Flash support on all ARM Cortex A8, A9 devices

Posted by Charbax – April 29, 2010

Up until last year, I didn't like the business model around Adobe Flash at all. My theory was that Flash was basically used by Microsoft, Apple and Intel to block mass adoption of open source Linux and embedded Linux operating systems as there was no good enough Flash support on open source computers and embedded devices.

On the other hand, and as I am not a developer with access to Adobe's source code so I can't really know how hard it is for them to optimize their proprietary source code, perhaps Flash isn't as bloated as I thought, but that it really represents graphics intensive animations and embedding of videos which actually are really hard to process using multi-purpose processors and which really perform much better once it can be made to use the latest hardware acceleration.

Check out my video filmed with Adobe Flash products manager Richard Galvan at Mobile World Congress 2010 demonstrating Flash support on the ARM Cortex A8 based Nexus One and Motorola Droid as well as a very interesting demonstration of the controversial Creative Suite 5 authoring software suite on which Adobe is demonstrating the infamous "Export to iPhone" option, where developers can input any Flash application based on ActionScript3 and output it in the iPhone applications format. Thus develop once and output all hardware platforms.

The big talk right now on Techmeme is the funny war going on where Apple doesn't want to support the Flash format on the ARM Cortex A8 based iphone, ipod touch and ipad. Even though technically, Flash certainly could work on those devices. It's probably just a question of a few megabytes of plug-in code that would have to be installed with the Safari browser on those devices.

My guess? Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer are angry at Adobe's Open Screen Project. Up until last year, Microsoft and Apple had the exclusive platforms to have hardware accelerated Flash support on X86. Nobody else could get full Flash support, especially as Flash 9 fragmented into ActionScript3 based Flash projects which more and more displayed either not at all on Open Source OSes or displayed really badly, without hardware acceleration. My guess also is that Microsoft's attempt with releasing Silverlight may also be a provocation against Adobe which pushed them further to optimize Flash for embedded Linux and thus support Flash everywhere else than Microsoft/Apple/Intel.

My point? To some degree, one of the main reasons Linux hasn't yet caught on for mass market mass consumer adoption on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones has so far been the lack of decent Flash support. Sure, there are many many other factors. But Flash support was an important problem that up until recently released Ubuntu 10.4, hardware acceleration of Flash wasn't even available for Linux!!

Of course I still wish Adobe would bluntly just announce that they will open-source Flash and licence it out for free (they can still release proprietary authoring tools that they can sell for lots of money to developers). And for sure, I am a proponent of HTML5, Ogg Theora 2.0 (based on Google's On2 VP8 codec), for sure I can't wait to see Google's Native Client plugin for Browsers, Google's 3D plugin for Browsers (like the very impressive new Google Earth for Google Maps in the browser (not for Linux yet)).

For now, especially as I expect Flash support in Android and Chrome OS can be fully hardware accelerated, run smoothly and nicely as Adobe has been investing hundreds of full time engineers in optimizing this process over the last couple of years. As I don't expect any other aspects of Android and Chrome OS will feel any slower or any more bloated by adding Flash support. I don't think Apple's choice of excluding Flash is a good choice for their users.

What will happen? I think consumers will enjoy Flash support on Android, Chrome OS and other embedded Linux it also looks very impressive and nicely hardware accelerated in Ubuntu 10.4. If Apple persists in wanting to exclude the Flash plugin for non-technical reasons, consumers will likely buy Android and Chrome OS devices instead. In any ways, competition is good and in the coming months, it will be very interesting for me to film demonstrations of Android Tablets, Phones and Laptops with hopefully full and smooth Flash support.