No Flash on the iPad? No Worries

Mobile Development Comments (4)

The iPhone is nearly three years old. The iPod touch, two. Very soon, a third device in that family, the iPad will be here. All of these devices feature high resolution multitouch displays, advanced media capabilities and a great web browser, mobile Safari. All of these devices also lack the plugin needed to play the most widely deployed media file format on the web, the Adobe Flash Player.

As an eLearning developer, this may concern you. It certainly is sparking lots of debate and concern at some sites. Beyond some of the other arguments postulated already, there are a number of other reasons about why it doesn’t matter as much as you may think that may help you sleep easier at night.

Mobile Webkit is good. Very good.

Have you created anything in Javascript lately? Using a JS framework like JQuery? I have. It’s awfully powerful stuff. Not long ago, I was a thoroughly devoted Flash platform developer. Even simple things like galleries and image rotators were perfect reasons to pull out Flash and create a new component. It was easier to build, test and deploy virtually everything in Flash. The language seemed more though out, and the API was just way more powerful, allowing you to be a productive developer, not just a genius debugger. On top of that, web browsers’ capabilities were all over the map in terms of JS performance and reliability. Much of this is a concern no more. The tide is changing.

JQuery has beefed up the API capabilties of Javascript, permitting you to write less and do more with JavaScript, a technology perhaps even more pervasive than Flash.

In the mobile space, while browser compatibility is a big deal, there are some key players that make building, testing and deploying a little easier. A huge majority of web enabled smartphones use Mobile Webkit as their rendering engine. iPhone/iPod/iPad, Droid/Android Devices, Palm WebOS and many Symbian devices all use this browser. Even new Blackberry devices are starting to be released using this browser. This amounts to a huge advantage in developing mobile web applications and in turn mLearning tools. The fact that you are likely deploying to a small selection of devices inside of a company allows you to focus on content development and minimize exposure to lengthy testing cycles. Good news!

There might not be an app for that, but there could be.
Yes, we’ve seen the ads. If you haven’t heard that the latest generation of smartphones major new selling point seems to be custom developed applications for virutally any possible use case, you must be living under a rock. With a little training of your development staff, you could very well port over your content to be a native application on the device platform of your choice. We’ve already talked about that, here.

Please note we’re not necessarily advocating for that, though. There a lot of hurdles to jump through in getting applications redesigned, redeveloped, tested and deployed on these platforms. Plus, if you really are moving Flash content over from eLearning to an mLearning application, there may be big issues in terms of context and user experience that a simple port just won’t fix. Things must be looked at holistically if you are going to produce something desirable to the audience.

Maybe it wasn’t meant to be
You have to realize this… mLearning is NOT eLearning on a small screen. What is an appropriate, engaging experience on a big desktop or laptop may be burdensome and tedious on a touchscreen handheld. It’s unlikely that your eLearning courseware is a great mLearning tool. You may need to rethink how you are designing your content and turn a drag and drop interactive piece into a SMS audience response tool. The changes could be that drastic.

These suggestions are just the beginning. While we at Float wish that Adobe and Apple could just get along and the world’s most ubiquitous content delivery platform, Flash, could be available on a highly popular mobile device, it just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards. What are some creative ways you are getting around the obstacle of not having Flash on the Apple mobile family? Float wants to know.

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Chad Udell is the Managing Partner, strategy and new product development, at Float. There he leads his design and development teams to successful outcomes and award-winning work via a strong background in both disciplines and a singular focus on quality. He has worked with industry-leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to design and develop experiences for 20 years. Chad is recognized as an expert in mobile design and development, and he speaks regularly at national and international events and conferences on related topics. Chad is author of Learning Everywhere: How Mobile Content Strategies Are Transforming Training and co-editor and chapter author, with Gary Woodill, of Mastering Mobile Learning: Tips and Techniques for Success. His newest book, Shock of the New, co-authored with Gary Woodill was released in April of 2019.

» Mobile Development » No Flash on the iPad?...
On March 26, 2010
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4 Responses to No Flash on the iPad? No Worries

  1. […] my post at floatlearning.com to see how this might affect your mLearning strategy. Posted on April 14, […]

  2. Matthew Fabb says:

    For anyone doing mobile development, you should be aware that while most devices use WebKits as their browser rendering engine, they use vast different versions of WebKits as this article points out:
    http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2009/10/there_is_no_web.html
    The writer of that article tested 19 different mobile browsers using WebKit and each one of them were different.

    Here’s a link to a chart comparing those 19 different mobile browsers, documenting their differences in 27 tests:
    http://www.quirksmode.org/webkit.html

    So unfortunately, there’s no way to get around not testing on a large number of mobile devices if you want to support them. Even with when using one particular device, their version of WebKit and how content is rendered changes from one OS to the next.

    • chadu says:

      Matthew, thanks for the visit and input. You are right, not all webkit implementations are created exactly equally. There is no substitute for adequate testing.

      The fact that the basic core rendering engine at least gets you in the same ballpark, however, is at least heartening. Oftentimes, a significant advantage of using a binary plugin like Flash or Silverlight is uniform rendering. Mobile webkit is no panacea, but it could be worse.

  3. […] Read my post at floatlearning.com to see how this might affect your mLearning strategy. […]

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