Sunday, January 31, 2010

Be wary of the flash evangelists!

It's a little odd writing this topic as the first post on my new game development blog, but considering the flash developers are being extremely vocal and once again spreading misinformation or conveniently ignoring facts I thought I would clear some things up.

Ted Patrick (Adobe's platform evangelist) has been throwing out links and slamming Apple everywhere you look ever since Steve Jobs showed the world the iPad and that it didn't run Flash. It's obviously not going to stop anytime soon either considering this is what Adobe pays him for, but it turns out that much of the content he's linking to is not only bias (which I could obviously understand and would not hold against him) but blatant misinformation.

An example? Today he posted this on Twitter: "Dear Apple, 1984 Called, They Want Their Video Back":

So I decided to read through the link to hear the argument. To your average reader it might seem like a semi-decent post built on facts, but if you analyze what is being said you can see right away that it is yet another "I didn't do my homework and/or decided to ignore the facts and now I want to rant in favour of my platform" posting.

Unfortunately the author of the blog chose not to approve my comment as the real facts would weaken her position. I realized why my comment was not going to be approved after clicking on "About Me":

"I am a Group Manager, Developer Relations for Adobe"

So let's walk through it here. The article states:

"Pushing as much content through the App Store as possible is great business for Apple; and honestly, I don’t blame them for wanting to build their App Store into a massive (and massively profitable) content juggernaut. It’s far friendlier to their margins than the hardware business, even with their premium pricing, so why not go for a platform play?"

Now I could understand stating a point like this if it were true, but it is horrendously false. The AppStore operates just above break even and gives Apple no meaningful revenue/profit in the foreseeable future. This is public information that is easily gained by listening to the quarterly investor relations conference call by Apple where it has been mentioned numerous times. Considering Apple streams the call live on their site as well as archives it for later listening there is absolutely no reason that anyone on the Internet could not obtain this information.

The AppStore merely exists as a support infrastructure for Apple's hardware that they are interested in selling at margins that retain profitability. So not only is claiming that the AppStore is massively profitable completely wrong; but claiming that the margins are higher than their hardware business borders insanity.

Next she states:

"Where I take exception — and developers should too — is with Apple’s “my way or the highway” approach to development. Adobe’s Flash is a very high-profile victim of this approach right now, but we’re not the first nor are we the only one."

Again she is completely ignoring the technologies and software that is not built the "Apple way" but is available on the AppStore. Novell has MonoTouch which is a .Net implementation allowing C# development on the iPhone. The game engine Unity embeds the Mono runtime to allow for C# development for games on the iPhone. Various other game engines embed LUA and use AOT compiling to run on the iPhone. Apple could have knocked off any one of these technologies or products but instead allows them. Flash can run on the iPhone without a problem just like the rest of these technologies as long as it is compiled to an IPA. So when the author is complaining about Flash it is really "her way or the highway" as she needs it in the browser and not how every other technology is implemented on the platform as an IPA.

But why no Flash browser plugin? First of all people need to understand that the most frequent causes of a crash in Mac OS X (as per the crash reports) was the Adobe Flash plugin, and this was announced at WWDC (you can read more about it here: Not only has it been rife with bugs causing performance and stability issues over the years, but it has also turned into the new security worry with new vulnerabilities added quarterly and sometimes monthly. This is not only on Mac OS but also on the Windows platform. The worry is no longer what browser you are running, but what plugins have security issues.

On a consumer device or mobile device this is absolutely horrendous as you can't even control the security of your own device! If there are security issues people are not going to look to Adobe but they will be calling the Apple support lines as the average consumer doesn't understand this. I have no idea how other vendors are not considering this fact, although many of them seem to be grasping at straws and wanting to take any "competitive advantage" they can get.

She goes on to state that her 10 year old niece won't be able to play WebKinz and she won't want to play any other games. Although she forgets to mention the fact that as of Flash CS5 Adobe will allow retargeting to IPA, and therefore Ganz could very easily compile a native application and supply it as a free download. Any flash developer will be able to do this and are therefore not restricted from the platform.

So far what we've seen is a very vocal minority hitting the blogs and trying to incite your average consumer into demanding having the flash player on their platform. The fact is that the majority of consumers don't really care at all otherwise the iPhone wouldn't be such a hit (Consumers vote with their wallet not on blogs). Content providers are slowly switching over to HTML5/JS open standards (such as YouTube, Vimeo, and many others) and as long as Apple devices keep selling, more companies will have to offer sites based on open standards due to the growing percentage of people unable to view their content.

Considering these are two Adobe employees spreading misinformation like this do we even have reason to trust them at all? What do they lose if HTML5/JS were to take the place of Flash? Adobe would likely retarget Flash to supporting the HTML5/SVG/JS spec and so you would still get the great content creation tools they are known for. Although they would no longer control the platform which weakens their position immensely.

Disclaimer: I do not hold shares of either AAPL or ADBE. I do not work for either Apple or Adobe. I have no invested interest in either HTML5 or Flash.