Thoughts on “Thoughts on Flash”

April 29, 2010, a year ago today, Apple published a document titled “Thoughts on Flash”. Although weird, it was welcome… for over three years people had been asking about iPhone’s Flash capabilities, and up through the iPad’s “little blue lego of gloom” launch the only guidance offered was some unclaimed “lazy & evil” hearsay. Thanks to Joseph Labrecque for pulling together a few of the contemporaneous reactions to that response… with a year’s hindsight, you can make your own evaluations on the speech of that time.

The bigger issue is how we humans will adapt to our new technology capabilities… how we’ll actually end up using handheld displays, rich and interactive, always in connection with other machines, other people. Developers need to go where their audiences are, where their clients’ audiences are. Publishing workflows must traverse the silos.

Macromedia Director did early work bridging devices, with its Portable Player running on Iris, Scientific Atlanta, 3D0 and other devices, and authoring done on either Mac or Windows. Flash Lite was a bigger success, on billions of devices, but mainly regionally in Japan, Korea, and emerging markets. Today we’ve got a uniform Flash Player which runs the same across laptops and smartphones… a remarkable engineering achievement, requiring great cooperation among scores of industry titans.

The branding wars of today won’t matter much in a year or two’s time. Better to look 5, 10, 20 years out, and see how we humans will need and want to use these various devices. Unlike the PC era, handhelds will have a global reach, be affordable to many more people. Many voices will speak. The implausible Open Screen Project may have been proven a success, but the more important work is yet to come.