Adobe’s Missed Opportunity – FlashOSon 19 February 2011

Adobe’s FlashOSA though crossed my mind today, one that I did not expect. I have never read anything about something like this, which is why I am posting my thoughts here. Adobe first complained that iOS did not include the Flash Player and focused their energy on that argument, instead worked on creating their own OS using ActionScript – FlashOS.

Adobe already has one of the largest communities of developers around. Especially at the time of the original iPhone’s release. This would have proven to be a great success with so many developers ready to create apps.

Apps aside, Adobe could have partnered with ARM or even Intel, to create mobile device integration with the hardware. Instead of being an interpreted language on another company’s platform, Flash could have been completely hardware integrated. This FlashOS could be running on and interacting directly with the silicon. This would yield impressive performance benefits that an interpreted language simply cannot do. Adobe is already converting to LLVM, surely it could be converted to a specific device.


There is already a wealth of content out there for Flash. Not the preloaders and other time wasting animations, there is great Flash content on the web. The Flash Website Awards proves that. The existing inspiration on the web would fuel the creative apps that are currently all over the iTunes App Store.

Flash is a very creative platform and that creativity would be easily transferred to FlashOS.

The Adobe Problem

Without the tightly integrated hardware component, FlashOS runs into the fullscreen problem. When content requires that the screen is to be redrawn, movement traditionally slows to a crawl. This creates a less than desirable user experience.

Adobe’s Flash frameworks have never encompassed complete systems. Nor has Adobe defined its own visual UI style, only base styles that were meant to be overwritten. A multi-million dollar corporation could surely design interfaces for its own OS.

Personally I feel that if the work is consistently exceptional and easy to use – it practically sells itself. Flash has never been entirely desirable (otherwise there would not be browser plug-ins to block it specifically) on the desktop. Nor has it been consistent across platforms.

Adobe Missed the Boat

As much as I am only thinking about this, I wonder if Adobe realizes it missed a huge opportunity. This would have been a huge advancement for both the platform and the development community – a quick and easy development platform to write phone apps. That is what Adobe is trying to accomplish now, except for every phone platform. Flash Player could have defined its own destiny on a mobile device by integrating with the hardware.

Instead, Adobe has been playing catch-up to bring features and performance to a plugin that is meant to be used on desktops and secondarily mobile devices. Only within the last few weeks was player performance for HD video reduced. HD video has been around for quite some time and only now there is a new way to display this content without the player struggling to keep up. Imagine what could have been done if they were leading the charge with features.

The Blackberry Playbook looks promising, if it handles everything it says it does. However, it was not Adobe creating a platform for the Playbook, it was QNX. I bet Adobe could come up with better looking default UI than what has been displayed on this Adobe blog post.

Flash OS could have been Adobe’s moment to shine, license more copies of their suite of tools (or preferably give them away), and define how Flash and ActionScript would be a key technology when it comes to mobile apps.

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