Adobe MAX part 1 – Flash on the iPhone

It’s been a few days now since I left LA and the craziness that was my first Adobe MAX. And honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. So I’ve decided to offload my thoughts here on my blog! You lucky people. πŸ™‚

My first attempt at this blog post upset a lot of people and I later realised that it could have been more diplomatically written. So find further explanations and additions in italics.

MAX keynote

The Nokia theatre is impressive, with a huge screen and two massive HD LED screens on either side of the stage. The stage set is a montage of various famous LA buildings.

The keynote starts with a group of kids graffitiing up a wall and then scanning it into illustrator. It just seemed like such a contrived attempt to appear hip. I later find out it’s the Peapod academy, and I am somewhat more sympathetic to the kids who put this together themselves.

Had we been presented more of the narrative behind this, maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so contrived?

Followed by the CEO introducing the guy from Omniture. Anyone who’s ever had to integrate Omniture will know how annoying it is. And this guy was even more annoying, with an offhand remark about how rich he had become.

MAX keynote

I really enjoyed Kevin Lynch and Johnny Loiacono’s Myth Busters pastiche about Flash and the iPhone, I’ve seen similar things with KL in that have been truly cringeworthy but this was genuinely funny and well made.

Throughout the conference there was definitely too much focus on Augmented Reality in Flash. First the USPS AR tool to check your parcel size (which doesn’t work as well as a ruler), followed by a particularly glitchy John Mayer AR “experience”. Which was so tenuous an excuse to get John Mayer involved as i’ve ever seen. But the man himself was charming and funny.

I need to back up this statement by explaining my own history with AR. It was pretty fun at first and I did a couple of cool experiments and one project. But since then I’ve been jaded by many advertising creatives coming up with increasingly poor excuses to use this technology. It just seems like it’s the new thing that people do without really thinking about it. Kind of like the page turn effect was a couple of years ago.

To be fair, the John Mayer thing did look good. It just didn’t seem to run very well. As someone who spends weeks and weeks on optimising 3D rendering in Flash I notice these things.

John Mayer

And of course the big announcement was Flash compilation for the iPhone. I love that Adobe got onto the iPhone by stealth, and it’s brilliant that there are already Flash apps on the App Store. I’m really interested to hear what Apple have to say about that!

The truth is though that Flash certainly doesn’t currently run very well on the iPhone, and honestly, I wouldn’t expect it to. It’ll The CPU on the iPhone and other devices generally run at 1% to 10% of the speed it runs on a of desktop CPUs, which makes it currently unusable for all but the simplest of apps. I think that for the vast majority of iPhone apps you’ll be better off building with native code, certainly if you want the slick and smooth experience that you’re used to.

Look at Fickleblox as an example of how glitchy Flash animation is on the iPhone. (Most of the other Flash based apps avoid this sort of thing).

When you think about how hard this must have been to achieve, you can understand why people at Adobe are defensive about it, and I’m sure that any negative reaction comes as a surprise to them. After all, isn’t it what we’ve been asking for all this time?

I agree with Keith who expresses his opinion much more eloquently than me and has the experience to back it up. So go on over to his blog post and the subsequent comments.

More thoughts from MAX coming.

27 replies on “Adobe MAX part 1 – Flash on the iPhone”

It’ll run 1% to 10% of the speed it runs on a desktop, which makes it unusable for all but the simplest of apps.

I believe you got the 1% to 10% number from Scott Petersens and Chris Brichford’s session on optimizing content for the iPhone.

What they said was that the processor on the iphone runs is about 1 – 10% the speed of a desktop processor.

Flash Player content on the device has some optimizations, such as GPU composition, which are not currently available, which will speed up performance (as shown in some of their demos on the device).

mike chambers

Thanks for the correction Mike, I’ve edited the post to reflect this.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this technology, and as I said in the post, I love how Adobe sneaked this in. I just don’t expect performance to be anywhere near the Flash player on desktops, and it’s important that Flash devs don’t get their hopes up too much in terms of just porting their stuff over.

