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Flash? Go on…

Much tweetage today over the announcement of Flash for iPhone. Not as a browser plug-in, which Apple still refuses (and which would be desirable for the many Flash-dependent pages out there), but as a cross-compiler solution: take a Flash project, hit export, get an iPhone app.

Fine in theory. In fact, kind of neat. But what’s the point? I had a torrid session of tweetage with friends, my main point being that the most typical use of Flash is in enhancing web pages, and there’s not much value bringing a fragment of a web page over as a stand-alone iPhone app. The number of cases where you spend a significant amount of time directly interacting with Flash is pretty low and, Mad Men Yourself notwithstanding, most of them are games (which the iPhone already has a glut of). I hoped to leave things with this:

In summary: Flash offers 2 things browsers don’t have: graphics-rich runtime and media. Cocoa Touch lacks neither.

I’m not trying to make the case that Cocoa Touch and Objective-C is better than Flash and ActionScript, I just don’t see how this solves anyone’s real problems. [Cynical aside: except for Adobe’s need to sell more Flash CS Professional licenses]. It’s impressive from a technological point of view, but is there really that much Flash code that’s going to be viable and valuable as stand-alone iPhone applications?

Actually, there was one more tweet I held back from sending, because I didn’t want the debate to get nasty. Since nobody reads this blog, I’ll post it here:

Meanest thing I could say about Flash-for-iPhone: “That sounds like something Sun would do.”

Comment (1)

  1. Ha! You thought no one was reading…

    Don’t think about Flash/web sites/annoying ads. Instead, think AIR apps like BBC iPlayer, or even Flash-based games. Those can all be built into standalone applications based on AIR 2.0. If you have already made the commitment to Flex 3 or 4 and AIR 2.0, an iPhone app becomes another deployment environment.

    And now you have a true cross-platform environment that Java can only hope to achieve. Build your app in Flash CS5, and export it as an iPhone app, or a desktop AIR app. Eventually you will be able to use Flex Builder to write a Flex app and cross-compile it to this iPhone layer or an AIR app.

    Want even more craziness? The Eclipse e4 project has a Flex version of the SWT in progress, so you could take your SWT application, cross-compile to AS3, and then cross-compile that to the iPhone.

    Using LLVM to cross-compile to ARM is a stroke of genius. Sun is so fixated on bytecode interpretation that it probably didn’t occur to them to do it first. And, without Flash’s static linking it’s completely impractical to do it in Java anyway.

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