Over the past months, as the drama between Apple and Adobe over the use of the latter’s Flash software has grown out of control, the media has cleverly turned this into a David and Goliath story. Apple has been portrayed as the evil empire exerting its draconian dominance and control over the mobile market, and Adobe has become the poster boy for tech oppression, a little company that stood up to the giant.
But before we start trying to comfort Adobe in its time of hardship, let’s remember one thing: Adobe is a huge multi-million dollar company as well, and, to be honest, Flash isn’t all that good.
With many in the tech world already enjoying the benefits of the much anticipated Android v2.2 upgrade, dubbed Froyo (as in Frozen yogurt, a continuation of Google’s dessert themed version names), it was just a matter of time before the reviews started rolling off the presses, and the one thing that many have discovered: Froyo is fast, but Flash really stinks. Maybe Apple was right all along.
In a comparison test conducted by the popular online tech/gadget site PocketNow, it was quickly discovered that while a speedy Nexus One running Google’s newest version of Android could easily handle Flash-based games and simple video, when compared to the HTC HD2 or the iPhone it was found that Flash significantly influences the loading speed of most webpages, and not only that, but web browsing on pages with Flash turned out to be slow and chunky at best (see minute 4:30 in the streaming video).
Of course the issue with the iPhone is that while it clearly sports a lightning fast browser, you don’t get to see any of the Flash content on the page, meaning that it has a lot less things to load. The surprise of the test was the HD2, which clearly outclassed both its opponents in this small head-to-head test.
But really what does this test prove? Well, it clearly shows us something that most of us have already known, Flash isn’t the best technology on earth; but then again, no one said it was. I think the argument from the tech world in reaction to Apple’s decision to ban the popular Adobe software from its App store, was that people want choice, even if it’s the choice of having a video plugin that slows down their web browsing.
While it’s clear that the debate between Apple and Adobe has reached the ludicrous stage, with Apple portrayed as evil and Adobe characterized as the helpless victim, a martyr in the dog-eat-dog tech world, none of that is really true. Instead, the reality is that Apple has undoubtedly banned Flash because of its much demonstrated tendency to grind mobile web browsing to a virtual halt, and that Adobe has, to its credit, produced a piece of software that everyone seems to use, despite its drawbacks.
In the end, while I still don’t agree with Apple’s dictator-like stance on Flash, I certainly don’t think that Flash is the end-all-be-all of video plugins. With these test results now showing Flash’s negative impact on Google’s Froyo, it’ll be interesting to see just how long the search engine giant continues to back Adobe.