Flash and Java on the iPhone - Similar Problems, Similar Fate

by Aayush Arya Mar 25, 2008

Even before the SDK beta was officially released, everyone concerned knew that it was going to be limited in several ways. We knew that Apple would act as the gatekeeper for applications that made it onto the iPhone and would restrict access to a lot of features, the thirty-pin dock connector being the prime target.

Once the SDK beta was released, the scope of the SDK became clearer as we saw a number of limitations accounted for in the accompanying documentation. Among other things, the SDK clearly stated that no third party applications would enjoy the freedom to run in the background and that “no interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Published APIs and builtin interpreter(s).”

The SDK beta was out in the wildernesses and it was clear that Apple had no intention to bring either Java or Flash to the iPhone. Both Sun and Adobe, therefore, assumed that Apple had passed the gauntlet to them. The two companies, within a week of each other, had announced that they would soon release their respective products for the iPhone with the help of the official SDK.

When Sun announced its decision to bring Java to the iPhone, there was a smattering of mixed opinions on the web. Some people wanted it on their iPhone, others didn’t. The one thing that people were unsure about was how Sun intended to do it. Given that Apple hadn’t expressed any interest in making the device Java capable and the SDK didn’t seem to allow it, potential iPhone developers were left wondering whether Sun had come to some behind-the-scenes agreement with Apple about this issue.

It turns out, however, that they hadn’t. All they’d done was follow the live blogging of Apple’s March 6 event and, on hearing that the SDK beta was being released that day, signaled their PR department to announce the impending arrival of Java on the device. Not once did they stop to think whether it would actually be possible or not. They had no clue how they would do it and yet there was Eric Klein, vice president of Java marketing for the company, making a public announcement about it.

Right on cue, and as if to ensure that no one would miss the joke, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen announced that they were working on a Flash media player specifically for the iPhone (full article available only to paid subscribers) and would leverage the power of the SDK to bring it to the device. Apparently, he too had overlooked the limitation of “unforeseen” applications on the iPhone when Steve Jobs was announcing it onstage. Thankfully, they’d realized that it wasn’t going to be as simple as just wishing for it and had issued a retraction by the next day, along with the assurance that they still intended to have a nice chat with ol’ Jobs about this little issue.

Seriously, how hard is it to pay attention, people?

I’m not saying that we’ll never see the iPhone take advantage of these technologies (and I’m not assuming that we will either), but if there is one thing I’m sure of, it’s that Apple isn’t going to make it easy for the likes of Adobe and Sun to have their way with the iPhone. Yes, other companies come to Adobe and license Flash from them to put it onto their devices, but none of these companies have the iPhone. The roles are reversed here, with Adobe and Sun wanting a piece of their technology on one of the most prized gadgets of the twenty-first century and Apple playing hard to get.

Ever since the device’s release, there have been disappointed murmurings among the crowd of (potential) owners about its inability to play Flash content and use Java applications and games. Analysts have been predicting doom for the phone because of this fact, stating that Jobs will need to get off his high horse and bring these technologies to the iPhone one day if he wants his darling device to sell well.

But Steve Jobs seems to know exactly what he is doing. Why go to them when you can make them come to you? Flash and Java may well make their way onto the iPhone one day, but it isn’t going to be because the iPhone needs them to survive, it will be because they need the iPhone on their list of supported devices. This is business in the technology industry, a game no one has more masterly control over than the Apple CEO. It’s going to be interesting to see how things unfurl over the next few months, as the iPhone software update 2.0 approaches.


  • I think your problem is that wishing the iPhone had Flash is perfectly valid.-my man Simo.

    Not at all. You can wish all you want that the iPhone had Flash or Java and I couldn’t care less one bit. What I need is real substance from your arguments not just some raggy rant about Apple’s decisions.

    The way that you and Bebox come off your accusations and presumptions of Steve’s secret privates to explain the presumably missing features that the iPhone so badly needed is unallowable. Not by a Mac soldier such as myself.

    Simo my man, the iPhone is Apple’s <u>OWN</u> device not Sun’s nor Adobe’s to have at their whims. When Steve & co. have a change of heart someday because all you former Wincrap Mobile or RIM-ed owners with iPhones just can’t accept the fact that the iPhone OS and middleware are all you gonna have, I will then analyze that and go on my merry way.