Also, just to add, all of the current Flash based apps on the iphone store use software rendering, and not the newer GPU accelerated compositing, which, as show in the session, can dramatically improve rendering performance.

I am surprised that you missed this.

mike chambers

You might want to clarify that it’s not Flash running on the iPhone, but applications that have been compiled to native ARM assembly, the same thing that C/Objective C gets compiled to run on the iPhone. I’m sure its possible that there is lots of work to be done on optimizing the compilation process, and as anyone who has done compiler work will tell you, that’s a science all on its own. Also it seems currently not all iPhone features are accessible in this manner (e.g. the mic). However I don’t see why these issues couldn’t be improved on with time and development – ARM assembly is ARM assembly, regardless of the high-level language that’s been used to compile it.

I’m curious about your statement of 1-10% performance – where did that come from? So far I’ve only played the Little Red Riding Hood game from the App Store, but I don’t see any worse performance or issues than I do from other apps not made with the Flash IDE.

Yeah, it definately wont be at the same level as the player on the desktops, primary because CPUs on the desktop are much, much faster.

However, we are doing some things specific to the device to improve performance, and at least in the early internal builds, we are seeing some positive results.

But yet, we still have a ways to go (which is why we havent released anything yet). This is mobile development, and for the most part, you will have to optimize existing content to run on the device.

mike chambers

@mike chambers I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes along, and I’m impressed that you’ve done this. I’m just skeptical that you’ll be able to get close to the performance of native apps, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong. Do you think you’ll be able to get close?

I think in some cases, we will be able to get to the same or comparable performance as native apps.

However, for fully 3D rendered games (such as Tiger Woods, FIFA, etc…), then you will probably want to use Objective-C.

I think the interesting thing will be where the cut off point is.

mike chambers

@Lee Brimelow sarcasm? From you? I’m totally shocked πŸ™‚

Seriously though, I’m just being honest. I’m sorry if it seems like I’m focussing on the negatives, I’m just describing my reaction to what I saw. There are some positives in there though!

Would you prefer it if I only talked about the things I thought were good? It’s a serious question.

@Seb you’re a really nice guy and I like you. But I do think that you have become overly critical of Adobe lately. I love honest feedback but I think sometimes you and others focus on the negative far too much. You have every right to do that and I have every right to call you on it. Are you going to start making YouTube videos too πŸ™‚

But Lee – you have to admit tht Omniture dude really got the Keynote off on the wrong foot? I was watching the keynote with my UG peeps and it was utter negative feedback, booing and other bodily noises being uttered towards him.

It really cought up from there on, but what a terrible start and what a douchebag?


If I could go on my own little rant here — the Omniture CEO really bothered me and from what I heard a lot of other people as well.

It seemed like his talk was mostly ad lib and came across as out of place and arrogant. We’ve all got a vested interest in the Flash Platform and other Adobe technologies and are very passionate about it and there he was going on about how he managed to get “a whole lot of money” from Adobe.

Adobe is pushing forward on being “open” with the community and this has been very beneficial. Mostly this has gone really well and community members have been able to provide feedback and get heard (think twitter #adobefeedback discussions etc.).

I have to honestly admit that in the last 6 to 12 months it seems like we’re getting a lot more backlash from Adobe employees both in public as in private conversations when providing (hopefully constructive) criticism and I’m concerned about that. If that kind of feedback is not welcome or frowned upon its unclear what a lot of us in the community take the effort for to blog, work on open source projects, speak at events etc.

We all love Adobe and its products but being more open also means that issues are more out in the open and think we need to be able to call those out.

Enjoy some time off Adobe people, you’ve done some amazing things at MAX and hope there’s renewed energy to work on the things that could still be improved when you get back.


