Apple vs. Adobe: What Flash Developers Have to Say

July 12, 2010, Categories: Web design, Flash

Apple's "war" on Adobe's Flash has been the major news for the past few months. At first we were shocked by the confrontation, now we've gotten used to it. People keep buying iPads and iPhones and pushing the topic to the back of their minds. But what about those who make their living developing websites and applications with the media that Apple wants off the Internet? We decided to ask several successful designers and Flash developers about their professional life after the war on Flash has begun. We discovered surprisingly different reactions. (The responses are arranged in the alphabetical order of respondents' last names).



How and why did you come to work with Flash? How long have you used it as the primary medium?

Ricardo Dias: I started using Flash 3 for animation when I was in college. I didn't start with it to use it on the web. By that time Flash was the best tool for vector animations and we didn't need powerful computers to run it.

Jenaro Diaz: When I realized I wanted to be an interactive designer/web designer, over 10 years ago, I discovered Flash through a friend and realized that it was the perfect tool. Back then Director was the big multimedia software to use, but it was not web friendly, so I guess the timing was right when I needed to decide what to do for a living. So I've been using Flash for about 10 years. Before everybody wanted Flash I was working on e-learning stuff, so this kept me busy using Flash before it picked up like crazy.

Ion Drimba: I didn´t actually choose Flash for work, that came with my first job. The owner was a Senior Flash Developer, so I started with Flash.

Michael McDonald: I first started using Adobe Flash when it was called Macromedia Shockwave in the late 90's. At first, I experimented with the app and I did not know how to really incorporate it into any actual projects. It wasn't until around the year 2000 when my design studio at the time "Axiom Studio" used Flash to build a completely integrated Flash website as a self-promotional portfolio website. I have been using Adobe Flash as my primary medium for about 10 years. I now have a dedicated Flash developer on my team that helps me rapidly build Flash-based websites.

Ori Takemura and Dani Stojanov: We have worked with Flash for about 8 years now. It all started as a series of experimentations and small projects, like a Flash site for a brother's travel agency, or a fashion brand presentation. We believe the continuous satisfaction with results made us keep working with Flash.

Matt Wiggins: I started with Flash in school around version 4 in 1999. I've always used it, but never considered it my "primary medium." If it is right for a project, I will use it. Otherwise, I'll go with something else. I think it's important to be flexible.

portfolio screenshots

The interactive portfolio of Ricardo Dias



Were you alarmed by Apple's announcement that the iPad would not support Flash? (Why or why not?)

Ricardo Dias: Not at all. Apple tries to restrict their products' software so they can work as expected. The touch screen interface brings us a different kind of web experience and I believe that a lot of full Flash websites would behave differently if used on a touch screen interface. Most of them wouldn't react as expected.

Jenaro Diaz: More than alarmed, I was disappointed by Apple's decision. It is clear that their reasons are far from the reality, the iPad is a device that can easily run Flash. Their true reason is that Flash could really hurt their App Store, and instead of trashing Flash, they should just be honest and accept that truth.

Ion Drimba: No, because I think that the main target of Adobe Platform is still the web and not some specific device.

Michael McDonald: Yes, I was and I am still alarmed by Apple's announcement not to support Flash on either the iPhone or iPad. I have invested vast amounts of time, resources, knowledge, sweat equity, and money into building Flash based websites and now that Apple has decided not support their extremely successful iPhone or iPad products, it makes me wonder if I put "too many eggs in one basket" with Adobe Flash. With that being said... my own personal motto/mantra in life is "evolve, adapt or go extinct".

Ori Takemura and Dani Stojanov: Not quite, as we haven't worked on any Apple platforms (including iPad), but intend to very soon and the idea of studying a new technology for something we might otherwise accomplish in a very short amount of time is not so great to us.

Matt Wiggins: No, Apple has a history of not supporting 3rd party compilers. It's why their stuff is always rock solid from a UI/functionality perspective.


The interactive portfolio of Jenaro Diaz



Can the new technologies, such as HTML5 and jQuery really replace Flash?


Ricardo Dias: Not replace, but add. I don't think that HTML5 is a menace to Flash at all. They focus on different kinds of user experience. I think HTML5 will have a better performance for some web applications such as small banners, videos, etc. But Flash is still a timeline based software that allows developers to experiment way more on animations, 3d and interaction than HTML5.

Jenaro Diaz: Flash has been here for more than 10 years, it has done nothing but revolutionized the web, I've been a Flash developer for almost 10 years too, and I do agree that those new technologies are good for the users, they help to build a better web, but still they have their limits. Used wisely all technologies complement each other, so no, they won't replace Flash anytime soon.

