Flash should be considered an Application Platform, not just a plug-in

Flash Platform

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.



Matt Giger

I agree wholeheartedly with your well thought out article. As an applications developer for about 20 years I was skeptical about the ability of Flash but with AS3, I have been able to do almost anything I wanted to.

Take a look at: http://www.earthbrowser.com/media/ebtest/

With the advent of AIR, Flash can now break out of the browser sandbox and become a real platform for development that abstracts away the particulars of file system, input and rendering for a truly write once/run everywhere platform.

Carlos Nazareno

It is.

In fact it should compete directly with DirectX and SDL.

Flash is now one of the largest and widespread of cross-development platforms today.

Runs on Macs, Linux & Windows.

Chris Rebstock

Jobs already said that the reason that there is no Flash on the iPhone is that the current versions do not fit the iPhone. Flash Mobile is too weak and Desktop Flash is too resource intensive. He said that he believes a new version is required for the iPhone. I agree with him.

The iPhone is a unique platform, and Adobe prides itself on supporting all types of environments and platforms with flash, so they need to work with Apple. To a lot of people it seems as if Jobs is being unreasonable, but its not really relevant. The iPhone is Apple’s platform, so for Adobe to get Flash support on it (which is good for Apple, Adobe, Developers and End Users), they must meet Apple’s requirements.

Joseph Labrecque

I’m really glad that people other than us Flash devs are beginning to realize this. Over the past two years, Flash as a platform has gained a ton of respect. Just 5 years ago so many people had reservations about doing anything other than animation or tutorials in Flash. Things are truly coming around in AS3. Great times!


I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. That we need to start seeing the Flash Player as a platform? If that’s the case, Adobe (Macromedia at the time) already started calling it the Flash Platform with the release of Flash Player 6.


Flash is not a web standard. It needs to be a web standard before it can become a platform of any kind, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Chuck Freedman » Archives » A theory on Apple’s future and our computing future

[…] There was a lot of chatter form Mac loyalists over the past week when Apple announced little news on improved Macbooks in favor of more iPod and iTunes player products. It seemed those Macbook owners of 2 years or more, that are seeing their laptops begin to fall apart (good looking, poorly built) are wanting better built and better performing computers. I’m starting to think that Apple followers are more fans of the OS than the hardware — but as long as Apple continues to control their own hardware (this is great for them and their users for many reasons), the only way to get their OS is through their systems. […]

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