Market repositioning of Flash begins (updated)

I have already talked (perhaps too much) about the Future of Flash in this post. There I didn’t hide my perplexities about the Market position of Flash compared to alternative technologies. After the drop of Flash Player for Mobile there was a strong decline in confidence for Flash platform. But now the scenario is beginning to emerge sharply and I begin to understand the purpose of the Adobe strategy.

Yesterday Adobe has released a public beta of AIR 3.2 for mobile application development. This version implement the promised support for Stage3D in mobile platforms like iOS and Android. A number of demo video appeared on the web showing excellent 3D performance and a lot of renewed interest about mobile game development using  AIR:

Square Enix’s [Barts] running on Android

The time will tell, but AIR has the potentialities to become a leader platform in 2D/3D games development. A single code base is sufficient to create a game for Desktop (AIR’s captivate runtime), Browser (someone named Facebook ?) and now iOS and Android. With ConnectedTVs and STBs support to come (already showed during MAX), the dream of the Open Screen project is becoming reality, at least in the game dev area (but also intensive graphic/media applications may leverage 2D/3D accelerations).

Therefore Adobe has concentrated the resources in a promising field where Flash could easily become leader. In 2D/3D browser gaming it is just leader (500Million players on Facebook may be sufficient as business card ?) . Try by yourself searching for Stage3D demo in YouTube to see the huge amount of interest for this technology from any game developers (big and small).

The second strong commitment of the platform is for video delivery where Flash has been leader in the past 5 years and is still today. The performance of video decoding in the browser has been widely improved with a completely redesigned pipeline that now exploits mult-threading heavily. But most important, the support for accelerated H.264 streaming has been added to AIR for iOS using the standard Apple HLS (already supported by FMS 4.5 and Wowza Server).

During the spring Adobe will release the new version of Flash Access (now Adobe Access 4) that will include content protection for iOS devices (both in AIR and native application) in the form of DRM on HLS. This move has the potentiality to make Adobe re-gain the favor of majors and big content providers that would have the possibility to uniform DRMs across Android, iOS, Desktop Apps, Browsers, Google TV and some STBs.

The support for HW accelerated 2D, 3D and video playback on mobile, plus an improvement in performance for Flex applications, plus the possibility to integrate HTML5 contents with StageWebView, plus the DRM, plus native extentions, **finally**, makes AIR (for Mobile) an interesting, efficient, effective and valuable solution for cross platform application development.

(Updated 03 March 2012)

I think the platform is 99% complete now, which is very good, but I would like to see the following issues addressed ASAP to complete the features list of AIR for Mobile:

  • H.264/AAC on RTMP : necessary for effecient real time video application, especially now that FP supports H.264 encoding.
  • Echo cancellation : see the previous point.
  • Effective and Robust support for key native features like InApp Purchase and Notification. I like Native Extentions’s idea but I’d prefer an official API for critical features like these.
  • Better integration/communication between AS3 and JS in StageWebView. No more hacks please.

Make a comment if you think that there’s something else of important to add to AIR for Mobile/AIR for iOS.


3 thoughts on “Market repositioning of Flash begins (updated)

  1. Fabio,

    Thanks for another enlightening post. Although I’m also not very happy with Adobe’s latest moves concerning Flash/Flex/Air, I do believe it has great potential to remain a solid and reliable platform for rich media apps and games. HTML5 is certainly great, but I believe it has a few years yet before until it can actually do what Flash has been doing for a while. Yes, we don’t need Flash anymore to display nice little ad banners on websites or make cool menus with effects. HTML5 will handle that. Usually, those who claim “Flash is dead” see Flash as a mere “banner player”, which is certainly not true. Therefore, Adobe’s move into focusing Flash video and games is certainly great.

    You mentioned that “the support for accelerated H.264 streaming has been added to AIR for iOS using the standard Apple HLS”. That’s good. But while HTTP streaming (HLS) seems to be a good option for those who simply want to “play a video” in iOS, I do believe it has some severe limitations, especially for live-communications. I’d like to share some of these thoughts with you.

    1. HLS has ridiculously high latency for live videos (around 40 seconds), when compared to RTMP. Although this may not be a problem for on-demand videos, it sure is a great problem for anyone doing serious live-communications applications (such as webconferencing, live webcasting with audience interaction or Skype-like video chats), which require near-zero latency. Ok, so why not use RTMP to deliver video on iOS Air apps? Because, as far as I know, RTMP on AIR for iOS only supports VP6 and Spark – a couple of old, retired codecs. Big problem here! How can we deliver realtime (low latency), live videos in iOS with codecs that old?

    2. Perhaps someone can correct me on this (hopefully!), but as far as I know, HTTP/HLS streaming will not allow cuepoints to be read from videos. This is particularly painful for anyone doing video-triggered actions, such as slide changes (for webinar apps), subtitling or live closed captioning, etc. I read somewhere that OSMF player allows cuepoints (or “temporal metadata”. See, but I haven’t been able to test it myself.

    3. Although HLS it is quite compatible with firewalls (since it flows through port 80), RTMP with tunnelling also flows through port 80 or 443, which adds great compatibility, even on very restricted networks.

    In other words, HTTP/HLS streaming is Ok. But it simply does *not* fit into every shoe that RTMP does. We do believe that RTMP remains as our best option for live streaming or serious streaming-oriented *apps* (in which things more complex than “mere video playing in a window” actually happen).

    The fact that RTMP streaming in AIR for iOS is limited to VP6 and Spark, which are two “dead” codecs, still puts us, Air developers, in a very fragile position in terms of what we can accomplish with video *apps* in iOS. We need a low-latency h.264 video option for iOS.

    I know that Adobe Connect has an iPad app. Does anyone know how they handle the video? HLS? RTMP? Skype and Facetime are also realtime, low-latency, live video apps on the iPad. I wonder what protocols they use to make it happen.

    I was very happy a few months ago, when I heard about Flash Player 11 having h.264 video encoding. This, (plus the echo cancellation feature that came in 10.3) opened great doors for great Unified-Communication applications to be developed for Flash/Air. Now, it’s undeniable that clients want those applications running on tablets, especially the iPad.

    Hope Adobe has plans to “fix” that soon.

    Thanks again for the great post, Fabio!

  2. I would like to know what you’re thinking of the future of AIR on mobile as now july 2012… I’ve tried some weeks ago to publish from as3 to iPhone and Android some simple projects and i’ve encountered a lot problems… And some hardcore as3 dev I know who tried to develop real apps encountered so much problems that they don’t want anymore to use it, and they are comming back to native dev…

    1. I think that develope an AIR app for mobile is now much better than in the past but we can have still problems and, most important of all, lack of future perspective.

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