There has been a lot of discussion lately over the lack of Flash support in iPhone OS.
Most of the arguments presented have been about the technology being buggy, crash-prone and resource intensive. Steve Jobs has also called it a "dying technology".
However, one perspective that has largely been missed so far has been about a fundamental way in which most Flash applications operate that makes it unsuitable for use on not just the iPad or iPhone, but also on most of the touchscreen devices in the market.
According to Flash developer Morgan Adams, one of the biggest issues with Flash on touchscreen devices is the hover/mouseover event. Adams writes that most of the Flash applications available on the internet today are built with a mouse pointer based control in mind. As a result, these applications respond differently to mouse-hovering as against an actual click.
For instance, hovering your mouse pointer over a running video will bring up the media control options. However, on clicking the video, it may be paused. Adams explains that touchscreen devices are not built to recognize a mouseover as input, which means that most of the Flash files on the web today may not respond as desired to users accessing them from these devices. As Adams points out, Flash based games, maps, videos and advertisements are all prone to be affected due to this issue.
The pervasive nature of this problem means finding a solution to this for touchscreen users is both a complex and impractical proposition. Adams explains that alternate mechanisms for differentiating hovering from mouse clicks using gestures or tap based inputs needlessly complicate the experience. As he notes, even if users were to disregard the other issues with Flash, the mouse-hover problem is one that can be difficult to substitute on the touchscreen devices.
Ironically, this is also an issue that Apple has been working at. Our readers will recall a patent application filed by Cupertino earlier this year that sought to bring a proximity detection system to the iPhone/iPad touchscreen. Such a technology will enable touchscreen users substitute a simple mouseover event with an equally intuitive finger input.
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