ save Flash because Adobe’s 10.1 is finally ready for mobile phones. Adobe is, next month, going to show off its new mobile strategy, at the Mobile World Congress, he told me.

Anyway, want a good counterpoint to my “Can Flash be saved?” post? Here it is.

A few problems, though:

1. We haven’t seen the new Flash implementation for mobile phones.
2. We don’t know how well Google will do in its fight for mindshare against Apple (and, so far, Google has been coming in #2).
3. Even if the implementation is freaking awesome and Google makes headway with it Apple will still have close to 100 million devices that won’t have Flash on them by the end of the year.
4. Developers care about getting paid and so far Apple’s platform is better at getting them paid than other platforms. Will this change this year? Unknown.
5. Even if Adobe does everything perfectly and so does Google, Flash still has a major black eye amongst many developers. Can Adobe talk developers into supporting Flash with all of the angst I’m seeing about it? Luke says yes, but I’m still not sure.

Another point of view worth reading is John Gruber’s Daring Fireball post about Flash. “Developers go where the users are,” he says. I’d add developers also go where there’s a fun platform to develop for and my other developer friends are slobbering over themselves to develop for the iPad.

Yesterday I talked with Rackspace’s mobile developer, Mike Mayo, who developed our iPhone app for Rackspace Cloud. You should hear what he says about the iPad (a longer video with him will be up on building43 next week). I recorded a short audio conversation with him too, which I’m embedding here.

What do you think, has your view of Flash’ future changed this past week? Why or why not?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

64 thoughts on “Google +will+ save Flash, a developer who uses it says

  1. Months?? haha, you must be new to the web. Even if this was the killer (it's not), it would be years and years before Flash was phased out. How long will it take for the browsers to all get on the same page with HTML5? Will they ever?

  2. Google can already index Flash content and externally loaded resources, they've been able to for a while now.

  3. I love all this melodramatic nonsense. Who needs daytime TV when you have: Will Adobe die? Will Google save Adobe?? Firefox killed MSIE? Or did it? Find out tomorrow in the next episode of As the Twitterverse Turns! I miss the soap ads though.

  4. Anybody making the “revenue stream of the App store” argument just isn't familiar with the kind of business Apple runs, period. It's been estimated that 1 billion apps sold is worth about $70-$160 million to Apple (http://mashable.com/2009/05/14/apple-iphone-app…).

    Now, for some perspective, Apple turned $3.38 Billion this last QUARTER alone. Do you really think they care about $170 million? Enough to cause all this hullabaloo?

    The App Store increases the value of the platform, and helps sell hardware. That's where the money is for Apple.

    Denying Flash is all about performance, and security — two things that are all about enhancing the end user experience (once again, the better the user experience, the wider the adoption, the more hardware sold). And frankly, the fact that we are all having this conversation in the first place is pretty much proof that Flash is already dead because of it.

  5. Flash != JS it just doesn't. Adobe is doing big things with Dreamweaver, the CS4 version has a whole bunch of functionality to make using JS frameworks easier, I think they will have even more in the future releases.

    Adobe is supportive of HTML5 not against it. HTML5 does not solve all of the issues that Flash does at the moment. It would be great if it did, but if you look at the current fragmented world of the browsers and how each does its own thing I can't see it being useful. It took almost 10 years for CSS to become reliable enough to support cross browser and we still have the hack the hell out of it for the browsers that don't die (looking at you IE6).

    I personally believe if HTML5 becomes wide spread and useful, Adobe will be making the tooling to build it. Adobe isn't against standards, it is not against open. It works very hard to support both Mac and Windows for its main products. One of the reason H.264 has taken off so well is due to the Flash Player and Adobe.

  6. Mozilla supported ActiveX in previous versions, supporting H.264 wouldn't denounce their FOSS status at all, if done the right way, Mozilla could support H.264 via the DirectShow, GStreamer and Quicktime libraries built into operating systems (royalty free, alike with Flash). A lot of Mozilla employees I've spoken to have stated that they don't want to support H.264 because it'd essentially recreate the Flash situation just with codecs now.

    and I knew the H.264 and VP7 situations, it's called simplifying the conversation.

    and Google doesn't control what Mozilla does and doesn't do, they fund over 80% of Mozilla yes, but not 100% (rumors say Mozilla could switch to Microsoft for funding in the future).

