Galaxy Tab Flash Support Shows Flash Sucks?

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An interesting development in the world of technology may be inadvertently playing out with the release of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet computer.

adobe-flash-ball-and-chainWhen Apple released the iPad to much fanfare in early 2010, one of the big things people noticed was that the device did not support Adobe’s Flash. Flash has become a widespread presence on the web for providing, among other things, video, multimedia, and games with cross-platform support. In reality, Flash isn’t so much cross-platform as it is an extra piece of software that people on multiple operating systems have gotten used to installing in order to allow Flash content to play.

The catch is that Flash is actually a bloated, pig dog, piece of junk that consumes computing resources like a ravenous piranha after a hunger strike. Savvy computer users, and those who manage their computing resources, often disable Flash in one way or another so that they can enable it on a case by case basis in order to keep it from chewing up tons of memory and processor bandwidth.

In addition, for some reason, Adobe is very bad at software development. Pretty much everyone of its products is the poster child for examples of what you can’t run on lower end hardware. For something like Photoshop with its CPU intensive functionality and numerous features, this makes sense, but one can’t help but wonder if a better software developer might make even the benchmark Photoshop suite less bloated and hungry.

Even worse, is that Flash is not only bloated, but it is buggy and prone to crashing. Mozilla grew so tired of being blamed for Adobe Flash crashing its Firefox web browser that it isolated Flash to running in a separate process so that when it died, it did not take the browser down with it. Fire up your favorite process explorer and you’ll see “plugin-container.exe” as a sub-process of Firefox. Make no mistake, despite the generic title, it’s there because of Flash.

Google realized that Flash was such a liability for its Chrome browser that it took over development from Adobe by providing built-in Flash support instead of using an Adobe plugin. Google did it again by building in a PDF reader inside of Chrome too.

On the surface it sounds like Flash is so important that it should be a default part of browser functionality, but the reality is that in taking it out of the hands of Adobe, Google can fix problems with Flash faster and, just like Mozilla, keep those issues from taking out the browser.

Since isolating Flash in this way, the errors one gets from Chrome have gone from just a common, “Whoa, something went wrong,” general error to the most common error being that the Shockwave plugin (the thing that runs Flash) has crashed and been disabled.

Apple Calls Out Flash

Apple could have done something similar, but chose instead to just call a pig a pig and said that it would not support Flash on the iPad or the iPhone because it sucks resources (drains the battery) and is unstable. Basically, Steve Jobs and Apple said that they aren’t going to put something that is bad software on their systems just because “everyone uses it.”

The lack of Flash support was supposed to be the Achilles Heel for the iPad and iPhone. Google quickly moved to embrace Flash, albeit by making isolating it and trying to make it work better, although it did so just as a way to fight Apple. Google was actually a big supporter of Flash alternatives before Apple’s move.

So, when Samsung made a new tablet computer to compete with Apple’s iPad, the go-to play in the book was to support Flash, which it did.

Ironically, reviews from all over the Internet don’t praise the Galaxy Tab’s Flash support so much as they note that it is buggy, doesn’t work half the time, and when it does work, slows down the browser, and drains the battery faster, just like Apple said it did. The guys at Engadget even said that they didn’t really need Flash all that much and that they eventually “disabled it to speed up browsing.” Ouch. So much for a killer app.

One wonders if up in the ivory tower that Flash executives sit in pooh-poohing security concerns and stability problems are taking notice and rushing to fix their ubiquitous, but unreliable problem child, or if they are seriously that deluded that they continue to believe nothing is wrong.

Either way, what was supposed to be the chink in Apple’s armor is beginning to look like commitment to responsible computing, stability, and proper resource usage. In other words, Apple is starting to look like the company that knows what users want and need, and Adobe is starting to look like the company with its head in the sand. If Adobe can’t get a better client out there, for mobile devices at the least, its Flash development environment and Shockwave plugin’s days are numbered.

Updates: Found a couple of related articles recently while researching a related topic. One of these is from before the latest update, but even the latest version of mobile Flash isn’t collecting rave reviews.

