On Flash Web Applications

Macworld‘s latest issue included an article on HTML5. While I like most of the article, one paragraph is simply absurd. Here it is, in all its lunacy:

[Apple’s] business incentive to protect its App Store ecosystem is strong. After all, Flash creates rich Web applications that could threaten App Store sales if developers marketed their apps independently. Today, Apple gets 30 percent of every paid app, game, magazine, and purchase from its store—a hefty chunk of cash derived in part from its Flash ban.

Yeah, right.

Let’s look at it step-by-step:

  1. Apple has said it only breaks even on the App Store, due to maintenance costs such as bandwidth and administration. This may not be strictly true, but we do know for sure that the App Store’s main profit for Apple comes from its promotion of iOS devices. In other words, Apple makes money from the Store because people buy iPhones. If Flash could really compete with the App Store, as Macworld idiotically claims, it would increase iPhone sales greatly. The benefit for Apple would far outweigh the loss.
  2. How many people would really switch from the App Store to Flash web apps? Many seem to have forgotten that, back in 2007, Apple heavily promoted web apps to appease users asking for native apps. This completely failed to catch on, in drastic contrast to the App Store’s later success. I know I wouldn’t switch from native apps to the browser-based ones, even if they were just as good, and what about people who aren’t geek-blog writers?
  3. As the article says, Apple gets a cut of every paid app’s sales. The developers take the majority. So if this shift occurred, and would hurt Apple, would it not hurt the developers far more? They’d go from making a handsome profit to giving away their products. Why? Because they’re philosophically opposed to the “closed” nature of the App Store? Not likely.
  4. Even if Flash could create “rich web applications” (hint: Flash apps suck), how would it run on an iPhone, especially an older one? A Flash application as rich as a native one would be more complex than almost anything on the web today, and plenty of Flash apps on the web today suffer from huge performance issues. Could Flash really equal the stable, robust code of a native app?
  5. How many great developers would start making these apps? Those who work in Flash today are generally not the passionate, hardworking developers that filled the iPhone with great applications. Would these developers, comfortable in the App Store, go ecstatic when Flash becomes available and immediately start making iOS Flash apps? Would they ever? Probably not.

I’m not sure of Apple’s true reasons for keeping Flash off the iPhone. I think they believe, absolutely correctly, that it’s bad for the web and is on the way out. However, they probably have some reasons as a business for taking such a strong stance. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that their reasons are not what Macworld suggested.


2 comments on “On Flash Web Applications

  1. 1. Exactly. But Objective-C is actually pretty easy (and really awesome); it’s the iOS SDK that’s hard to get the hang of. You can’t really make a robust native app in another language.
    2. I could imagine, but it would make me sick.
    3. Lol, the WordPress app scr*wed up the title. It’s a good example of how not to make a native app.

  2. Three comments: 1: Imagine if Geeks Rule made a Flash app,
    and posted it on the website. Who would ever find it? Ten people?
    Twenty? Without the App Store, there’d be no way for developers to
    share their apps with ease. Now Apple could allow iPhone apps to be
    programmed with some different languages such as Java, maybe
    Python, etc. because Objective-C is REALLY hard to learn. Of
    course, something like Java might be too high-level, and make jail
    breaking and stuff like that too easy. 2: Can you imagine The
    Elements: A Visiual Exploration in Flash? HAH!!! 3: Um… What’s up
    with the name of this post? And Moth? lol

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