Wallaby: Adobe sneaks Flash onto the iPhone
However, it’s the lack of ActionScript support that’s the real show-stopper. It means that you won’t be able to take your advanced Flash-based Rich Internet Application (RIA) – say, your online word processor, XML-based news reader, live messenger widget or videoconferencing portal – and suddenly make them available for iOS.
In fact, you won’t be able to convert the simplest game if it depends on ActionScript. So what can you convert? Again, the introduction is clear: “Wallaby does a good job of converting graphical content along with complex, timeline-based animation to HTML5.”
In particular: “The focus for this initial version of Wallaby is to do the best job possible of converting typical banner ads to HTML5.”
Wallaby’s conversion capabilities are clearly limited, but that’s not all. Don’t expect the end results to be ready-to-go. Again, as the introduction states:
“Wallaby’s design goal was not to produce final form HTML ready for deployment to web pages.
Instead it focuses on converting the rich animated graphical content into a form that can easily be imported into other web pages in development with web page design tools like Dreamweaver. The web page designer will likely want to add interactivity and design elements such as video and sound before deployment.”
In practice, this means loading up your Wallaby output as a complex HTML file, built up of multiple SVG text blocks and PNG image files that are then absolutely positioned via CSS (including each animation frame).
Certainly, as things stand, you can forget about usability features such as LiveView and easy editability. You’re then expected to add back any video, audio and interactivity within Dreamweaver.
Assuming the original Flash project was simple and that you’re up to the complexities of recreating it within Dreamweaver, you’re finally ready to deploy.
And here you come across another important caveat: “At this time, the Wallaby HTML5 output uses WebKit specific CSS3 tags and therefore is not compatible with Firefox, IE9, or other HTML5 browsers.”
In other words, the whole enterprise is focused on only one browser engine, WebKit, as used in only two browsers: Chrome and – the only one that really matters since it’s the only one that doesn’t support the Flash player – Safari on the iPhone and iPad. All this for iPad banner ads?
Who knows, maybe the legion of Apple-based ad haters who supported Jobs’ ban so strongly when it was first announced will now be as vociferous in their support for Flash
We’ve arrived at a very different place. It turns out that Wallaby’s Flash-to-HTML5 conversion has absolutely nothing to do with replacing Flash with a truly universal, browser-based HTML5 equivalent.
Instead it’s a complex, targeted workaround designed to enable Flash users to overcome Steve Jobs’ player ban by enabling a small subset of projects to be recreated within the WebKit-based iOS browser runtime.
All in all, it’s a huge amount of effort for what at first sight looks like very little gain. Again, though, it’s important to dig deeper.
First, it’s important to recognise that eye-catching banner ads might be irritating, but they’re also incredibly important. They’re helping to pay for much of the high-quality content on the web, including the PC Pro website.
Apple’s unilateral ban on Flash threatened to remove the most highly sought-after demographic (affluent early adopters) from the equation – and, coincidentally, open them up to Jobs’ own iAds system.
It certainly won’t be welcomed in all quarters, but by enabling rich Flash ads to be delivered to a truly universal web audience, including iPhone and iPad owners, Adobe is doing the web economy a major service. And if it goes some way to breaking the knee-jerk association of irritating ads with Flash, that’s a good thing too.
Who knows, maybe the legion of Apple-based ad haters who supported Jobs’ ban so strongly when it was first announced will now be as vociferous in their support for Flash. After all, you can block Flash, but you can’t block HTML5.
Yes, banner ads are central, but I also think that Adobe has bigger fish to fry. Recently, I wrote about Adobe’s Digital Publishing system, and was astonished to find that the early trial release seemed to depend on bitmaps to enable InDesign users to recreate their typographically rich layouts for iPad delivery.
Clearly, recreating rich designs via more efficient, scalable SVGs and CSS is a far superior solution (although still nowhere near as simple, efficient or elegant as using Flash).
Crucially, recreating publications via WebKit provides a way for designers and publishers to ensure that their rich content can be viewed by all users, including those who would otherwise be off-limits in Steve Jobs’ walled kingdom.
It’s this determination to provide the richest possible experience, whether inside the browser or inside the player, that cross-platform web development is all about.