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15 thoughts on “Galaxy Tab Flash Support Shows Flash Sucks?”

  1. Alex says:

    1. You call Flash “bloated.” The same content distributed through HTML and Javascript is bigger. Flash content is compressed. Most HTML and JS applications are not. Flash is much faster at rendering vector graphics than JS, especially on mobiles, and distributing vector graphics is obviously takes less space than passing down bitmap animations. Flash content also typically relies on much less information being passed between client and server. Many HTML based web applications pass large amounts of generated HTML down from the server. Obviously there are ways around this, but the reality is what it is.

    2. Flash outperforms HTML5 + JS in most applications, especially on mobile. http://www.craftymind.com/guimark3/ JS performance on mobiles has been horrible so far, though Apple made huge progress in iOS5. One point that should be clarified – people who say that Flash content eats into battery life on mobiles are correct – it does. The missing part of that analysis is that if all of this content was currently rendered in JS and HTML, we’d be much worse off. The problem isn’t that Flash is the inferior technology, it’s that there is a huge amount of content out there that isn’t designed for mobiles.

    3. You’ve misunderstood Google’s work with Flash. Google has created an entirely new plugin API called the Pepper Plugin API that they intend to be a replacement for Netscape plugins in general. Among their stated reasons are that the NPAPI is lacking in both security and performance. As part of their implementation of their new plugin API (PPAPI), they are making their own version of Flash to work with it.

    4. In my experience, Flash applications crash in one of two general scenarios – A)the Flash application developer wrote bad code. B) Flash makes use of a multimedia service on the machine (video card usually) that causes a problem. The first problem happens in all languages and generally becomes more common as the applications become more complex. The second problem is also not unique to Flash. Anyone who has lived in the world of computers for any length of time can tell stories about difficulties with getting games or video players to work right, the need for updating drivers, etc. Essentially, when you introduce multimedia, you begin to access the aspects of our computers that vary the most from one machine to the next. I have not seen any evidence to suggest that Flash crashes on more systems than any other significant piece of MM software. Personally, I’ve never had a Flash application that I’ve written crash for any reason other than my own mistakes in writing the code. By all means, if you have written code that shows otherwise, please share it.

    When it comes down to it, developers should choose the right tool for the job. There are still many cases where Flash is preferable to HTML+JS. And there are of course things which Flash should not be used for.

    Btw, here are a few demonstrations of what the latest Flash can do:

    Unreal Engine 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQiUP2Hd60Y
    Square Enix game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHLjQKjk6Dg
    An MMO in development: http://www.mmorpg.ca/sherwoodalpha.html

    1. WGHubris says:

      Alex, it isn’t the content that is bloated, it is Flash itself. We are talking about tiny, nothing, little animations — usually in ads — that use up stunning amounts of CPU and RAM. I am perfectly willing to accept high resource usage for high-level functionality or display, but open any performance monitor you wish and watch what happens when you load three webpages with nothing but small little Flash ads. It takes up more RAM than full-scale applications running on your computer.

      I don’t know about the background, but I do know two things:
      1) The ONLY reason I EVER see for a Chrome crash is that the Shockwave plugin or other Flash resource has crashed. Crappy HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax, etc… may all affect my machine, but they don’t take down the browser.
      2) Both Google and Firefox isolate Flash for exactly this reason.
      3) Flash drains your battery like there is a whole in the bottom and the electricity is running out. I can run a full media player with an HD movie and use less battery than a small Flash animation uses up.

      I get that Flash can be used for a lot of things. I also get why DEVELOPERS like Flash. End users hate having their computers bogged down without a real good reason and mobile users hate having their batteries depleted. It isn’t just me. You’ll see no one out there defending Flash except Flash developers. That is like the only people saying the Dodge Dart is a good car are the people who make the Dodge Dart. It isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

      It seems that developers like writing flash, but users don’t like using Flash.