    I've a very good feeling, that Google will use the On2 acquisition in favor of HTML5 royalty free, as they've done with the Dalvik VM and Android. Something like that would favor them in their search and ad businesses allowing them to guarantee that their users are free to do what they wish with their audio and video codecs without having to cough up money for licenses.

    Plus you've got to think of Chrome OS, which would benefit greatly from this.

  7. @Luke There is/was an opportunity for Adobe to offer the best tools for the open web. Unfortunately, Adobe and Microsoft are to wedded to their old model to really embrace the open web model and have been stuck into “we will generate javascript byte code. In the meantime, hundreds of real open web frameworks are emerging: jquery, yui, google closure, etc…Even Microsoft with the billions in cash is not able to emulate the same level of energy around silverlight.

    Regarding code obfuscation, you should look at why Google Closure and YUI offert..

    So yes there is an opportunity for Adobe but I do not think that they are positioning themselves to take advantage of it

  8. I thought it was pretty funny when Jobs had the ipad and went to the NYT and some stuff didn't come up! Flash is a very interesting beast and am curious to see what will happen.

  9. So, I just wanna throw in that flash is kind of cross-platform.

    You can develop flash games/programs once(!) and they would be working for Linux/BSD, Mac OS X, Windows, Windows Mobile and you know, pretty much every platform there is. iPhone “app” -developers could sell their products to a lot more costumers.

    IF Adobe had a clever concept of selling flash-applications. Like an aStore. You know.

    What am I overlooking? (Except for Flashs obvious flaws)

  10. I so wish FireFox had killed IE. I still spend hours every week supporting IE6 which is still being run by most enterprise customers. Flash lets you get around some of these issues.

    Cinch does supply an mp3 you can download from their site, but the main embed player is Flash. This is the case with most of the embeddable media out there because Flash is on most computers.

    I go into greater detail in my response post here: http://bit.ly/94eUTb

  11. “4. Developers care about getting paid and so far Apple’s platform is better at getting them paid than other platforms. Will this change this year? Unknown.” very true, never forget about WIIFM!

  12. typical moronic scoble: he asks a question about a dead media format using the same plugin that he is wondering if it is dead?

    circular.

    First ffox killed msie as the default target for developers.

    Now apple is going to kill flash!

    Good ridance to both of these anti-web viri!

  13. Flash is in trouble. First because it's a plugin, second because it adds latency and third, because developers and advertisers will choose the technology that gives them the most exposure for the lowest cost.

    So much of Flash use is in banner advertising, where impressions and conversion actions are closely watched. As these numbers start to drop, I think we'll see a tipping point and Flash will quickly lose ubiquity and become a bad word among advertisers.

  14. Google recently acquired ON2 Labs the makers of H.264 and it's been highly rumored that they plan to use the company to create new Video and Audio codecs for HTML5.

    Also Mozilla could support H.264 via native libraries that are built into operating systems, DirectShow on Windows, Quicktime on Mac and GStreamer on Linux.

    The issue is, Mozilla doesn't want to support is because they feel a royalty free codec is better for the web as a whole (especially since web developers would have to pay royalties to use the codec).

    1. OMG you really have no clue what you are talking about do you? Where shall we start…

      - Google is currently trying to acquire ON2, but the process is long from complete
      http://tinyurl.com/ye5kgvq
      - ON2 is not the maker of H.264 – no single vendor is. On2 makes several widely used codecs such as VP6 (used in Flash), VP7 (used in Skype) and others. H.264 is made up of a whole patent pool owned by many companies
      - noone knows what Google is going to do if the acquisition of ON2 succeeds, but they are going to compete with the de-facto standard that is H.264 (including the license fees that this codec incurs)
      - Mozilla may like to support H.264, but can’t unless they’d be prepared to lose their FOSS status, which they are not
      - Google chose to license the H.264 codec for Chrome, but refused to do the same for Firefox which Google is effectively funding single handedly

      As you can see, video codecs are a bit of a messy subject. Lucky then that Adobe also licenses H.264 for Flash Player, and has done so for years. If you think that HTML5 can wave its magic and and make these issues go away then think again. And as for OGG and Theora – they’re reat if you’d like to take 5 steps back into the past. No sane content owner would ever dream of using these codecs. But don’t take my word for it, ask around.