Ion Drimba: No. Every time something new comes up people star saying Flash will die. They've been saying that since DHTML, then Jquery, Silverlight and now HTML5. The workflow of Flash platform is something difficult to break. Designers and developers use Flash for building rich content and animations. If HTML5 replaces Flash, all those animation tricks will have to be done by front-end developers. That is just an example. Besides, the performance on the browsers we have today is not that good to display such content in HTML5. I think HTML5 will enrich the web content, but will not replace Flash.

Michael McDonald: I personally do not believe that HTML5 and jQuery will ever replace Flash. Both technologies offer unique and a different approach to creating and building interactive websites, some are better and some are worse. Programmers, developers and the IT community have been promised for a decade a standardization of the web, browsers, HTML, etc...and we still have absolutely nothing close to a standard. And I do not expect we will have a standardized web platform for decades to come if not ever!

Ori Takemura and Dani Stojanov: In short - NO. Certain aspects of website development for sure but there are many open source projects expanding Flash capabilities and the same could not be accomplished in JavaScript. While HTML5 is simply not there yet, and by the time it gets there (read matches today's Flash freedom of creativity and penetration) who knows what Flash would bring.

Matt Wiggins: They certainly can, but I don't think they will for a long time. Flash definitely still has the edge in delivering video/audio and vector-based 3D.

portfolio screenshots

Ion Drimba's interactive portfolio 



What do you think are the true reasons for Apple's war on Flash?

Ricardo Dias: The true reason is that they don't want experiments on their products. They want tested, working applications. Pre-approved and working as expected. Flash opens a window for bugs on their devices. They would lose the control they have (as in their App Store for example).

Jenaro Diaz: As I mentioned before, they simply don't want to harm their precious App store.

Ion Drimba: Money.

Michael McDonald: For the record, I have been a loyal Apple user since 1983 and create all my designs, which include identity, print and interactive projects, exclusively on an Apple Computer. I also own an iPhone and I would have it no other way. But I personally believe that Apple wants to simply control and dominate all of the content and software that is being used to create it on the web, mobile, kiosk, etc... Unfortunately, Apple has become the "New Microsoft" and many people in the industry are referring to Apple as the "Evil Empire". I really hope that the arrogance, ignorance and short sightedness of Apple will not become it's kryptonite.

Ori Takemura and Dani Stojanov: They want control and monopoly. Their own explanations were quite shallow. Flash, both playable in the browser and as standalone, obviously does not fit in their content delivery mechanism, so it is purely political.

Matt Wiggins: I think they are being honest when they say that they chose not to allow Flash based on their long-standing policy not to allow 3rd party compilers and concerns over battery life, etc. It's also a pretty good move from a marketing stand-point, though. Being the first one to take a stand one way or the other shows that they clearly understand the technology and has certainly given them some attention right when they have some significant product releases.

portfolio screenshots

Michael McDonald's interactive portfolio


Is the current situation affecting your job in any way? Do you think it will?

Ricardo Dias: Yes. In every project that I get involved in now I think about navigation on mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones. I don't think that's bad. I think it's evolution. Even being a designer I still think that functionality is above design. I know they have to be together always, but in this case I don't mind having to give up on Flash for a project to see it working on an iPad. It doesn't matter which technology I use. What really matters is having a great final result.

Jenaro Diaz: Not at all. Misinformed clients or clients confused by Apple claims - that's what's hurting my job a bit, but once I explain the whole thing to them, they understand. And if the project REALLY needs to be developed in Flash we get the project, but if it's clear the project doesn't need to be built with Flash, they still appreciate my help as a consultant and I think that's key when building lasting clients relations.

Ion Drimba: No, it´s not affecting my job. HTML5 is still a technology not supported by all browsers and the learning curve for front-end developers is a bit high. So for now all kinds of rich content, animations are still done in Flash.

Michael McDonald: At the moment the current situation is only having minor effects on my business, some are positive and some are negative. The positive effect is that clients are asking for additional versions of their website designs so that it may be viewed on an iPhone or iPad, and I am also creating apps exclusively for those devices as well. On the negative side, I have some clients refusing to invest in a Flash based website because it is not going to work on either the iPhone or iPad. The current feud between Apple and Adobe has dampened both the mood and spirit of the web developer world for sure and I hope that it could be resolved sooner rather than later.

Ori Takemura and Dani Stojanov: Somewhat, as we have been asked by partners occasionally to give an offer for an iPhone project or similar things. If Flash was supported, we would be able to give a proper offer and get more work. But overall, we do not think it will affect us all that much really. Regarding the future of Flash, if it happens that certain other technology succeeds in surpassing its capabilities and availability, we will make adjustments and move on. But that is not likely to happen due to Flash's constant progress and expansion.