I have to honestly admit that in the last 6 to 12 months it seems like we’re getting a lot more backlash from Adobe employees both in public as in private conversations when providing (hopefully constructive) criticism and I’m concerned about tha

I dont think anyone has any problem getting constructive feedback or criticism. However, not everyone gives that. Indeed, there are quite a few people who seem to take every opportunity to complain, and /or try and make Adobe look like idiots.

Indeed, some people seem to just want to slag on Adobe every chance they get. That is fine, as you can say whatever you want. However, you cannot expect to be taken as seriously when you do that, and your input is not going to be valued as much. I think some of this is amplified by twitter, as it is so easy to pile on. Of course that is not something isolated to just complaining about Adobe.

Furthermore, a lot of the people working for Adobe, especially those in the public, are very passionate about Flash. So, if someone is complaining about it, perhaps unjustly, or making incorrect assumptions, then they should expect to be called out on it. Otherwise, untruths become truths.

For example, a lot of people, including Seb in this post and Keith in his, are saying that Flash apps on the iphone will have poor performance, will only be useful for dinky content, and are pointing to the current apps as proof. Well, that seems like an odd assumption to make, as the compiler is alpha level right now, the current apps use software rendering, and we have already shown some significantly improved performance with some of the new GPU composition (which has been confirmed by some of the third party developers working with it). So, when someone posts that the performance is going to be horrible, or only good for super simple thing, and that is based on conjecture or super early builds, well, they are probably going to get called out on that.

If you make assumptions, not based on the facts, then yes, you are probably going to get push back on that.

So, to summarize, criticize all you want, but do so constructively, and for things that are important to you. Otherwise, if you just complain all of the time, and are not constructive and just trying to make Adobe look like a bunch of idiots, well, then you are not going to be taken as seriously.

Btw, when I say “you”, I mean it in the sense of “anyone”, and not you, peter elst.

And yes, the Omniture CEO was horrible and arrogant. It was really an embarrassment to Adobe and Omniture.

mike chambers

@jensa I’m not talking specifically about the contents of this blog post, although I don’t agree with everything in it. Nobody thought the Omniture CEO came off good up there. But hey what can you do.

@Peter if you’re saying you have been providing constructive feedback and Adobe has gotten angry with you then that is horrible but that is not at all what I’m talking about. I go out of my way on my blog to solicit feedback and deal with a lot of unhappy people. But certain community members like to whine incessantly about everything we do. You know exactly the people that I’m talking about. For those people they get a kick out of being negative and we are just supposed to smile and take it because we’re Adobe? Sorry, not going to happen.

1. I have to agree, I “tuned out” after the Omniture CEO flaunted the deal made with Adobe. πŸ™ Maybe he was a taking a lesson from Larry Ellison? ;( Anyways, I have to say that was probably the only point of the whole show that was negative for me … and if anything it was perhaps it was an attempt at humor that utterly failed. Not sure.

2. Important to remember Apps for iPhone is alpha. Also, those criticizing Adobe on existing “alpha-ware” performance must have missed the “Optimizing apps for iPhone” session at MAX …

In it there were several apps that demonstrated what the team is working on to improve performance (i.e. GPU acceleration). I was impressed …

OK, but I’m not a desktop developer, and used to seeing “constrained” apps across Flash Lite and other device platforms … but to me it looked like casual games and novelty apps were just the beginning (hopefully).

3. I have to say this Adobe MAX was right on target in terms of what I expected and although the iPhone announcement stole a bit of focus from other cool announcements, there was plenty of other “awesome sauce” at the conference. πŸ™‚

Make John Mayer the CEO of Omniture ….. he could win the crowd over with sentimental songs about _uacct=”UA-SWF_address”;

*crickets chirping* tumbleweed blows by*

that’s all i got πŸ™‚

I wasn’t there but these are all great points to read and absorb.

I don’t think anyone – in or out of Adobe – thinks that the Omniture CEO’s speech was the high point of the keynote. He apparently is much better in a smaller audience, though, so maybe he was just nervous.