  15. Actually Apple supports HTML5 a lot, Mobile Safari supports a huge amount of the spec, including video.

    Apple themselves contribute to the spec even, and regarding WebGL, they're working on getting it into their WebKit engine and it's likely to make it to Mobile Safari as 3D CSS Transforms are supported there.

    And also Steve Jobs had stated that “The world is moving to HTML5″ at an Apple Town Hall meeting ( http://gizmodo.com/5460694/ ).

  16. If you have ever uses Flash on a mobile device it's not the same as is desktop counterpart, even the 10.1 Flash that will be shown on Mobile World Congress.
    Simpel Flash animations and actions are oke but if you want to play a game or view a complex Flash website it's as slow as hell and the interaction is poor because the want an cursor and not your finger.

    The only reason Flash is on the Android Platform is that it's open and Adobe can put it's runtime in. Google maybe help's but it does not have too. Other partners from the openscreen alliance have nothing to show.

    Flash will be around for a long time and that's oke but we don't need Flash at all. I did alot with Flash in the past but now it's time to move on, for the best mobile experience use html/css/javascript or native. For de desktop Flash is alright but you must always presume that people cannot see it.

    As of Adobe taking Flash to develop Apps i hope they will take another direction then what they did with PDF. It's freaking hard to make a normal PDF these days thanks to all the plugins and other things Acrobat can do.

    Hope Adobe will go back to it's root's and look at what we need instead of thins we don't need

  17. I dont think flash being on the ipad and or iphone will damage adobe anytime soon.

    As long as Adobe keep on developing flash and as long as they keep on making it useful it will continue to be successful. This is not IE6 its not a dead product.

    People go on about html5 a lot but they dont realise that its not fully supported on these devices yet.

  18. @lone Deranger if that is the case then why is all of Adobe's marketing efforts on the flash platform? Why are they pushing so much development for it? why are so many Fortune 500 companies doing everything they can to hire flex developers to build applications on the platform?

  19. You forget 100 million iPhone/Pad/Touch devices out there are still a small number when compared to the 1-2 Billion computers in the world today.

    ” The amount of personal computers in the world will reach one billion already by the end of 2008, and two billions – by 2015. ” – Forrester

    Of those Billion computers 98% of them run flash. Just because a boutique computer maker decides not to support a defacto web standard platform, doesn't mean that platform is dead.

    Keep your eyes out for Flash 10.1 – Check out the testing Anadtech has done on flash player 10.1 – http://www.anandtech.com/video/showdoc.aspx?i=3… its very impressive.

    So the question is, if Flash Player 10.1 solves the cpu/gpu and batter life issues, would you want it on your iPhone?

    I would, and if you would too sign the http://iwantflash.com petition

  20. Flash is dying, and for good reason: Adobe never was and never will be an OS developer. With Microsoft and Apple both cutting them off at the knees it's only a matter of months before Flash disappears from the web almost entirely.

  21. Many of the people commenting here are of the believe that you can't count on flash being available, I disagree. Flash is on 98% of the computers out there, if your building an application targeting a corporation or something other than mobile, it is a pretty safe bet flash 10 will be there. Outside of our little tech bubble here most people have flash and use it everyday and don't even realize it. It is just part of the web that they don't think about.

    Does Flash have some issues? Yes, but so does HTML5, OSX, Windows 7 and on and on. Software is not perfect, it would be nice if it was but its written by humans so it has issues.