  2. Ryan says:

    In my experience as a Flash developer — I mostly work on interactive content like games/books/etc — Flash is a great solution. Not all devices are good at running Flash, but interestingly enough, the Galaxy Tab does it quite well. I find it funny that some folks talk negatively about Flash but don’t have any direct experience using it to develop applications. Furthermore, being that it’s vector based, there are many other ways to employ Flash technology that the average user is unaware of. Like, say, scaling animation up and printing to 35mm film for cinema. In any case, I don’t believe Flash will be phased out any time soon. It may be dying on the mobile browser front, but there is still a lot of room for growth when it comes to apps and desktop implementation.

    1. WGHubris says:

      Ryan, I am sure that from the developer side Flash is a very usable product, which is why it is so commonly used. I am not speaking negatively to the development experience, but rather to the fact that it is hugely resource intensive for what it provides. In my experience, many Adobe products are bloated. Acrobat Reader, for example, requires a run at start up, always on service in order to be able to start in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time. The truth is that Adobe has had many years to try and further optimize Flash but seems to be either unable or unwilling to commit the necessary effort. Either way, even if the Tab does run Flash, doing so sucks the battery dry in a fraction of the time as not using it and bogs down the rest of the system to a crawl.

      I have run Chrome for months at a time without seeing a single error or crash EXCEPT for those caused by Flash. Flash continues to exist because there is no other acceptable cross platform development option. When there is, (HTML 5 is promising it) Flash is dead because no one will be willing to accept its flaws anymore.

  3. jonathan says:

    what haters…..life on the web is all about flash… the people that dont have it or cant get it will always talk crap….flash is crap ok tell that to the consumer…dont hate on something that is great for the web

    1. WGHubris says:

      Flash is bloated and crash-prone. That doesn’t mean it isn’t widely used.

  4. J says:

    I think Adobe Flash is buggy, slow and generally awful. I am buying a Galaxy Tab soon and am a fan of Android but I will be disabling Flash in the browser, that is if it makes browsing laggy (which I expect it will)

  5. WFP says:

    I was actually looking for a quality review…. it seems as if you don’t even have a Galaxy Tab, and your co-signing off initial impressions of other review sites on a release O/S.

    While you speak alot of truth concerning the matter, the point is this…. Galaxy Tab has Flash… IPAD doesn’t… I will never buy a IPAD… Why? Because I need video streaming on the go… it’s the only reason why I would bother to invest in it. If someone else doesn’t need that… then fine.

    With the latest patch they have dramatically improved the Flash implementation, perhaps you should try it out. Does it pull on the battery life? Yes, but this should be expected, and thats the reason you bring your charger, or download the videos onto the media card for a hard copy.

    My point at the end of the day is that it does its job….

    1. WGHubris says:

      I haven’t seen the update yet. It will be interesting to see if Adobe has finally put some actual effort into making its product less resource hungry and more stable.

      I don’t have any tablet. I tried some, but the fatal flaw for me is that they don’t have a keyboard. I don’t need video on the go, but I do need to type.

      “Does its job,” is kind of a loose criteria. If it makes your tablet too sluggish to use, is it doing its job? If it drains your battery so fast you can’t get your tasks done, is it doing its job? My point is not that Flash doesn’t work or that it can’t be made to work, but that maybe it is not a GOOD solution and that what is supposed to be a selling point for a lot of electronics might actually just be making Apple’s point instead.

  6. Steve Smith says:

    I just wanted to say that, in my opinion the millions of us who are addicted to Flash-based games on Facebook pretty much guarantee it’s survival. It would be awesome if Adobe made necessary improvements but as it is currently I put up with it to play CityVille and my wife plays CafeWorld. I added two GB of RAM and I have a decent video card (GeForce 5800), and I have a three-year old Athlon dual-core processor. When we play those games, the computer’s two fans get really loud and it is quite annoying. I still like Flash though. I suggest joecartoon.com or homestarrunner.com for irreverent, funny Flash cartoons. Ok, peace.

    1. WGHubris says:

      Steve,
      The ONLY reason that everyone has not abandoned Flash by running screaming for the hills is the millions of Flash game addicts and the millions of Flash ads addicts (see also Google). Flash is junk and everyone knows it, there just isn’t anything better yet. It seems that Adobe’s strategy is to just sit back and enjoy its current pseudo-monopoly instead of improving its platform. That is a mistake and it will cost the company its position one day, but for now, the choice is to drop Flash (Apple) or put up with an unstable resource hogging platform (everyone else).

