Our Thoughts on Flash vs the iPad
You may have heard that Apple’s latest device, the iPad, will not support the Adobe Flash Plugin. This news was greeted with cheers from some, jeers from others.
Let’s look at what the Flash Plugin actually does, and some reasons why Apple chose not to include it on their device.
Flash is the primary delivery platform for web video right now. Youtube, Hulu, Dailymotion, Vimeo, Amazon and countless news and sports sites. The reason is simple, with 99% penetration across browsers you can be fairly certain that you can deploy one video and most of your users will be able to view it. Flash Streaming Server provides a powerful back end for heavy streaming sites and the Flash player itself allows a lot of flexibility on how your video content is played. You can overlay information such as captions and hotspots, protect your content with DRM, and trigger actions at the end of the video.
So how can I be sure iPad users can see my video content? The best solution at the current time is to encode your videos in H.264 (MPEG-4). Both Flash and the iPad can play back H.264 video. You can create a dedicated app for the iPad or let the Quicktime Player handle the videos.
Before Flash was the standard in video delivery, it was the standard for interactive user experiences on the web. How can iPad users interact with my cool site developed in Flash? At the moment, they can’t. Adobe is working on integrating iPhone/iPad export to the Flash development environment. This means that you will be able to save your Flash site as a native iPad app in the near future.
The problem comes when interactions designed around a mouse and keyboard interface are ported to a device without a mouse or keyboard. So while you can simply save your Flash application as an iPad app, considerations must be made to how the user interacts with the content. While the iPad loses the mouse pointer and keyboard, it adds motion sensors and gestures.
You probably know someone addicted to Farmville. You probably know someone addicted to Flight Control. Flash games are primarily supported by advertising. iPad games can be ad supported or be sold for an upfront cost on the app store. Games developed natively for the iPad will be able to take advantage of the unique features and 3D hardware of the iPad. Most Flash games already have an equivalent on the iPhone, but the best ones are original ideas designed with the iPhone in mind.
One of the main criticisms of Flash is that it is a resource hog. In a desktop environment, this isn’t much of an issue. With a mobile device CPU usage, and consequently battery life, are more pressing concerns. Bandwidth also becomes a concern with mobile devices. Your huge interactive Flash site built with a broadband connection in mind will not be much fun for a user to view over 3G or EDGE connection.
An empty Flash movie uses zero CPU resources. Good programming and optimization are necessary regardless of platform to ensure a smooth user experience. A poorly coded iPad app can consume just as many resources as a poorly coded Flash site.
If you can’t tell from all the other articles about the iPad, we are pretty excited about it here at Atomicdust. We love new technology and we love creating user experiences. We will use whatever technology best communicates your message to the widest range of customers possible. We will continue to create content that pushes the envelope of what’s possible on the web and beyond to mobile devices.
Taylor Dixson is a founding member of Atomicdust and has been creating motion graphics for over 10 years. Taylor has explored the boundaries and pushed the limits of animation and interaction on the web. He is also very handsome.