Flash or No Flash on the iPad: Does It Really Matter Anymore?

Rado Kotorov's picture
 By | June 01, 2011
June 01, 2011

Remember the battle between Apple and Adobe over Flash?  For many web developers, it seemed as though Steve Jobs had declared war on Flash right from the start.  Jobs claims that, in the long run, HTML5 will make Flash obsolete.  Yet even though HTML5 is not yet a viable substitute because it is still maturing (and won’t be fully mature until 2022, experts say), Flash is banned from Apple devices.

Apple’s position has angered many of its customers, for whom Flash-based web sites have remained inaccessible via iPhones and iPads.  With 75% of web sites having some Flash content, consumers have a right to be frustrated.

There are millions of web developers and brand managers who have invested in Flash content to enhance user experience.  Apple’s stance was perceived as an attempt to force Flash developers to learn new skills, abandon their favorite tools, and re-design content and applications their customers loved.

Kudos to Adobe who, instead of taking such a firm stance, made life easier for its developers.  What you develop matters, in what format you deploy it should not matter unless it is cost-prohibitive to maintain multiple formats.  In the past, the push for format standardization was motivated by the need for cost reduction and interoperability across devices. But these considerations may be diminishing thanks to new technologies for compiling content in multiple formats.

 Adobe recently introduced CS5.5, an incremental release for its popular web authoring tools.  Many analysts consider it more important than a major release, because it enables developers to build applications once, and then deploy them on any mobile platform.  They can build a Flash/Flex application and compile it as a native Apple or Android app, or as a mobile web app that can be delivered though the browser, but is compliant with the native app’s UI guidelines so it does not compromise the user experience.  Adobe’s strategy is to develop once and deploy anywhere, without extra effort.  

This is commendable, given that other operating systems for mobile phones and tablets, such as HP’s WebOS, RIM’s QNX, and Windows Mobile, are beginning to gain traction.  In the desktop world, we had three operating systems (MAC, Linux, Windows), and one of them had over 90 percent market share. But things may be different in the mobile and tablet space, if development tools make it easier to choose operating systems.

What Does This Mean for Business Intelligence (BI)?

Some vendors, like Information Builders, recognize the importance of Flash and Flex for building highly-branded external-facing applications that facilitate improved customer acquisition, retention, and value.  Such applications are frequently built in collaboration between the BI and web teams, leveraging both BI and web development tools.  That’s why we’ve built strong integrations with such tools, like Adobe Flex Builder.

As a result of the new developments in CS5.5, we expect that many of those applications will be re-compiled and deployed either as native or web apps, without the need for recoding.  This broadens deployment options for many organizations, allowing them to leverage existing BI assets, while reaching users on new devices.