Adobe: Flash for Mac Is Getting Better–Really!

Published on February 8, 2010
by John Paczkowski

“We are ready to enable Flash in the browser on [the iPhone and iPad] if and when Apple chooses to allow that for its users, but to date we have not had the required cooperation from Apple to make this happen.”

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch

Apple’s refusal to support Flash on the iPhone–and soon the iPad as well–might not be a death knell for Flash, but it will surely hasten its decline, if Adobe isn’t careful.

Certainly, the fact that the iPhone’s lack of Flash hasn’t really hurt it suggests that Flash may not be quite as important for the Web as Adobe (ADBE) would like us all to think. And now, with some new video players ably demonstrating the promise of HTML5–like this one–the company is clearly worried about Apple’s (AAPL) unflagging exclusion of Flash and CEO Steve Jobs’s recent, and quite vicious, dismissal of it.

So much so that Adobe is publicly promising to improve Flash’s performance on Mac systems. In comments appended to a blog post about the iPad’s lack of Flash support, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch said his company is working to improve Flash performance on the Mac.

“Flash Player on Windows has historically been faster than the Mac, and it is for the most part the same code running in Flash for each operating system,” he wrote. “We have and continue to invest significant effort to make Mac OS optimizations to close this gap, and Apple has been helpful in working with us on this.”

Elaborating, Lynch catalogs progress to date. “Vector graphics rendering in Flash Player 10 now runs almost exactly the same in terms of CPU usage across Mac and Windows, which is due to this work. In Flash Player 10.1 we are moving to CoreAnimation, which will further reduce CPU usage and we believe will get us to the point where Mac will be faster than Windows for graphics rendering….With Flash Player 10.1, we are optimizing video rendering further on the Mac and expect to reduce CPU usage by half, bringing Mac and Windows closer to parity for video.”

Welcome news. But enough to prompt Apple to suddenly reverse course and begin supporting Flash on its mobile devices? That seems unlikely. Apple’s repudiation of Flash on the iPhone and iPad seems–to me, anyway–quite a bit like its repudiation of floppy drives in the first iMacs. It’s a move that inevitably generates great controversy and criticism, but ultimately proves to be ahead of its time.

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