    For all of those complaining about Flash on the Mac being buggy and crashing, you have to look at the numbers. Adobe is a smaller company than Apple, Microsoft and Google so it has to pick where it puts its resources. Mac is still less than 10% of the market for PCs so if you only have enough resources to dedicate time to 1 platform you go with the biggest. I know Adobe is working very hard on Flash 10.1 and I think it will answer most of the GPU/CPU/Battery life issues. Please remember Flash 10 was launched over a year ago and was launched targeting OSX 10.5 does all of your non-apple software work perfectly when you went to 10.6?

    As for the comments about the cinch player being in flash, cinch probably built their player in flash as it was the easiest way to but out there content in a streaming format. They do offer an MP3 download but you must go to their site to get it.

    Wouldn't it just be easier to have flash installed on your iPhone or other device so you could play it right from the page? This is why I built http://iwantflash.com I mainly want flash on my iPhone and other products so I don't have to go use a work around to get content that a developer or designer has selected. Flash has been everywhere for a long time, its going to be more places, HTML5 is not going to kill Flash as it doesn't do everything flash does.

    Just as a side note Flash is the reason why there is so much video encoded in h.264 if Flash had not become dominate in the web video space we would still be fighting with .wmv, .mov, real and all of the rest. Adobe wanted to use standards so that is why h.264 is so popular today.

  22. Hi and thanks … it'd be more useful and more accessible to have a alternate link right on this page. Perhaps there is if I weren't using clicktoflash which blocks flash in a different manner than one who simply doesn't have it installed or javascript turned on.

  23. @Edwin, I actually develop more with JS and CSS than I do with flash. I am working on a few apps for my Palm Pre so I know the amazing stuff that can be done. However it is much more difficult to do things with Javascript like animations and buttons than it is to do with flash. The tooling for creating graphics and vector animations with webkit, CSS3 and JS are just not there yet. I am willing to be the first company that produces mainstream tooling for this will be Adobe however.

    I don't think it is a direct replacement for flash as flash does a lot more than what JS and the rest do. There is also the issue with security, there is an advantage of flash which is compiled code that is much more difficult to take and reuse rather than CSS3 and JS which is available to anyone with view source. Yes I know their are flash de-compilers but its a much higher bar than taking js and css code.

  24. Mr. Scoble — how about a link to the audio/video file itself? I know for certain the media did not originate in Flash! Yet this page only allows me to view your interview (maybe it's something else! i can't see it) if I allow the Flash plugin to run.

    Come on mate, embrace openness and accessibility by adding a link to the actual audio or video file too. I get that Flash delivery of audio or video is an affordance but it's not the end.

    You made my gallery: http://www.flickr.com/groups/annoying-flash/

  25. In the end, both Google and Apple want Flash dead. There’s a simple reason for this: In order to use Flash, you need a Flash client, and the only people who can write one for you are the good people at Adobe. Imagine Google or Apple implementing a new OS and phone, then have to wait until Adobe figures it’s time for them to create a Flash client for it.

    Right now, both Google and Apple have every single line of code for their portable OS. That means, if there is a security issue, they can fix it. If they want to change the OS they can. However, if the Internet depends upon Flash, they both have a major piece of their OS not under their control.

    This is why Apple is so determined not to have Flash running on the iPhone. Apple already feels that Adobe treats them like a second class citizen. Adobe apps for Mac are usually done after, way after their PC counterparts. Adobe Flash for the Mac is still slower and more likely to crash than the Windows counterpart.

    Look at Apple’s Snow Leopard. All the applications that come with it are true 64 bit apps. However, in order for Safari to run Flash, Apple could either make Safari run in 32 bit mode, or force addins like Flash to run as a separate process. (Apple chose the latter course). Flash for the Mac is still a 32 bit app despite the fact that Apple had been telling all of their developers for years to write 64bit clean apps.

    Google feels the same way. Google needs a completely standardized HTML and JavaScript to guarantee their web based applications will run on all systems.

    In the end, Flash will die and so will Silverlight. Five years ago, almost all web access was done via Windows or Mac using one of four browsers. Since the iPhone, the number of web platforms has multiplied. It is impossible for Adobe to be able to give absolute attention to building high quality Flash clients for all those platforms. One of those platforms will be the unlucky red headed step-child and be the last to receive updates. It will be the last to get bug fixes. And, no one wants to take the chance that someone at Adobe will appoint their platform as Flash’s red headed step child.

