Flash on the Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone

Photo from Apple

Apple iPhoneHow about a Flash game?

Yesterday, while the world saw the launch of Nexus One, the perception that Apple’s iPhone is one of the most sought for and a part of the Wishlist for a lot of gadget lovers, did not change for many.

Since its inception, the iPhone has always found ways to impress users around the globe, be it through its exquisite touch screen experience or the simple fact that it graced the stables of Apple. Although iPhone stands out as the mother of all smart-phones with suave looks and flashy functionalities, users always had this qualm that it did not support the very essential Adobe Flash.

Flash player, more often than not plays a substantial role in a lot of websites, it being one of the most preferred platform to deploy animations, advertisements, games and other apps. However, Apple banned Flash player from being used in the iPhone citing performance as an issue and blocks any kind of runtime code to execute on the iPhone according to its SDK license terms.

This brings us to the fact as to what has changed now. Apple has finally given in to the relentless pursuit by Adobe and all it world wide users by allowing developers to build flash iPhone apps using the new Flash Professional CS5. This has seen the addition of a few new iPhone apps such as Just Letters, Finger Paint, Chroma Circuit, and many more into the Apple store developed using a private beta version of Flash Professional CS5.

Adobe Flash Player

Flash Professional CS5

  • Native apps: Although Apple has given the green signal for the development of flash apps for iPhone, it still restricts the use of an interpreter which is very much essential for loading the Shockwave Flash [SWF] files. For this very reason CS5 houses a Low Level Virtual Machine [LLVM] compiler to understand ActionScript 3 which in turn generates a native ARM assembly code which is run as a native iPhone app and does not include any runtime interpreted code.
  • Ease of Use: Although Xcode, Apple’s premier development environment offers a powerful platform for creating interactive contents, it is very complex in nature whereas Flash is a very easier and widely accepted platform for doing the same. Along with this CS5 also allows Flash developers to export files across various platforms with ease definitely adds to the features bandwagon.

Having said all this Adobe had to shed some features such as Embedded HTML content, Pixel Bender, to name few, from flash due to the fact that Apple did not provide access to most of it public API’s and also because of the amount of work involved in building a platform adhering to all the constraints specified in the SDK license terms.

Concerns

  • Performance: Probably the biggest concern of the Flash apps on iPhone would be its performance. Even though these are early days it is necessary foresee issues that may crop up with regards to caching, distorted animations or even the footprint of the apps that are being developed.
  • Support for iPhone features: The apps that maybe developed using Flash would not support some of the iPhone features such as Camera, Maps, Contacts, Photos in the File System and a few others which adds to the downsides along with the fact that there is no room to accommodate a webkit to embed any kind of web content into the apps.

Also this comes in the backdrop of a survey conducted by Society of Digital Agencies [SoDA] regarding the most sought after skill set in Digital Marketing, and Flash and ActionScript skills take the honors as the most in demand skill set for this market as opposed to other some big players such as iPhone SDK, AJAX, ASP.net and many more.

The Apple Store has served as a huge money making portal for developers who can earn hundreds of dollars independently by getting their apps on to the Store. Flash developers were never bestowed with such opportunities as a result of a limited market for Flash apps. Nevertheless this surely comes as great news to all the Flash developers looking for new avenues to exercise their skills and add to the huge portfolio of apps that reside on Apple Store and make some bucks for themselves.

It is clear by now that these workarounds by Adobe and relented approval by Apple are leading to something big. Surely Adobe wants to improve its hold on the Web world and Apple definitely wants to be the next big name in every market technology has to offer. Having said that this is clearly not how Adobe had planned on getting access to the Web content on Apple iPhone’s mobile browser Safari. Apple still wouldn’t allow flash content to run on the iPhone citing sluggish performance as the reason, although Adobe have staked a claim that Flash 10.1 is a slick performer which will fully support Apple iPhone’s competitors in the smart-phones arena.