The State of Flash on Android

Every single social news site had seen a front-page story aboutWalt Mossberg laying the smackdown on the CEO ofAdobe regarding the state of Flash on Android. That it, as hasbeen very liberally interpreted, “Sucks”.

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Which is weird. This is the same Flash that, after “10,000,000 -50,000,000” downloads on the Android market has a current averagerating of 4.5 out of 5. The same one that in virtually every storyabout how much it sucks has endless comments by people who actuallyuse it commenting that it’s not perfect, but it’s nice to have andis actually pretty decent.

I halfheartedly defended Flash last year, and if anything thingshave only gotten much better. With 10.3 it is a pretty decentlittle solution given the confines of mobile phones. On theHoneycomb tablet it is just shy of magical.

But it’s weird. The people who are certain that Flash sucks onAndroid — who actually desperately hope that Flash mustsuck on Android — are the people who don’t use it. Without namingthe specific competitor, let’s just say that they’re in bed with acompany that made anti-Flash a war cry, so it’s pretty importantthat they stay on message about how much it must suck.

All just noise. Hardly surprisingly that Mossberg — a man whohas unfortunately lost any credibility outside of a particularecosystem — would carry forth that meme.

I don’t like Flash. I wish Flash would disappear and modern webapps would take its place. However in the world we have today,Flash on Android is a pretty decent halfway point to facilitate themigration.

A Word About Hardware Decoding

Many Android devices, including most HTC phones hostingSnapdragons processors, along with the nvidia Tegra 2, havemiserable hardware video decoding capabilities. If you feed itanything above baseline complexity profiles it has to spin off alot of the decoding to software (doubly so if you layer on DRM),making a bad situation even worse. Samsung’s processors have beenthe exception, as have TI’s OMAPs, and purportedly the upcomingTegra 3 will greatly improve the situation there. But if you havevideo decoding trouble today, and are running a Snapdragon or Tegra2, don’t blame the operating system or middleware like the browserof Flash: It’s probably your hardware.