    I have no problem with Flash or Java. They are fine on the desktop <u>BUT</u> they are not meant for a mobile environment. They were architectured for PCs with huge resources not finite one like a typical mobile. iPlatform may have up to 32GB storage but that is not main memory. RAM is still limited to 256MB! Flash or Java will not play nice in such a claustrophobic cubbyhole of volatile memory. And we are not even talking about the left-over space set aside after OSX+frameworks are done booting up. Do+the-math=Simo my man!

    So, you want animations in your mobile apps? Go Core Animations. Want media? Go QT/ISO H.264/MPEG-4/AAC. Want cool web development and websites? Go Safari AJAX with CSS Animations, web fonts & HTML 5 ready. None is more bleeding edge than the iPlatform today.

    It’s hard to argue that a phone with it is strictly to a phone without

    You seem confused, Simo my man. A phone is a phone is a phone. It’s been that way since Alex G. Bell yelped “Watson!” more than a century afar.

    What we are discussing here is about the “mobile web platform” side of the iPlatform that doesn’t and won’t ever have the need for neither Flash nor Java. Sob. Hu, hu, hu. Too bad and good riddance! :(

    Simo my man, you seem to think the iPhone is just a phone. Shocking news:: That is merely a minor feature comes June 29, 2008. When I say “phone” that is having your vocal chords vibrating causing compressions on air particles nearby sending acoustics over the link towards the other end. Having that feature is nice but will not be the most important - the wireless data connection is.

    Without it the iPhone is just a freakin’ phone!

    Robomac had this to say on Mar 29, 2008 Posts: 846
  • As far as Flash and Java go, I think that the iPhone could the former and ditch the latter, and only a subset of the former’s features at that. What subset could I wish for my future iPhone above all others? FLV playback! Sure, the iPhone has support for a very nice codec, but with the majority of non-special-YouTube and non-Apple videos on the web (at least, the ones Mr. Typical iPhone User would care about) being in Flash, such a player, even a separate app, would be a nice addition to the app store. *This* at least is, I would think based on other apps demoed by Apple, within the confines of the SDK, though I havn’t yet taken a look at it (I’m currently a mac-boy-wannabe with XP).

    If Adobe is dead-set on Flash on the iPhone, I would not be supprised if they talked with Apple about enabling the iPod feature of the iPhone to play back limited flash content (flv’s and homestar-runner-esq swf’s).

    If all else fails, there are plenty of utilities that will convert flash to whatever. If I had enough coding prowess, i would write something that would auto-add the converted vids to iTunes, unless somebody already has.

    Whatever the case, I will be getting an iPhone as soon as some other financial goals are met, and flash issn’t a deal-breaker for me. Would sure as heck be nice, though other features such as hard-disk access are more wanted, personally wink

    Kenai had this to say on Jun 20, 2008 Posts: 3
  • “If all else fails, there are plenty of utilities that will convert flash to whatever. If I had enough coding prowess, i would write something that would auto-add the converted vids to iTunes, unless somebody already has.”

    Of course, there are several such utilities, the most popular one for the Mac being VisualHub.

    I agree with you. We might see a Flash lite sort of thing that resides as an individual app on the phone and is capable of playing black flash videos. However, given that the iPhone’s filesystem is not user accessible, I’m not sure how they’ll implement it. As usual, we’re just going to have to wait and watch.

    Aayush Arya had this to say on Jun 20, 2008 Posts: 36
  • Well, here’s something worth seeing. iTransmogrify is the name of this service. It will convert youTube vids to ones playable on the iPhone’s youTube player, with more types of flash content to come as the developer figures them out. At least for me, this satisfies my previously stated ‘flash lite’ desires :D (http://tinyurl.com/2g34wa for the service)

    Kenai had this to say on Jun 23, 2008 Posts: 3
  • I take that back… it is great for viewing a youTube video that’s a bit cumbersome to find on the youTube iPhone app, but does nothing to actually convert video for watching. I still wish for the ‘Flash lite’ option.

    “However, given that the iPhone’s filesystem is not user accessible, I’m not sure how they’ll implement it. As usual, we’re just going to have to wait and watch.”

    If somebody does make a Flash Lite app, they could do the same as this iTransmogrify person did, and have a bookmarklet system that would auto-launch their application with the Flash movie’s params loaded. At least, it seems to be possiable to me smile

    Kenai had this to say on Jun 23, 2008 Posts: 3
  • Page 2 of 2 pages  <  1 2
You need log in, or register, in order to comment