Motorola’s Xoom tablet, the first serious Google Android rival to Apple’s iPad, will ship without Adobe Flash support. Big shocker. (Not really.)
This is surely a disappointment to Motorola, Adobe, and Google. But to anyone who has been watching Adobe fumble with Flash on mobile devices for as long as we have, it’s hardly a surprise.
Since the middle of last decade, we have heard Adobe time and time again promise to ship versions of Flash for mobile devices that can perform adequately without destroying battery life. We still haven’t seen one, and apparently the Xoom won’t initially ship with one, either.
In theory, we understand why Flash — which is ubiquitous on the PC desktop web, for things like video, games, and advertising — would be nice to have on a mobile device or tablet. (We were once even excited enough to suggest that Palm could beat Apple’s iPhone with a Flash phone. We sure learned our lesson!)
But even if it’s technically possible to have Flash on your mobile device — ideally, properly tuned to work without draining your battery — that doesn’t even necessarily mean it’s going to do what you want.
Flash on the desktop expects a mouse, not a touchscreen, so some Flash websites may not even work properly. And forget about using Flash on your Xoom to watch Hulu; the video site historically blocks Flash on mobile devices. Hulu wants you to pay for its Hulu Plus subscription, which has customised mobile apps that don’t rely on Flash.
(And if anyone should be against Flash on mobile devices, it’s carriers! Non-Flash mobile video is often optimised for 3G networks; a lot of non-mobile-optimised Flash video from the web could eat up a LOT of unnecessary bandwidth. That’s the last thing operators need.)
We’ll leave it up to Motorola and its carrier partners to decide whether to turn Flash on by default when it’s eventually part of the Xoom’s software, or to make it an opt-in “expert” feature for those who really care.
Adobe, for one, has made some bold predictions, saying that it expects Flash Player to be supported on 132 million devices this year, and more than 50 tablets. We really hope they can get it right after all this time. Maybe all those Flash developers out there will actually do something amazing with it.
But the reality is that mobile users have never been sitting around, waiting for Flash to come to their handsets. And the people doing interesting things on tablets and mobile devices — games makers, media companies, advertisers, etc. — have already moved on.