My iPad Doesn’t Brake for Flash
I was enjoying a quiet dinner with my wife on Friday night after putting our toddler to bed. Mid course, my wife mentioned an email she received from her brother about a TV report on the important topic of childhood diabetes and obesity his wife produced for the PBS series “Need to Know.”
The show was premiering that evening, and we were invited to tune in. The email also contained a link to the show’s webpage where the video already lived online.
I don’t think I’ve watched any TV in real time over the past year with the exception of some news and the Olympics.
(and that was mostly in ‘pretend’ real time)
Time shifting is really the only way I consume TV content these days. DVR it and watch it later.
But recording “Need to Know” on our cable DVR and watching it sometime the following week seemed like an insufficient response to such a happy email from a family member.
A more immediate response was required.
So I told my wife I would grab the iPad, and we could watch the video online over dessert. What’s faster than that?
Isn’t technology wonderful?
I tapped the icon of the video to begin playing on the iPad, and nothing happened.
Oh, yeah. It’s a Flash video.
The IT Guy calmly stated that it was a well-known fact that Apple’s mobile products don’t use Adobe Flash Player, and so they don’t play Flash videos.
And then we gave each other the look. The look that says, “That’s nice, but it should really just work. We nodded to each other briefly and smiled, acknowledging the problem. We’d been there before.
But deep down, I was miffed.
I know my wife didn’t mind, but the shiny exterior of my home tech kingdom was dinged. And don’t tell her, but so was a little bit of my pride.
But you’ve got to move on.
And I had a back up plan.
I suggested we schlep over to my iMac in the other room to watch the video.
What an inconvenience!
The bananas flambé was ruined.
(It was actually just Trader Joe’s Apple Sauce.)
We proceeded to successfully watch my sister-in-law’s PBS report.
The Future has Arrived?
So, instead of having to go sit on the couch and wait for the PBS show to broadcast later that evening and then wait the for the particular story to run, we watched the report online within minutes of beginning our conversation.
That’s not so bad.
But the promise of today’s technology says we should have been able to do this in seconds through one or two clicks, tops.
Now, I’m not bickering over the loss of a few minutes.
But I could have done without the irritation that the shining beacon of home tech didn’t quite work right for me… again.
It’s 2012, and we’ve just landed on Mars again in a rather stunning fashion.
Did you all watch NASA’s Seven Minutes of Terror on YouTube?
After seeing all that amazing technology in harmony, shouldn’t something as straight forward as this be a non-issue?
Apple vs Adobe
A little history lesson-
In April, 2010, Steve Jobs posted his famous open letter to Adobe regarding his “Thoughts on Flash.”
It explained why Apple didn’t support Flash on Apple’s mobile devices-
Flash didn’t work with touch-based devices. It was a closed platform, created terrible battery life on mobile devices, and had poor reliability, security, and performance.
(Steve Jobs didn’t like Adobe, much.)
After this, Android users jumped up and down with glee, doing their superiority dance, and they happily watched their Flash videos on their Droids.
But last November in a surprise announcement, Adobe said it would no longer develop future versions of the Flash Player for mobile browsers.
Android users stopped jumping.
Adobe explained on its blog its decision to abandon Android’s mobile browser-
1- Premium experiences on mobile devices are typically being delivered through apps, and
2- Mobile websites mostly rely on HTML5 based video delivery.
Looks like Apple was right all along.
Adobe decided to focus on HTML5 technology for mobile viewing, which Apple has long supported. (Adobe will still continue to develop desktop versions of its Flash Player.)
So while Androids and BlackBerry PlayBooks still can play Flash-based videos today, that capability now has an expiration date.
The End of Flash for Android
On August 17th, Adobe removed its Flash Player from the Google Play store, which is the beginning of the end.
Existing users running Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” will continue to get updates through September 2013.
If you’re one of the few trailblazers who already have Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean,” you’re out of luck now.
Mobile Apps are the Future
So all this said, why do websites still publish Flash-based videos that can’t be viewed on mobile devices?
Shouldn’t these companies all just have mobile versions of their websites to prevent this problem? Or why not just use the right technology for videos that can play on all platforms?
Wait a minute… I’m suddenly channeling a likely response –
Just Download the mobile app.
Oh yeah. Everyone’s got one of those, these days.
So a couple days later, I took the iPad and tapped on Apple’s App Store, and of course, there was the PBS app.
I downloaded it, clicked on the “Need to Know” series, and then found the episode with my sister-in-law’s story.
There it was, thirty seconds later… playing on the iPad.
My Tech Pecs
The problem with this micro success is that it happened 48 hours after the moment I really needed it.
That particular instant when I wanted to flex my tech pecs in front of my wife.
(Married guys, you know what I mean.)
No one wants to deal with all those extra steps when clicking on a link that’s supposed to just… work. It’s a de-motivator.
The good news is we can redeem ourselves
There are lots more links out there to click on and get right.
Much like life, using home tech can be complicated.
But figuring things out can be fun (even a little), if you allow for it.
Just don’t forget-
Perfection is unnecessary, if you’re already getting it done.
Always have a back up plan.
And never lose site of what’s really important.
Especially on the night before your anniversary.