  7. Dred Sheppard says:

    I agree that Adobe flash for Android is buggy and should be developed more for mobile devices, seeing how it is a commonplace on the web. But I do have a problem with your approach. At least companies like Google and hardware manufactures like HTC and Samsung are making the effort to make web browsing more enjoyable UNLIKE Apple who takes the approach of limit and control. This is why Microsoft is the blueprint for computing and NOT Apple. Not a big fan of Microsoft either but they at least know how to at least make the attempt. Your review of Adobe Flash is more of an Apple praise than an actual call to fix Adobe Flash. Most of the customer base I deal with have bought iPads and returned them because they DIDN’T support Flash rather than this big picture of customer satisfaction that you paint. As far as Adobe being a system hog, that is true but does that really matter on a system with 4gb of memory and a dual or quad-core processor. That was the point of phasing out single core processors except for low end netbooks and Flash plays well on those because they were designed to single processes like MSOffice OR web browsing. I thought this was supposed to be about problems with Adobe Flash and not an Apple fanboy praise. You sound like an employee of Steve Jobs rather than objective reviewer. I for one think that Apple will eventually develop mobile Flash support BECAUSE it is the standard for the web browsing experience. But then again, Apple has ALWAYS been stubborn when it comes to software development outside of Apple headquarters. Sorry iPad users but Apple has decided what you want instead of YOU wanting what you want. You talked about Apple giving people what they want but if that was ACTUALLY the case, then you wouldn’t even have a Galaxy Tab because your beloved iPad would have Flash, which is what the people want. But again, just like Apple, Great idea (iPad), but stubborn about control and freedom of development. Not using this as a forum but there are developers by the truckloads that have probably already developed Flash support for the iPad but any app or plugin created with iOS SDK 4 goes to Apple for approval and guess what? Never approved because it is NOT about what the consumer whats, it about what Apple wants.

    1. WGHubris says:

      I don’t own a single Apple device (actually, I still have my iPod Mini) and am not praising how they do things. However, Adobe Flash is a TERRIBLE resource hog and while a quad core processor and its huge heat sync might be fine for a desktop computer, that is a complete non-starter on portable devices that require batteries. Read the review that I linked to and you’ll see where they used Flash for a while, then turned it off in order to save battery power and prevent the device from getting sluggish. It isn’t just a little bloated, it is awful.

      To prove it to yourself (or anyone else) open up Firefox with a no Flash plugin running. Open your 10 favorite websites and use Process Explorer (or Task Manager, if you must) to see how much memory and processor is being used by Firefox. Now, turn off the plugin blocking Flash and re-open those same 10 websites. How much is in use now? Double? Triple? Quadruple?!?!

      By the way, every major browser now isolates Flash because it causes so many bugs and crashes and the developers are tired of being blamed for Adobe’s software problems.

      In other words, while I don’t think Steve Jobs is right about a lot of things, I do think he is right about one thing. Adobe Flash is not good software and it causes more trouble than it is worth. If Adobe ever cares to streamline and stabilize their product, I bet Apple would be willing to include it.

      1. Chris says:

        WGHubris, Maybe you’ll understand one day that Flash applications… are applications. If you have an application running in your web browser, ofcourse you’re going to have more resources taken compared to static html documents being displayed. You think web browsers can do such a thing without plugins or going into some future technology that is barely supported?

        You’re just an uninformed idiot. Not you’re fault, but you are loud.

        1. WGHubris says:

          I don’t think name calling is necessary. Nonetheless, I do understand that Flash applications are applications. What I do not understand is the amount of resources that they take up compared to what they do. It is my view that Flash is unnecessarily bloated and that it comes from a long line of very bloated apps from Adobe. See also Adobe Acrobat Reader and plugins.

          Maybe you’ll understand one day that applications can be well written and optimized or they can be poorly written and bloated.

          Thanks for your comment.

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