Matt Wiggins: Nah, I made it a point to be a flexible web developer. I'd like to think (hope?) that I am equally capable with HTML/JavaScript. ;)


Qixen-p interactive portfolio (Ori Takemura and Dani Stojanov)


What is your prediction for the future of Flash vs. other interactive technologies?


Ricardo Dias: I think Flash will keep going for a long time and with the progress on the Internet connectivity speed it will brings us unlimited possibilities. We see now a lot of full Flash websites using full screen video backgrounds and we also see things like Netflix and Hulu taking over the home entertainment market. I see this as an opportunity to use not only Flash, but also Silverlight and other technologies to integrate TV, Internet, computers and mobile devices even more. Flash is just one of the tools we have to create interactive user experience. I think it will keep doing its part, but will not be the major tool for that.

Jenaro Diaz: Flash is here to stay, I mean, all the big companies have tried to kill Flash - Microsoft, even Adobe and now Apple, but still it's alive. Cause Flash is not just a "video player", it is a robust development platform and one of its best features is that it's a cross platform.

Ion Drimba: I think there are a lot of things Flash can get better at, especially actionscript. Now with this multiplatform integration thing it will get really cool for Flash Developers.

Michael McDonald: I predict that the future of all interactive technologies will be a hybrid, a soup of many technologies, which will include but will not be limited to Flash, HTML5, jQuery, C++, CSS, Ajax, JavaScript, etc... along with new technologies not even developed yet.

Ori Takemura and Dani Stojanov: Creative world is attracted to media and technologies that provide most freedom for both delivery and creation, and Flash is very strong at the moment. It was always content not technology that mattered.

Matt Wiggins: Personally, I think Flash is slowly going to fade out on the web while HTML5 and JavaScript continue to grow. If Adobe can get more going on around AIR, that is the future of Flash.

portfolio screenshots

The interactive portfolio of Matt Wiggins


Guys, thank you all for your time and your candid answers. I'm looking forward to seeing the reactions they generate in the comments section.



imageLillian Wells
Lillian Wells has worked on the web for a while but has only recently discovered the joys of blogging. She combines her teaching career with what gives her the most satisfaction - following web trends and taking interviews from outstanding professionals. Her inbox is always open for comments and suggestions. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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Ricardo Dias

Ricardo Dias

Ricardo Dias is a Brazilian designer and Flash developer. A great fan of photography, he always tries to bring its influences into his work. Since 2001, Ricardo has worked for an array of famous Brazilian agencies and designed for world-renowned clients. He's now working for Thoughtlab in Salt Lake City, UT.
Jenaro Diaz

Jenaro Diaz

Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Jenaro Diaz, freelance Flash developer and designer, is now working in Austin, delivering cutting-edge Flash design to clients all over the world. In over 10 years of experience, he has received numerous awards, including the FWA and SXSW. He names his family as his main motivation and his love for the work and attention to detail as the major reasons for his success.
Ion Drimba Filho

Ion Drimba Filho

Ion Drimba Filho is a 27-year-old Interface designer and Flash developer from Brazil, currently working for Tribo Interactive. Starting from scratch just four years ago, he managed to learn multiple design, development and programming skills, which enabled him to get a great job and to create Flash-based wonders like his own portfolio site.
Michael McDonald

Michael McDonald

Founder of Organic Grid, a design consultancy dedicated to creating innovative identity and design systems, Michael McDonald claims that his work is deeply influenced by his intuitive sense of color, form and function as well as his understanding of international design. The creative objective of organic grid is to win the mind, heart and soul of Michael's clients’ clients by creating smart, effective and engaging visual communications.
Dani Stojanov

Dani Stojanov

Flash developer for qixen-p, Dani Stojanov has over 8 years of freelance experience with Flash doing work for various international clients (HP, Ford, Beyond Petrol). Also experienced in PHP, Java-Script and AJAX, he names 3D and physics engines as well as Smart fox server among his special interests.
Ori Takemura

Ori Takemura

Ori Takemura is the founder and creative director of qixen-p, a Moscow-based boutique studio with representative offices in several other countries and clients from all over the globe. Ori's special interests lie in universality and emotional design.
Matt Wiggins

Matt Wiggins

A multi-skilled web developer and designer with experience in project management and technical direction, Matt Wiggins is a recipient of multiple awards from the FWA, SXSW, Webby and Hive awards, etc. Working full-time for Legworks studio, he also finds time to do freelance writing for Web Designer Magazine.
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