  26. The other side of this Google + HTML5 + YouTube is killing Firefox for its lack of H.264 video support. Firefox has said they won't be supporting H.264 due to licensing / patent. This means Firefox users could potentially be locked out of YouTube and other video sites using HTML5 video.

    Further that shows that Google is not too interested in saving Flash?

  27. Let's just assume that all of these companies are looking out for their own best interests and IF that happens to coincide with buzz words like open standards and better for the user then of course they'll play up those points. I don't believe Google will have an interest in saving flash. With 100 million iPhone/Pad/Touch web devices and many more added each day not using flash, well, that's a lot of people/adverts that Google doesn't want to lose. If they were to support and PUSH flash and they're successful and flash continues to be ubequitous on the web, then lots of companies will have to build bespoke apps for the Apple's iOS (you heard it here first) to compensate for the loss of eyeballs to their web sites and products. This is the worst of all possible worlds for Google because Apple controls those apps far better than it controls the web. Although they own AdMob, the fact is that Apple can now build quattro support into their SDK and push the whole ad scene on these 100 million+ devices towards the Apple search initiative and away from Google. Exactly what Google doesn't want and what's Adobe got to offer Google? So Google supporting Flash on Android (for expediency sake and to slow Apple's growth), probably, but Google trying to save flash? I don't see it.

  28. I wish I could comment on the audio included above. But I'm reading on my iPhone, and all I see are blue Legos…

  29. Sorry, Scooby. I don't see Google taking Flash very seriously, and you should KNOW why. It cuts into Search, which is like, you know 1/2 of their business model. Basically, Uncle Steve just “Future Punked” a buncha folks out of a job. Some, deservedly so:

    http://mindtaker.blogspot.com/2010/01/ipad-y-be

    Adobe has a 60 day window to prove they're still relevant. Then the iPad goes on sale.

    -Drunken Economist
    http://mindtaker.blogspot.com/
    http://twitter.com/drunk_economist

  30. Adobe is already in the process of reinventing flash: flash as the developer platform, not flash as the runtime. They are releasing a developer tool which will generate iphone/ipad apps from flash source. They know that they can no longer sell flash on basis of the runtime available everywhere.

  31. I didn’t listen to the audio as my Flash-blocker fortunately stopped it loading… Robert, please don’t contribute to my computer slowing down, and browser ultimately crashing, by making use of Flash. Adobe have had years to fix Flash on OS X and they haven’t. Adobe, we’ve moved on. Robert, you can too.

  32. Flash still isn’t available for 64-bit IE on Windows 7. If Adobe can’t even get that right, what hope is there for a mobile version?

  33. Not really. You can install HTML5 web apps on your home screen *right now* without going through the app store, and Apple won't lift a finger to stop you.

    1. First of all, none of these web apps hold a candle to native apps, including Google’s latest iteration of Google Voice. Local storage and a canvas tag do not a native application experience make. Second of all, I was specifically talking about whether Apple would implement things like WebGL, which are necessary for an HTML5 app to produce an experience comparable to a good Flash app or iPhone native app. Lastly, I’m not sure why most HTML5 proponents don’t think Apple is serious about the App Store business model. Flash can be used to make an app that is indistinguishable from an iPhone native app, so Flash is not allowed in the browser, but it is allowed in the app store. Same thing for .NET – there are already hundreds of games written in Mono in the app store. Do you think Apple will make Mobile Safari good enough that it makes the App Store obsolete? Do you think that they can sell a tablet at cost (parts + overhead) and do so? The real story here is the triumph of the game console business model.

    2. not yet, because it doesn’t affect their bottom line at the moment. Let’s see what happens if HTML5 becomes a real alternative to Flash – if ever. Apple is too greedy to allow the App store revenues to be compromised.
      Anyone who believes that Adobe blocks Flash in order to further open web standards is delusional.

  34. Luke. With all due respect, you seem to be missing the point: it is not about apple. It is about the web. The future of mobile development is the web and because of the progress made in HTML5, the incremental value of flash is rapidly trending towards zero and there is nothing adobe can do about this in the long run unless they re-invent themselves.

