Flash Is Dead! Long Live Flash! (Apple vs. Adobe on the iPad)

Apple changed its mind and will now allow Flash apps on iPads, iPhones and iPods. This comes soon after web designers declared Flash doomed and reverses Apple’s App Store banning of Flash-based Apps and refusal to support Flash on the iPad tablet. Pundits were expecting a creative exodus away from Flash to HTML5, but now Apple has given Flash a new lease on life. The drama left me wondering “What’s going on?”, “Is this Important?” and “What is Flash, anyway?”. My findings after the jump.

What’s Going On?

Apple and Adobe are in a Silicon Valley style pissing war.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayenare fighting for the hearts and minds of web designers worldwide. Steve Jobs is creating a “tempest in a teapot” over Flash apps vs. Flash Sites vs. HTML5 – all as an excuse for his successful attack on Adobe.

Update on Apple vs. Adobe:

Flash Apps on iDevices – Now: YES

Apple now allows programmers and web designers to make iPhone and iPad apps using Adobe Flash technologies.

Technical side: Flash apps can be complied to the .ipa file format that works on iOS.

Flash Sites on iDevices – Still: NO

Apple still doesn’t let Internet sites that use Adobe Flash and Flash Video work on iPhones and iPads.

Technical side: Adobe Flash Player still can’t run on iPad and iPhones, so no SWF files.

HTML5 – A Flash of Irony?

Apple embraces HTML5, the next incarnation of HTML, as its technology of choice for creating web apps that run on iPhones and iPads.

HTML5 is an open standard that will enable advanced graphics, video and data driven sites to work in all browsers (Safari, IE, Firefox and Chrome).

HTML5 competes with Flash because HTML5 enables interactivity and animations on web sites that are currently only possible with using Flash.

So What Is “Really” Going On?

Apple is deliberately causing problems for Adobe. Now Jobs is relenting a bit. It may be that Wall St. and the mainstream media is finally calling bullshit on him. Certainly, Apple’s justification for its attack on Adobe always seemed silly to open web advocates.

Steve Job’s “Open” Red Herring

Apple banning Flash technology from the iPad and iPhone the opposite of being “open”.

Jobs declared Apple an “open” company, embraced HTML5 as an industry standard for web interoperability, and an then arbitrarily shut down a competitors technology on his platform.

Apple said to developers: “We can tell you made this native iPhone app using Adobe tools, therefore your app won’t be approved for sale through the Apple Store” (sic).

App customers would have to jailbreak an iPhone to get a Flash-based app, which is not commercially viable.

Is This Important?

If your needless drama shackles are up, rest assured this is important…

Flash Powers the Social Game Universe

Flash is incredibility important to the social games craze sweeping social media. Flash is literally the engine powering the social games revolution.

Want to see Flash? Click into just about any casual and social game. When the game takes over your browser or a part of your Facebook page with big graphics, that’s Flash.

Facebook Allows Flash

Facebook sure allows Flash apps! And Facebook still dwarfs the iPhone in terms of the number of app developers they attracted.

AllFacebook’s Apps Showdown Infographic comparing Facebook vs. iPhone vs. Android shows Facebook has 2X as many apps but 23X the number of as the developers as the iPhone platform.

Facebook and Flash

Facebook succeeded in part because Facebook lets 3rd party developers use Flash, a tool many online game designers are comfortable with. As the first mover in the app platform space, Facebook took all comers. Apple is succeeding with apps despite the fact it forces developers to use their Apple technologies. The consumer success of iPods, iPhones and now iPads lets them make the rules, apparently.

What is Flash, Anyway?

“Flash” can mean many things to many people. Technically, Flash refers to 5 different areas of Adobe products. (Confusing, I know, but bear with me and I’ll them all together for the iPad below).

1. Flash Player

Flash Player is that ubiquitous browser plugin you need to download to view Flash content. Flash Player is what YouTube uses to play videos, and your browser launches Flash Player behind the scenes whenever you go to a web site with Flash.

Note: Adobe AIR is the desktop version of Flash Player (AIR apps don’t use a browser or need web access).

2. Flash CS5

Flash CS5 is the Flash Design/Development tool within Adobe Create Suite 5 (CS5). CS5 is a set of design tools for creating graphics, web animations and multimedia. Flash CS5 provides a primarily visual interface for creating Flash experiences.

Note: You may be familiar with other CS5 tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.

3. Flash Builder

Adobe Flash Builder is an Eclipse based IDE customized for building Flex applications. Flex is Adobe’s pre-built software framework for creating web and RIA applications.

Note: Flex uses both ActionScript and MXML. MXML is a unique, XML based style of coding.

4. ActionScript 3.0 (AS3)

ActionScript 3.0 is software language similar to JavaScript, sharing much of the same syntax, programming constructs, etc. ActionScript code can be programmed by hand or using tools like Flash CS5 and Flash Builder software.

Note: AS3 is compiled to a .as file then packaged into a .SWF file before being sent to your browser.

5. Flash Video

Flash Video is Adobe’s online video codec and server solution that allows you to stream high definition video online. When Hollywood studios say they “use Flash”, they mean they stream Flash Video.

Note: Apple’s Quick Time video codec directly competes with Adobe’s Flash video.

So How Does Flash Work on the iPad?

Flash CS5, Flash Builder and ActionScript 3.0 can all make iPad apps. This is because Flash apps boil down to AS3 code behind the scenes. AS3 code can be turned into software that works with Apple’s iOS. iOS is the operating system for iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches.

Flash Players and Flash video do not work on the iPad. Apple simply won’t allow Flash Players to installed on iPads, iPhones and iPods.

Apple now allows apps created using Flash tools / ActionScript to be compiled to code that works on its products.

Existing Flash design skills Flash applications can now be used to make money via Apple’s App Store.

Does the iPad need Flash?

Flash design tools make amazing animations very quickly. ActionScript 3.0 code takes these linear animations, and turn them into awesome interactive experiences like games and engaging web experiences.

The iPad needs Flash because millions of web designers worldwide use Flash right now. Those people would love to work on iPhone apps using the skill sets they are already using. Also, HTML5 requires heavy software coding, so asking designers to write code runds counter to Apple’s creative culture anyway.


Adobe and Apple’s drama started when Adobe released CS5 with the ability to compile Flash projects to iPad compatible software. Adobe marketed this “compile for iPhone” feature as the main selling point of its CS5 product release! Apple responded by outlawing compiled Flash applications in its developer terms. Now has relented on that challenge to Adobe.

I’ve heard that Jobs is settling an old score with Adobe, but I’m saving learning about that drama for a rainy day (feel free and “educate” me via comments).

In the meantime, its iPad users and Flash web designers who are the casualties of the battle between Adobe and Apple.