Java on the client, Flash, mobile

Reader Alex posted this comment on my Java on the client…again post (I’m only quoting Alex’s last paragraph). This is a very interesting part:

For good or ill, the debate is becoming moot as mobile takes over. The future of “client-side” Java is most likely on Android. What remains on the desktop will either be in the browser or split among increasingly irrelevant technologies like Swing, .NET, and Flash. The degree to which Sun/Oracle has screwed up Swing at this point is truly epic.

I think Flash is safe on the desktop for now. I mean, we used Flash for Tiggr prototypes simply because it was faster for us to get where we wanted today. (We will be looking at HTML5 sometime this year, though.) However, moving forward I think there will be more and more pressure on Flash. I know that for some applications, it’s still much simpler or even “better” to use Flash, but, if HTML5, JavaScript and CSS can be used in 90% of cases, why use Flash? It’s interesting, a few years ago I thought that JavaFX was the challenge to Flash. I was wrong. Hey, you never know, maybe JavaFX 2.0 will finally turn out to be that technology.

On mobile, the situation is very different. I just don’t see Flash going anywhere in that area today. Flash on mobile kind of feels like JavaFX on the desktop – people talk about it, but no one uses it. The big battle between Apple and Adobe last year – does anyone remember it today? Does anyone miss Flash on mobile devices? I have been using Android for the past six months, and not once did I miss Flash. Just once, I accessed a news page with embedded Flash video.

With iOS being the dominant platform, most content providers adapted by producing either a native app or a Web app (HTML). There is a huge benefit to creating a Web app. You create one app and cover all the platforms: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, and webOS. BlackBerry is saying their devices support (or will support) Flash, but it’s probably just a gesture to show that they are different from iOS as they continue losing the battle against iOS and Android.

With a large number of smartphones and tablets coming out this year, it will be interesting to see how this develops. Perhaps an update in January 2012.

2 thoughts on “Java on the client, Flash, mobile

  1. The theory of Web apps is nice, but of course it turns out that none of the Android phones support SVG in the browser (using the stock Android build & browser anyway) – and the same is also true of other WebKit features you can use on iOS. There are of course Android webkit features not available on iOS.

    I guess this is the problem of ‘the web’ being a collection of specs, rather than a single versioned spec.

    It’s good in some ways, as we don’t need to wait for a complete implementation of a mammoth specification, but it does make it difficult when it comes to developing something that will work across a wide range of devices.

    The other interesting question is the one that has always dogged Java on the client – do users actually want the same experience on all devices? Or is that something of interest to software vendors?

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