  35. There are two contradictory arguments being made against Flash, one is that you don't need Flash because native apps can do everything Flash can, the other is that you don't need Flash because HTML5 web apps can do everything Flash can. Apple's refusal to allow Flash has to do with the fact that native application experiences on the iPhone/iPod/iPad can only be delivered through the App Store. The App Store is the key issue here. Flash, Java, .NET, and a number of other technologies can already or will soon be usable to create iPhone apps that Apple will allow as long as they're restricted to delivery via the App Store. It's seems very unlikely that Apple will destroy their business model in order to support HTML5. It's more likely that Mobile Safari will not fully implement HTML5 with Video and WebGL and the like if by doing so, it became possible to deliver a native application experience dynamically via the web. Flash for video is a non-issue, Hulu could create an iPhone app that preserved their DRM if they wanted to, they don't need Flash for that, although it's not clear that the app would be approved because it duplicates functionality present in iTunes. Flash is not allowed on the iPhone because of everything it does other than video, Flash is mainly used for the two things are counter to Apple's business – either high quality native application experiences particularly for games and for rich media web advertising.

    1. We don’t need Flash because it’s pure crap! That’s all.
      It’s not needed anymore because of HTML5 and Apple is PUSHING HTML5 the same way it has been pushing H264 all these years. For the same reasons. And you know what? It’s a winning path!

  36. lol
    hate to read opinions from apple's fanatics, they always sucks Job's balls hardly, just like this Brett Noonedquisit or John Gruber’s Daring Firebal…just read hist post about the iPad, its like “my iphone…”, “my PowerBook and stuff *__*” , worthless and untrustful point of view =/ so wast of time

  37. How many people browse the web on a mobile device that's not made by Apple? I see a few friends with Android phones that do. Few of my friends with Pre, WinMo or Blackberry phones do much on the web. I'm sure that will change. I don't care for Flash on my desktop machine, so why would I want it on my iPhone? Silverlight seems to be a bit more stable but I can do without it. While using my iPhone this past year I never once said to myself, “Man, this would be a better experience in Flash”.

  38. Interesting conversation. I think that Luke (like Adobe) is under estimating what can be built these days using webkit, html, css, javascript. I am not sure I agree with his point that Apple wants everyone to learn objective C: Apple has been continuously pushing the limits of mobile safari, improving the performance of Javascript, hardware accelerated transitions and transformations, full screen support, etc…If you look at the progress made during the last two years and project that another 2 years, it is easy to see that one will soon be able to write Tweetie/Facebook level apps in pure web and run it on iphone, ipad, palm and android devices (and that the native stuff will at that point be limited to high end games or medical type applications).

    Someone wrote today: if there are potholes on the road, you want to focus on fixing the road and not adding better suspensions to cars. That is what Apple, Google and Mozilla are doing.

    But Luke is probably right in that Flash is solving some sort term browser compatibility in the non-mobile space and that if they improve their performance they can probably extend that end of life period for 5+years and may be re-invent themselves in someway.

    1. Good comment!
      What % of Flash usage do you think is really solving browser compatibility issues vs pure eye candy?

    2. Sorry there are no designer tools for javascript+svg+canvas, so I don’t see these 3 replacing Flash anytime soon since Flash have such great tools for designers, animators, etc. OK Flash currently have some problems (performance, stability on non-windows systems), but in general it is very good web platform for all sorts of animations and games.

      If 10.1 will be as good as Adobe says, then it should survive and evolve even more. Don’t forget that Adobe started to open source whole thing, and there are works for decoupling ActionScript from Flash runtime, which will bring more languages into flash VM.

  39. Sorry, only listened to about half of the audio. To me his arguments don't matter. What Google or Adobe do doesn't either. The fact is, Flash will NOT be ubiquitous. A developer/company can't count on it being there anymore (if they ever really could).
    The new Adobe 10.1 thingy may get Flash-developed apps on mobile devices but I'm betting they pail in comparison to native apps – Time will tell.

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