Will Mobile Devices Make Flash Stronger?

Yesterday I was playing Flash games with my 5 year old on our Ubuntu desktop. As you may know, Flash support on Linux is dismal. Specifically I was using the Adobe plugin on Firefox 3.6 in Ubuntu 9.10 with a powerful NVIDIA GeForce 9600-series graphics card and a speedy Intel Core2 Duo. We played games on flonga.com.

Here are some of the problems that made games unplayable:

  • Gets stuck in a loop on the splash screen
  • Annoying flicker
  • Buttons don’t work (e.g. clicking “Play” does nothing)
  • CPU usage was intense and game was slow

The problems seemed to crop up somewhat related to UI complexity, but I get the feeling that many of the problems are due to poor programming and a poor Flash implementation for Linux.

If these problems exist on powerful desktop hardware on Linux, I can only imagine the challenges of implementing Flash on Android or OSX mobile devices which have processors of 1 GHz or less and run on the equivalent of two AA batteries.

Recently I formed the opinion that mobile devices would kill flash Flash as Steve Jobs is pushing for. But playing the games made me realize that Flash on mobile could make Flash stronger!

See, I stayed away from any game that was unplayable. With a high number of users making the same choices, Flash developers and Adobe will adapt or die. Flash developers will avoid unnecessary UI complexity and slow animations. Adobe will re-factor slow code. Flash on mobile could make Flash stronger!

We’ve already seen that Adobe is chomping at the bit to get Flash on mobile devices; they’ve added interfaces for reading mobile-device-specific hardware such as accelerometers and GPSs.

Keep an eye out, especially as Mobile Flash rolls out to Android devices in the next few months.