The drama surrounding Apple's refusal to support Flash on the iPhone and iPod (and soon, iPad) has been long and acrimonious. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has made a series of caustic comments about Flash and its corporate developers, calling Adobe "lazy" and Flash a "CPU hog." Now, however, a Flash developer has weighed in with an alternate - and intriguingly simple - explanation for the banishment of Flash: namely, the lack of a mouse pointer on a touchscreen.
Morgan Adams, an interactive content developer, wrote a note to Dan Dilger, who has been doing a series of video blogs on his RoughlyDrafted site debunking what he calls the "ten myths of Apple's iPad," such as "It’s just a big iPod touch," and "It needs cameras." Adams wrote in response to his myth #2: "it needs Flash." Dilger redid his videoblog on that point, incorporating what this Flash developer had to say.
His argument was this: beyond all the complaints about speed and security, there is one fatal flaw with Flash on the iPhone's touchscreen: Flash animations need a mouse pointer - and an interface that can distinguish between hovering and actual clicking - to function normally. Hulu's Flash player is held up as an example of the difference: hovering the mouse pointer of the bottom of the screen brings up the controller, while clicking is for pause/resume.
The practical rejoinder is that workarounds could be created for touchscreen Flash players, but Adams details numerous such solutions and finds them all wanting.
- "every Flash app on every site is re-thought by its designers and re-coded by its programmers (if they’re even still available), just for touchscreens:" either removing mouseovers altogether, or making "touchscreen/non-touchscreen" versions of each bit of content, and Adams safely predicts that is not going to happen
- "Gestures, finger gymnastics or extra physical buttons are created that simulate mouseover:" which Adams dismisses as "absurd" and a violation of good user interface design
- "requiring a double-tap or two-finger tap before anything is registered:" confusing, and doesn't allow for movement: dragging vs. a moving mouseover.
- "have a visible mouse pointer near your finger, and not interact with things directly:" again, confusing, requiring the user to distinguish between "direct touch mode" or “drag the arrow” mode on different parts of the screen
- "Require extra force for a “real” tap:" Adams calls this option "non-intuitive, cramp-inducing, and easy for the user to get wrong."
So after all is said and done, even more than being a drain on the iPad's battery or CPU intense (which Adobe admits it is), Flash may be just too much of a deviation from what they've come to expect from a touch interface to be usable even if it were reworked for touchscreens. Users would no longer know what to expect when all the rules are suddenly changed on one part of the screen. And as Adams [ame="http://forums.appleinsider.com/showpost.php?p=1574343&postcount=58"]noted on AppleInsider's forum[/ame], people "would hate that broken promise much more than they hate gaps in pages, missing banner ads, and the need to download a game once from the App Store instead of re-downloading it every time they visit a Flash game page."
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2xrAAhAsDw&feature=player_embedded]YouTube - Ten Myths of Apple's iPad: 2. It needs Flash[/ame]