Galaxy Tab Flash Support Shows Flash Sucks?
An interesting development in the world of technology may be inadvertently playing out with the release of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet computer.
When 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.