No Flash Support in iPhone OS: What is the Reason Behind it? Will it Matter in the Future?

No flash on iPad

Ever since Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad, it seems like the world has been divided into two – One group comprising of those who adore the iPad and the other group that hates it. For the moment, it appears like even a lot of traditional Apple fanboys have chosen to take the latter stance and the reason is not too hard to guess – lack of important features makes the iPad look simply incomplete. 

Among the downsides on the software front, the biggest gripe has been the lack of Flash support. It has been hotly debated in the past, whether Flash is indeed something that makes the internet much more colorful or is something that is grossly hyped. Those who side with Apple on the war against Flash had often argued upon the heavy resource consumption of Flash applications and how HTML5 is the technology of the future. But all said and done, Flash is still the one application that makes graphics technology available to thousands of users today and without Flash, we simply would lose a massive chunk of graphics on the web. 

The fight between Apple and Adobe on this issue is a well documented one. However, this is not about Apple trying to choke Adobe's growth by such measures. In fact, as Adrian Ludwig from Adobe notes, technologies like PDF and ePub that Apple has promoted on the iPad platform all have their roots in Adobe. 

So, why is Flash not available on the iPad then? When the iPhone was released, and it didn't support Flash, Steve Jobs had stated that Flash Lite for mobile was not full featured enough, while the full version of Flash would not run well on the iPhone due to the limited resources available. When Apple announced iPad, a more powerful device on the iPhone OS platform, which also won't support Flash, Steve Jobs has given a different reason for not supporting Flash. According to him, Apple doesn't support Flash because it is too buggy. Though this could be a valid reason as Apple is extremely particular about user experience, the reasons could also be a lot more strategic. 

To understand that, we will have to first see how Apple's app economy operates. Though Apple doesn't make a lot of money (in relative terms to hardware) by selling iPhone apps, the iPhone apps help in increasing the stickiness of the iPhone platform, which is invaluable. So when an iPhone user is planning to upgrade to a new mobile phone, one of the things he or she will always think about is the money already spent in buying the iPhone apps or games. 

But, by allowing Flash to run on the iPhone or iPad, Apple could be shooting itself in the foot as it could then mean the availability of a third party interface for users to play games and could even start a parallel app economy, which is independent of the device. How many casual gamers do you think would continue purchasing games from the App Store when they are able to access the hundreds of Flash based gaming websites on Safari's web browser? The answers to these questions will probably tell us why Apple refuses to let Flash run on the iPhone OS platform. If the same games and apps can be used on another smartphone then the chances of users jumping ship would be even higher.

Is it wrong for Apple to adopt this strategy? It's their platform and they have the freedom to do, what is in their best interest.

Robert Scobleizer and John Gruber of Daring Fireball believe that it won't matter if iPhone OS supports or doesn't support Adobe Flash as it is dead since "based on talks with developers: they are not including Flash in their future web plans any longer".

Let us know your views in the comments.