Well, with Gruber as well. First, go read Andy's review of the Blackberry Playbook and the LG G-Slate. Andy is one of the best writers going today, period. Not just "in the tech pundit world". It's typical Andy, scrupulously fair, balanced, detailed, yet readable by normal humans. Now, go read Gruber's take on Andy's article. John is an excellent writer, and in time, he'll be Andy-Excellent.
The thing is I disagree with both of their arguments with regard to Flash. Andy writes:
But I think Apple’s completely wrong about Flash. I’ve been watching Conan and Colbert all week long on the PlayBook and the G-Slate; Flash video works perfectly fine. The framerate could be described as “slideshow-esque” until the local buffer fills up, but after no more than thirty seconds, I’m watching an hour of smooth, sound-synced video.
What does Flash video playback do to the battery? It drains down about as much as you’d expect when you play streamed, compressed video for an hour. On both devices, I can watch a couple of hours of video and still have most of the charge left.
Is the Flash plugin stable? Why, my friends, it’s just as stable as the desktop Flash player.
(Yes, thank you; I thought we’d all enjoy a good laugh together. Sorry if you were drinking something when you read that.)
The plugin does crash the mobile browser sometimes. But it rarely happens in the middle of playback and it doesn’t happen frequently enough for any regular desktop Flash user to raise an eyebrow. Hell, I’ve had to restart my desktop browser just while writing this very column.
Yup, Mobile Flash is imperfect. Gaming in particular is a real problem: Adobe hasn’t figured out how to translate the ubiquitous “a mouse pointer is hovering over something but isn’t clicking it” user-interface to a touchscreen device.
But Flash video plays a damned-sight better on the PlayBook and the G-Slate than it does on the iPad. It’s as simple as this: I can watch last night’s “Conan” and “The Colbert Report” and last week’s “The Amazing Race” on these tablets without any problems. On the iPad, I can’t. I like those shows. I therefore see this as a drawback of my iPad.
This article appeared on 22 April, 2011. Allowing for lead time, we'll say Andy probably wrote it 4-5 days earlier. (That's a guess btw, I don't actually know. But I"m probably not too far off.) So saying he started writing it after the 12th of April wouldn't be complete idiocy. That date's important, because exactly one year earlier, Adobe released Flash 10.1. You remember that version? Would bring the full, uncompromised Flash experience to mobiles? Yeah, that one.
Yet, it is not until the 19th of April 2011 that the Playbook is released. It is not until late March of 2011 that the G-Slate is released, and they aren't running Flash 10.1, they are running Flash 10.2. It's taken a year, a major revision of Flash, and in the case of the playbook, two years of dedicated work by Adobe to get this working right. That means they started work on that plugin in two-thousand-bloody-nine That doesn't sound like a plugin you can just add into your shipping OS build and be done with it, that sounds like an extremely finicky bit of work that will have to be hand-tuned for every device and OS version on said device if you want it to work right. Keep in mind the iPhone came out in 2007, during the halcyon days of Flash 8 and 9. So here we are, in 2011.
A year and a version after the release of the version Adobe announced would be the version that would work so well on mobiles, that you'd not notice a difference. Note, it still isn't seamless, because if you have actual interactive Flash elements, well, those have to be recoded for touch interfaces. So as long as you define Flash as "Watching video and maybe something else, but not too often yet", then Flash performs as good or bad as it does on the desktop. In Flash 10.2. Released almost a year after the version that Adobe swore would really be the version that would work seamlessly with mobiles, no speed or battery issues. Honest. No foolin'. Okay, sorry, we meant 10.2. See, on two devices, it works right. Oh, and most interactive content won't work right until it's recoded for your device.
I am shocked, shocked that Apple hasn't run over a fucking moose to put that code on iOS devices. Andy, I love you, but seriously man, you're actually surprised that Apple isn't yet supporting Flash? After all, it only took until 2011 for a version that we can verify plays video correctly. Can't imagine why they wouldn't have included it prior to now.
(We'll leave the rampant, continuous XP-level security problems with Flash for another time. But yeah, that's a problem too.)
However, I also disagree with Gruber. He writes:
But down this path, we’d never get rid of Flash. The baseline experience for online video would forever remain crashy, lesser-quality, less-power-efficient, insecure, and in the total control of a single company — Adobe — that has shown itself to be incapable of addressing any of these problems.
He's making the same mistake Adobe does, for different reasons. Flash is not just video. It is, when properly used, (and spare me the crying about that. I can point at just as many shitacularly coded HTML5 sites as you can Flash sites. Someone unable to use a technology correctly doesn't make it a bad technology. I just makes them bad implementors of said tech), a fantastic way to create interactive websites that will run in a reasonably reliable, predictable way. I have seen Flash-based sites that the Flash team should be very proud of. They aren't just playing video. Gruber, along with the Dowdellians, is taking an amazingly rich, powerful toolset and reducing it to nothing more than a way to cut a hole in a web page and play a file.
That's stupid. But that's what he's doing there, and that's what the Flash team is doing as well, and both are wrong. I think, I firmly believe, based on evidence, that the days of needing a plugin to play video are going away. Period. Plan for it. Dunno exactly when, but it's happening. For either side to keep treating Flash like it's naught but Quicktime Player, (the non-pro sucky version) is to show the major problem Flash really has:
Few people understand just what you can do with it.
So yeah. I don't think Apple's wrong for excluding Flash up 'til now, although i do hope they regularly revisit that solution, and as soon as including flash becomes painless, or relatively so from an installation and security standpoint, they change their stance to reflect the revised data. And, I think that both the Dowdellians and the Gruberites need to stop defining Flash as naught but a way to play video.
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