Flash, Flex, the real web experience and eating your own dog food

I watched with interest a few weeks back when Apple Steve Jobs launched into positioning Apple products, namely the iPad against other soon-to-be tablet PC’s. Now this isn’t a robust defense of the Dell Streak (5-inch) Internet phone/wifi device/tablet, it is commentary on what happened next.

A few days later, RIM CEO Jim Balsillie fired back at Jobs with a great media qoute about Apples “Distortion Field”. Saying amongst other things that the RIM 7-inch tablet aka Playbook, will get a good market share and that “we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience”.

Blackberry Torch 6 Home screen

Blackberry Torch 6 Home screen

Which brings up an interesting point. I just got a brand new Blackberry Torch, which has Blackerrys latest 6.0 OS, a touch screen and some really nice software and service integration that combines RSS, Facebook and Twitter feeds together. The phone has also been pretty reliable in my first 3-weeks of use, I’ve only had to remove the battery once to force a reboot.

Every time I visit a web page that has flash, the webkit enabled browser reports “This graphic requires version 9 or higher of Adobe Flash Player.” and provides a helpful link to “Get the latest Flash Player”. Sadly, clicking on that link just gets the screen that has welcomed a million* iPhone users…

“Sorry Adobe Flasy Player is not available from adobe.com for your device’s operating system or browser”

And thats that. So, Mr Balsillie, where’s my real web experience on your flagship phone product?

Of course, this disappointment was made all the more ironic in that last week I got an email from Brian Gladden, Chief Financial Officer, Ron Garriques, President, Communication Solutions, and Robin Johnson, Chief Information Officer here at Dell announcing that they will be moving all Dell-issued Blackberry phone users over to Dell based devices like the Dell Streak Tablet and Dell Aero Smartphone over the next 2-years as Blackberry contracts expire.

Now thats great news as I’m a big believer in eating your own dogfood, something we didn’t do often enough at IBM. Getting IT Suppliers and manufacturers to use their own new products is a key move in my opinion. It’s one of the things that drove some great innovation into the early virtual machine operating systems at IBM. However, our internal IT team are under just as much pressure to modernize and adapt new technology, possibly more so than our customers. Adopting these Dell devices will give us some valuable experience in what our customers will have to go through.

For my part, Dell IT already have deployments of our Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) and getting good results. In the design and architecture for VIS, we’ve so far managed to avoid and eliminate any use of flex/flash technology in our User Interface design and requirements, and that is great at it means we have a greater freedom of action by being able to develop for a much wider range of devices, and still deliver a quality interface and user experience.

*OK, ok, millions and millions…

2 Responses to “Flash, Flex, the real web experience and eating your own dog food”

  1. 1 Andrew Glynn November 4, 2010 at 2:12 am

    About a million years ago in another lifetime or something I used to work with my girlfriend at the time, one of the first “multimedia designers” writing apps in what was then called Macromind Director. Macromind became Macromedia and Director got bigger and slower, then Adobe bought it and it got bigger and much slower. Over that time though Lingo had developed into a very good OO language, and the stage/score metaphor was a fantastic way to provide what, say, continuation servers are now trying to provide in a much less advanced manner.

    Enter Flash/Flex/Flax or whatever you want to call it. The problem with Director was that it used bitmaps, pixels, you know, images and video – not vector graphics. So it was slow and the files were big. Where this mattered was the ‘net. Flash used vector graphics, but it was pretty timid compared to Director when it came to actually doing anything interesting. Flingo? Really?

    In fact, to do anything really useful you had to, um, put in bitmaps, pixels, images, video, anything really other than vector graphics.

    So now we have Flex/Flash/Flax or whatever, yet another bastard child from Adobe. The problem is it’s too slow and the files are too big, and where this matters is the ‘net – although anyone sensible uses flashblock on Firefox – and now, apparently, on micro devices. It’s terrible to program compared with, well, Director. And users hate seeing 99% of their limited CPU and memory used up by another ugly Flash ad. Are flash ads and youtube the “real” web experience?

    I could do with never seeing another Flash/Flex/Flux/Flush ad personally. Youtube? Sure, just put it in Quicktime would ya, google?

  2. 2 Dominique December 1, 2010 at 7:24 am

    What exactly does the term ‘real web trend’ means? I don’t really know!

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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I am a Fellow of the British Computer Society (bsc.org) I'm an information technology optimist.

I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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