Scott is right. CS5 > iPhone compiling was/is in alpha when the apps on the app store were compiled, and we all know how alpha builds are. They’re never perfect and take tons of time and refinement. Even after launch a product will need refinement. Look at Joa’s FOTB session on the Flash Player for example. So, we can not base performance of future products and applications on past releases, only look at how we can improve.

As soon as someone breathes the words “Flash” and “iPhone” in the same breath people get hysterical. (Actually, as soon as it was announced I watched multiple people whip out their iPhones and immediately check their favorite Flash site to see if it would show, only to be extremely disappointed/angry that it didn’t, like somehow FP would magically be on their phones.) We as devs (designer in my case) have a responsibility to ensure our projects perform as best as possible no matter where they may be deployed.

Although I’m not too excited about Flash > iPhone dev in particular, I am excited that we have yet another option for a device to release our content on. This goes inline with the (very under-spoken) FP 10.1 announcement, which I feel is just as big, if not bigger (possible monetization of apps aside) of an announcement.

Quite a can of worms you opened up here Seb! Keith Peters has some interesting thoughts as well as I’m sure people are aware.

With regard to the ‘backlash’ comments discussed. As a pretty amateur Flash developer the opinions of people like Peter Elst, Kieth Peters (and many many others whose books have greatly enhanced my understanding of AS/Flash/OOP etc), and guys like Seb and the PV3D team, are taken a lot of notice of. When they start calling things out I start listening, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. The guys at Adobe maybe need to be aware of this.
However, remember the wave of discontent when CS4 was released? Is to be the future of Adobe releases – getting things out there too early and full of bugs?

Or maybe this is all a clever ploy to put pressure on Apple to integrate the Flash Player proper into the iPhone…

Just wanted to add one more thing to the Omniture-discussion – I’m sure that if the right persons at Adobe had read this interview with Mr. Josh James of Omniture (// they’d not let him speak at MAX.

The line “One of the goals for Omniture has been to reach $1 billion in revenue as fast as we can” pretty much says it all, does it not? Not the fact that they want to make money (we all do) but rather the “as fast as we can” part of it?

I think of the Omniture deal as a (very expensive) way to get hold of their customer base and not the tech (most seem to hate it?). It would be good to see someone from Adobe developer relations comment on the acquisition and explain how buying Omniture will benefit us and Adobe in general. $1.8 billion is a nice lump of money that can be spent on many things πŸ˜€


Most people (Mike and Lee included) value criticism. It’s surprising that one has to explain that when a negative post shows up that often it’s from someone who’s trying to help. Why would someone take the time to complain about something if they didn’t want it to be improved.

Even when someone appears to be flaming I think it’s best to pretend or just tell yourself they’re doing it for your behalf. Adobe should continue to point out when people make inaccurate statements. Having said this–just because someone carefully orchestrated the MAX keynote to deliver a very specific message doesn’t mean a) it’s 100% or b) should be accepted without challenge.

Take the whole iPhone thing. Besides a brilliant strategy (Trojan horse) and all the ingredients of something great (that is, the myth-busters and CEOs videos) the whole thing not only fell flat but was totally misunderstood. The message that was received was: iPhone/Flash/Yes. Naturally, they didn’t really SAY that exactly… and even if you understood the real truth was “Flash>compiled code that can work on iPhone” there’s a lot more to it that is slowly coming out. In my opinion many of the public technical spokespeople for Adobe have now had to explain what this “really” means. Honestly, I don’t know. Is Flash-to-iPhone just going to be a joke or is it really viable? I honestly wonder if the whole thing is intended to provide a real solution or actually intended to marginalize iPhones. That is, “oh, yeah, of course you can use Flash to make iPhone apps… big whoop”. Do please tell me what this means.

As for Omniture–yeah, what do you expect from a company who buys a domain that intentionally deceives people into thinking it’s a local server (using “O” in place of 0–zero)?

