Earlier this month was the tenth anniversary of my very first news article about mobile technology being published on the Web. That article, written on April 4, 2000, was about Flash technology being just around the corner for mobile devices. If that sounds familiar, its because ten years later, I’m still writing articles about Flash being just around the corner for us mobile users.
Flash was created as a way to bring advanced multimedia features to the Web. Many popular websites use it for navigation, and most streaming video services do too. Without it, these sites and services are inaccessible to smartphone users.
Last year, Adobe promised that Flash would be available for phones running Google’s Android and Palm’s webOS in the first half of this year. This week, the head of Adobe said that this will now happen in the second half of the year.
Hoping for Flash on my smartphone has started to feel like chasing a rainbow. It can seem tantalizingly close but it moves away every time I think I’m getting close to it.
To be honest, I truly expect Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen to tell us this fall that a mobile version of Flash will be out in early 2011. And then late 2011. And then 2012…
Just to be clear, I don’t think Adobe’s engineers on this project are dumb as rocks — they just have a nearly impossible challenge. Flash is a very complicated technology, and getting it to run well on the limited resources of a smartphone is very hard. It requires a fast processor and large amounts of RAM.
I suspect that what’s going to happen is that Adobe is going to have to wait for hardware to catch up to its software. Smartphones with 1 GHz processors are becoming increasingly common, and the amount of RAM has been creeping up. At some point, engineers are going to be able to end their fruitless efforts to get Flash to run well on a 400 MHz processor with 128 MB of RAM, and release a version for phones running 1.6 GHz processors with 1 GB of RAM.
Of course, it’s possible that by the time that happens, HTML5 will make the entire process moot. This emerging standard will do most of what Flash can do, hopefully with less resources.