Views from Phanfare CEO and Co-founder Andrew Erlichson

Link Apple is doing what Microsoft never managed to: Kill Flash

The engineering community is no great fan of Adobe Flash. We use it because we have to, not because we want to. Most Flash apps are written by people with a softer set of skills and a greater sense of aesthetics. Real engineers don’t want to program in Flash. So any effort to kill it is generally supported by serious engineers. But we are pragmatists.

Microsoft worked hard to kill Flash by introducing Silverlight, an alternative to Flash on the web. The problem with that attack vector is that it offered nothing compelling to developers, serious engineering types or softer design types. Flash worked on the web and the installed base was there. Hence, if you needed to get some video or animation working on your website, you went where the installed base was, and that was Flash, as Adobe would happily tell you.

Then Apple came in with an entirely new platform, in a form factor (iphone) that is not particularly well suited to Flash. Through simple starvation they kept Flash from becoming important to that platform. You don’t hear engineers complaining too much about Apple not allowing or supporting Flash, because you see, we hate it anyway.

And now, we all know where this story ends. Flash is dead. The new battleground is mobile, Apple is the king and Flash is not on the platform. Developers are writing apps directly for the device in “real” programming languages with serious development tools that were not designed by wolves, and the world moves on.

Make no mistake, Flash will die. Phanfare is a pretty good example. To make our web albums work on the iPad, we need to move to HTML5. And we will, first for video, and someday for the Flash slideshows we show. And then we will have one code base that works across mobile and desktop OS.

All this reminds me that you rarely ever beat the incumbent winner at his own game. Microsoft could not beat Adobe within the desktop browser. Apple moved the field of battle. They created an entirely new platform with new devices that was so compelling that consumers flocked to it. And on that new battlefield, they slaughtered Adobe’s Flash.

Lot’s of folks have a problem with Apple’s heavy handed refusal to allow Flash on their devices. My view is that it’s good business for them and a sound technological choice. The marketplace has spoken. 85MM devices sold, none of them run Flash and the sun continues to rise.

It was a significantly greater effort that Apple put forth with mobile than Microsoft ever did with Silverlight. To be sure, killing Flash was incidental to that effort – collateral damage! But the world does not care. As to whether Apple can really legally prevent an engineer from writing in Flash and compiling through Objective C is a legal question. But don’t worry, engineers don’t want to.

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  • Nate

    Great perspective from someone who has skin in the game.

  • enrolled agent course

    Yeah, I remember hearing a LOT of flack from people for Apple's iPad not coming equipped with Flash. But people mistakenly assumed it was an oversight on Apple's part, rather than an intentional move. Nice article.

  • Karsten Seiferlin

    Very interesting comment, and also well written. Worth to read! I am looking forward to see the new Phanfare on the iPad.

  • johndowdell

    “And now, we all know where this story ends. Flash is dead. The new battleground is mobile, Apple is the king and Flash is not on the platform.”

    I'll bet you a sixpack of Anchor Steam that in three years you come to refute those words. ;-)

    (“The mobile platform” is much bigger than Apple's brand… that's where they've got you snookered.)


  • erlichson

    We'll see. 85MM devices and 180,000+ apps is a pretty good lead. the
    consumers go where the apps are and the developers go where the consumers
    are. But of course you know that story; it's the reason why Flash was so
    hard to supplant on the web, even given all its shortcomings.

    Also, in the 3 years since the iPhone debuted, nobody has even managed to
    create a device that is as polished.

    Nothing is forever. When Apple stops innovating and Android catches up,
    there is a reasonable chance that the multiple hardware vendor approach will
    make headway, but in the near term, it does not seem likely.

    Given how inhospitable Apple is to Adobe's efforts, the company should focus
    on Android and do something truly amazing there. By improving the user
    experienceon Android, Adobe could impact Android adoption.

  • landseo

    Thank you this nice post

  • rlieving

    What is the timeline for iPad-ready Phanfare?

    I want to get an iPad for my step-mother, so I went down to the Apple Store to give Phanfare a whirl. The main site looked small, but good. But the absence of slide shows was a total bust.

    Personally, I would prefer the reverse of your plans. Work on slideshows first, finish up with movies. Since Phanfare is a photo-oriented site, this would make sense. And I know that my relatives would rather watch a slide show than a long, unedited movie.

    I'm sure you know what takes up the most bandwidth and what the users are looking at, but I vote for photos first. Anyone else with me?

  • erlichson

    slideshows is a bigger project and video is already done and in QA..sorry!

    It's going to be awhile before there are enough iPads out there to justify the slideshow rewrite.

  • rlieving

    You may have just delayed (or killed) an iPad purchase. But I understand.

    What about giving users an option to use the iPhone formatted website? A larger version of that would be preferable to the smallish pictures I saw at the Apple store.

  • erlichson

    sounds interesting but probably won't happen soon. Mobile safari is good at
    zooming in. Slideshow needs to be entirely recoded in HTML 5 to work on the
    iPad. It's not a small project and it works now!

  • Kermit262

    I just bought a 64GB iPad for my wife. Now are there enough iPads to justify the slideshow rewrite? :)

    Can't wait to have Phanfare optimized for the iPad. I love your service.

  • erlichson

    we will do it but I can't give you a definite date as of yet.

  • Skosche3

    Appreciated the article. It gave me the other side of the story that I haven't heard since Apple doesn't really elaborate too much on why they don't support flash other than battery performance issues. Hope most move on soon and embrace HTML5 so that devices like the iPhone won't be crippled with flash based sites. Glad to hear Phanfare is headed in the right direction.

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