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The real reason your iPhone will NEVER get Flash

Oh, for crying out loud. If I read one more blog post about why Flash doesn’t work on an iPod / iPad / iPhone I’m going to scream. I bit my lip when the “because the swf format is not open source” comments started. I rolled my eyes when the “it’s because they hate each other” nonsense took hold. Same with the processor hogging / battery life debate. And now I’ve just read a post that argues the fact that roll-over states can’t be implemented on a touch screen as the main reason. The fact that every App on the App store seems to get on fine without a roll-over state and a simple change in approach to flash design would solve it, seems to be too much of a mountain to climb. [Update] Seems Mike Chambers is with me too. Flash designers (myself included at times) have the same attitude to Accessibility, I.e. I would have to change, so it’s not worth it. Each arguement has a valid point some extent but all in all, they are (in my opinion) just pointless finger waving compared to the main issue.

As is customary at this point, on this subject, I seem to have to declare my allegiances. Yes I develop Flash and have for years. But I also have experience publishing iPhone apps and the inner workings of the iPhone development (and deployment) world. I’ve also been coding since 1982. I was there before flash and the iPhone and I’ll be there after no doubt. I’ve seen many things come and go and have a job in a digital agency where I get involved in the inner workings of the business models of certain platforms and content strategies. I like my iPhone, I like Flash, I like Adobe, I like Apple.

Right, that’s that out of the way. What’s my point? The App store model is the ONLY point. So 3 billion Apps have been download, of which an estimated $75million goes to Apple EACH MONTH. That’s profit btw. They didn’t develop the Apps, they don’t have to support the Apps, Apple simply take their 30% of the App revenue to cover ‘making it happen’.

If you want to play a game on the iPhone, you download the App.

If you want to play a game on a PC / Mac, you go to Miniclip or similar and play a Flash game. The ad-funded or Advergame model may not be perfect but it does seem to, just about, keep the internet free.

In fact, if you want to do many things on your PC / Mac, you will probably find a Flash or Java ‘something’ for it. Quite literally… “there’s a free App for that”.

Now imagine what would happen to that juicy $75million a month if you just went to a full screen Flash App on a website using Safari. Yep, you wouldn’t pay a thing for a game again.

Apple innovated with music downloads when others were struggling to come up with a model. With the App Store, Apple have also managed to get people to pay for low-level content too. Something not achieved before. Of course they wouldn’t want to allow Flash to punch big, leaky holes in their ever-so-tight monopoly for extending the iPhone’s functionality. I can’t EVER see a point where Apple will let this change unless all Flash content is preceded with an ‘pay now’ popup or micro-payment system or, heaven forbid, Adobe pays a hefty fee each month ($75million?) to offset Apple’s loss in profit.

So it’s not about handbags at dawn, it’s not about something as trivial as a rollover state, it’s (unsurprisingly) about guarding a business model that makes more in a month than most companies make in their lifetime.

I do love the blurring of the edges however. Those ‘screw you’ moments like Gordon, completely written in iPhone-browser-friendly javascript that allows simple Flash to be played in the Safari browser. I also like Adobe’s own (rather cobbled together) functionality in the upcoming Adobe Creative Suite 5 to allow Flash to be compiled directly as an iPhone App. For Flash developers, Apple has turned itself into the cliché vision of King Kong, swatting off the annoying advances of desperate attackers determined to find a weakness, and exploit it. Will they succeed? I hope so. Will Apple’s clean, tidy walled-garden get scruffy and diluted? Probably. Will Flash content be on your iPhone any time soon? No.