iOS development in Flash CS5 – the aftermath

Finally, after the storm, as well as some valuable thoughts on everything including Flash, Apple lifted the ban on non XCode compilation of apps and now there are quite a few apps on the app store originating from various methods.

Steve Jobs and his gang took their posts and awaited the flood.

However, it seems that the hordes of Flash developers flocking the app store have not arrived.  Searching the web, there are various forums and sites dealing with Flash development for the iPhone, however it seems that all in all the reception of this solution has been underwhelming.

What happened?

I have a few theories, and the truth is probably a combination of at least a few.

1. The Flash debate killed the packager for iOS

The media buzz that surrounded the first decision on Adobe’s side to develop a packager for iPhone, then the rejection from Apple, and later on lifting the restriction all generated a lot of buzz, but somehow killed the genuine interest in the actual solution. Moreover, confusion over availability of Flash player on iOS made some people (developers and clients) instantly reject anything to do with Flash for iOS, even as native apps.

2. The flash community is not so much interested in mobile platforms

This is of course a generalisation, however, overall penetration of mobile into Flash development has been slow for years. Since the days of Flash Lite, Flash developers preferred using their skills over larger screens and stronger CPU’s that could let them go wild with their creativity (also read as: ignorance).

3. Flash developer community is not that large

Back in the early 2000’s, you had to really search well in order to find a good Flash programmer. Around mid-decade, things started to change and more developers jumped ship, enriching the community with some hardcore-programmer skills and mindsets. They used Flash for video, for some web 2.0 projects, and for various projects that needed enriched visual interactivity. However, these developers have not evolved with Flash and have no real loyalty to Adobe. They are the first to adopt a new technology once it arrives. We’re left with the original Flash gurus, the titans, designer-developer breed, the ones who haven’t left yet, and we are probably not that many.

4. The packager for iPhone is disappointing

When I first published a Flash project on an iPhone, I was amazed. it was so simple and intuitive. Then came the performance issues and the despair. After some initial tests, some developers started researching into the depths of the solution and found ways of improving performance. Those who survived, seem to learn how to use it effectively, however many developers decided to turn to the real thing and learn Objective C.

5. The general idea of generating native apps from a third party tool with no SDK access is somewhat problematic

Adobe managed to incorporate support for some of the iPhone’s features, such as accelerometer, multitouch and others. That’s great. What about complete native OS support? In-app purchases? Game center? How is Adobe going to keep up to date with Apple’s already extremely tedious race for glory? I cannot really blame them for not being able to do so. Once Apple unveils a new technology, it takes Adobe time to adapt, and developers need to decide quickly whether they want to wait or just download the official SDK from Apple’s developer site and forget all about it. That’s the situation currently with Retina display support, to give just one example.

6. Flash developers are already working on a very strong mobile platform – Android

This has to be confirmed with proper data, but seems that for Flash developers the overall idea of submitting to Apple’s regime is intimidating and they naturally prefer more open and inclusive platforms such as Google’s Android. Adobe is really helping them out adopting that platform by targeting it in the forms of native app supprt, Adobe AIR applications and of course Flash in the browser.

If you have more ideas or interesting insights on the topic, please leave a comment.