Stop asking yourself when Flash will be on the iPhone. Apple’s winning strategy has been to CONTROL everything about their products, from the hardware it’s built on to the software it operates and runs. For as long as Apple controls the pieces of the device, they have complete accountability for its performance and functionality. It’s really not evil. Their success goes from quality to business with a similar practice. Through iTunes, Apple figured out how to make money not just on selling you the hardware, but using the hardware as a simple conduit to selling you the media. The iPhone represents a similar model. Sell you the hardware and then exclusively control the software you can put on it, software that can only be purchased through a store that Apple controls.
[It’s not just Apple, rather any manufacturer of a closed system. Try writing a game for the Wii or Playstation. You’ve got to go through the owners of those respective closed systems to get your software out. However, for the purposes of Flash, I’m focusing on the mobile device.]
Now, if Flash were simply a plug-in, then Apple would have no issue loading it on the iPhone. The fact is, Flash is really an application platform, capable of opening up any system it runs on to any skilled developer. Once opened, the developer can present a full range of content, games and functionality (limited to the hardware capabilities, i.e. microphone/speaker/touchscreen/etc) through the application. What’s more, Flash content accessed through a web site is freely distributable — meaning there’s little way to restrict who can access what.
I’m happy to see that Techcrunch, who recently and boldly called for an affordable Web tablet, has included the requirement of Flash to be part of the device. They clearly understand that Flash opens the door for the developer to provide the user with anything they could possibly want to access online (or locally on the device, should the tablet sun AIR), including music, video, written content, photos, games, productivity tools, map and location tools, and yes, a robust communications suite including phone call and voicemail ability.
My recent contact with the Chumby has further taught me that Flash, acting as the application platform that it is, can sustain a device with more than enough content – not too mention create the ideal environment for hundreds of developers, designers or animators (as Chumby calls them) to build fun, portable apps/widgets for everyone.
I could easily make this a technical argument, breaking down the specs of Flash; The fact that it has one of the most mature OOP languages in ActionScript 3; The fact that Flash universally accesses more native features of most devices than any other runtime of its kind; The fact that it’s distribution rivals that of any other single software entity.
Of course, I’ll be much happier when a single version of flash dominates across all devices, as opposed to present-day, weaker mobile variations. Between Apple’s lockout of Flash on the iPhone, Techcrunch’s inclusion of it on their tablet and the tens-of-thousands of developers pushing swf-based content and functionality over the web, Flash is truly an Application Platform and not just a plug-in.