Adobe Flash Comeback

October 26, 2010
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Adobe’s Flash is making a comeback despite the petulance of Apple’s Steve Jobs. Adobe is rising because of AIR and Flash. Can you imagine such a turnaround? 9 months after being pilloried unmercifully [and unjustifiably] by Mr. America Innovates, Adobe’s Flash is staging a huge comeback. One can see it in the many design-wins in the hot markets for smartphones and tablets created by Steve Jobs. Android, RIM, and all the other major smartphone and tablet players are embracing Flash because it gives them a compelling competitive advantage against Apple. Steve’s iDevices appeared to be in an insurmountable lead with nearly 300,000 apps for their iPhone and 30,000 geared for the iPad.  But Steve has been wrong on several fronts regarding Flash:
1)First Apple appears to be primarily responsible for poor Flash performance in Mac OS X and iOS systems. Late delivery by Apple  of 64bit and GPU accelerator APIs to Adobe are part of the problem. But as this link shows, Apple software developers have not been able,on identically the same hardware, to deliver nearly the same video and Flash graphics performance that Microsoft has delivered in Windows.  And the announcement that RIM is incorporating Flash and AIR as a key part of its Playbook’ tablet, underlines the performance and reliability complaints by Steve Jobs as being badly misplaced.
2)By ignoring Flash, Apple  has given to its competitor hundreds of thousands of nearly instant-on apps. And so Android, RIM and other mobile developers are turning to Flash for  all of the reason cited here.
3)By Jobs  saying that Flash and AIR lacked  multi-touch, offline  and multi-media capabilities and then have Adobe turn on a dime and deliver those in Adobe AIR 2.5 and Flash, the question of timely delivery of state of the  art UI features in Flash is eliminated.
4)Jobs has been trying to avoid what the market is demanding – cross platform app development.
Steve banned not only Flash but also Java. These ostensibly did not meet Apple’s high development standards. But in fact, Apple is trying to establish a Windows-like development strangle-hold on the mobile  and tablet markets with proprietary development methods and tools. But organizations and developers, confronted with the prospect of having to develop as many 4-9 versions of the same basic application are looking for cross platform and highly interoperable tools. Flash+Air is the leading software in this Rich Anywhere Interface Application-RAIA  development tool market.

Adobe AIR – the best cross platform RAIA -Rich Anywhere Interface App tool?

The net result is that aspiring smartphone and tablet vendors are flocking to Flash. And the results for Android based smartphones has been spectacular as Android phones from Motorola, HTC, Samsung and others have collectively run up a smartphone market share larger than Apples iPhone.
Consider reason (4) as one of the most compelling in favor of Adobe. Organizations and developers are already behind the 8-ball in keeping up with existing organizational apps. And now they are being told to innovate and deliver new apps as well. But innovation on the client side means   having to  maintain a number of  very  different versions  of  the same applications. Thus, cross platform apps that work on mobile, smartphone , tablets, and desktops are again a developer’s  holy grail. And Adobe Flash+AIR  is one of the better tools for delivering high functionality and speedy apps that run on the major mobile OS as well as Linux, Mac OS/X  and Windows. Adobe AIR also  adds online and offline operation to the mix.

The only other cross  platform tool  that has better speed and near comparable functionality is Oracle’s Java. After a long hiatus, Oracle has just announced ambitious plans to release Java 7 in 2011 and Java 8 in 2012 that will add stronger JavaFX, JavaScript, and Java Swing cross UI framework support plus much more vigorous  support for mobile and tablet platforms.  But as you can see from the commentary at JavaWorld blog, there is some skepticism that Oracle will be able to deliver on these ambitious goals.  The other Scripting tools such as Pearl, Ruby, Python, Curl and others  lack a)performance speed; b)a wide array of development tools; and/or c) a large development community.

HTML5, which has been anointed by Steve Jobs as his cross platform tool of choice, is wracked by two major problems. First, there is little agreement in  standards definitions for the vital multi-touch operations, offline operation, and Web database sub-projects. In addition, the current browsers are quite fragmented in their support of HTML5. No browser scores better than 66% complete on the current HTML5 standards.Even the new Microsoft IE9 barely passes a third of the HTML5 tests.

So Adobe through AIR+Flash is finally supplying some support for its very high PE ratio, currently at 34. Whether this cross platform and open commitment permeates the Adobe product line-up is still an open question. In the past 3-5 years Adobe has become notably ingrown and proprietary in its graphics products. The Dreamweaver product has started to turn the corner with its CS5 version now supporting  mobile development, more JavaScript UI frameworks other than its own Spry tools, and has yet again added trickles of more support for PHP [but still missing an online debugger plus no drag and drop PHP UI form  layout].

So with Flash+AIR, Adobe jumps back into the lead on RAIA-Rich Anywhere Interface Applications. But this market race has been so volatile its hard to predict a winner. Who would have thought that Microsoft, with its huge Windows base, would stick defiantly to a highly  proprietary codebase and all but miss the markets turn to mobile+tablets? So Adobe is making a big comeback; but for how long is still in the AIR.

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