The keynote went over by about 1 hour but that Omniture guy was only 10 minutes or so. What was added?

I’ll spare you my full review of MAX. I don’t know if I even have the energy. I loved going–I liked seeing everyone. And, they treated us very well. But the way the keynotes have turned into a boring shade of gray is very sad. All it would have taken was like a gram of showmanship and those keynotes would have rocked. For example, when showing the list of all the mobiles supporting Flash… they could have paused… said “hey, that’s pretty much everyone right? … wait–there’s one that’s not up there… hmm… I can’t remember.” Then they could take a bite of an apple or something. I mean, really, if the message is “iphone days are here” (or they’re coming) then drive that home. Have a line of iphones in your face when you enter the exhibit hall… have a poster that says “now you can”. Whatever! But as it was… no… just all this great potential and no delivery.

Here’s the 30 second version of day 1 keynote:
–random over produced “hip” kids. high-five Shantanu.
–mic fail.
–announce all product versions will increase in number or have a dot-release.
–demo stuff while complaining about the wi-fi!
–have the potential to hit one out of the park with iphone stuff… but (for reasons I can’t understand) make it very bland instead.
–oh, add one Omniture guy who just sold his company.

P.S. Everything I say is intended to help. I suspect most of what I said is not unknown to Adobe. But why oh why can’t they be more bold?

@Phillip everything you say is intended to help? Wow thanks a lot for all help :).

The bottom line is, if you make a sport out of bashing Adobe, you better be prepared to get some back. We’re all friends, but sometimes friends disagree. Some people tend to focus entirely on the negative in everything we do and that is bullshit.

OK better get off this thread before I get in trouble :).

Mike and Lee, I have no problem with you guys correcting us or pointing out information that we might not be aware of. But from my viewpoint, both of you seem to be taking this very personally. I’m sure you don’t see me as someone who is taking every opportunity to complain or make Adobe seem like idiots. And I’m sure Seb does not fit into that category either. I’ve probably done more defending of Adobe on my own blog than anything else. In fact, I wrote up my blog post and didn’t publish it for fear it would come across as too negative, but Mike you said, “Keith, if you have written them up, im sure the team would love to hear your thoughts on the iphone stuff, good and bad.” So I went ahead and published it, but then it seems like you took offense to it.

I understand that this is a big deal for Adobe and both you guys probably have a lot invested in it and believe in it. But realize that if people like Seb and myself come away with a negative feeling about it, it’s not just because we feel like bashing on Adobe. It’s the feeling we took away from what Adobe presented.

I think the Actionscript dev community has jumped the gun on the CS5/iPhone issue… let’s hold our judgement until we see the finished article. Adobe can’t just ignore the iPhone, their platform strategy is focussed on the mobile space, and iPhone is currently a big part of that space; imagine the criticism if Adobe were doing nothing to target the iPhone. Having said that, I think a lot of the perceived negativity is due to people in the community fearing a potential flop when it is released next year. So Adobians, I think you are overreacting to what is basically a worry in your dev community that you might not be able to deliver. Don’t take that worry to heart. I can see how frustrating it is to have so much criticism from your fans, but at least they don’t just whoop and holler at every announcement as per other dev communities we could mention.

My thoughts on Max- well, I’m just getting this stuff 2nd hand via Adobe TV, but the impression I get is that these are still the best times yet to be developing with Adobe products. Yes, the Day 1 keynote sucked a bit, not helped as the CEO is a wooden suit, but hey, at least he’s not Ballmer. I would have liked to have seen further progress with Alchemy – its still a bit of a hacker’s tool, and having no progress this year feeds the impression that Adobe toss out big bangs at conferences (wow, C++ runs in the Flash player!) but then takes the foot off the gas and flits to the Next Big Thing.

Anyways, I’m hijacking Seb’s blog so that’ll do for now..

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