Apple’s cheap trick on Macbook AIR battery runtime tests

I am sure, you’ve all heard about Apple’s recent release of the new Macbook AIR which comes without Flash preinstalled as well as their claims of longer battery lifetime without Adobe’s RIA platform. The computer manufacturer even announced a maximum of 5-7 hours runtime based on some new series of tests they made by browsing the web without the Flash plugin installed.

In fact though, these tests are not objective. Without Flash, no animated ads are being displayed while you surf the web which probably cause most CPU load (besides video playback).

I actually agree with Adobe’s CTO Kevin Lynch who said in an interview (see below) that replacing all Flash-ads with HTML5 canvas content would not increase battery life.

Animation => CPU-load

It’s in the nature of animations to cause higher CPU-load than static content, no matter if it is being provided by Flash or HTML5 canvas.
Actually, HTML5 canvas animations require more CPU power than Flash animations do, no matter on which browser (even on fast Webkit-based ones).

If you don’t believe, I recommend to read my recent thesis about RIA performance analysis.
Section 2.3.2.5 proofs that HTML5 canvas animation is currently inferior to Flash-based animation performance which implies that more CPU power is required to reach an equal fps rate which again leads to higher energy drain.

Apple’s smart. Really smart.

If people would only take off their Apple-glasses they would realize that the daily experience with Flash-based animations (which often tend to cause high CPU load) probably influences their attitude towards Flash.

Whenever we see Flash-based content like ads or video, our computer’s CPU requires more energy. That shortens battery lifetime, often forces the fan to run faster. This experience makes us think: Flash=bad, but it isn’t. It’s not McDonald’s fault that people are getting fatter and fatter. Burgers and fries simply are fat but people still want them.

Apple’s trick to run their battery-test without Flash returns false results. It’s no wonder that battery lifetime goes up without Flash since animations usually cause most CPU load while surfing the web (besides video playback).
If they’d done the test correctly, they should’ve converted all Flash-content to HTML5 and then re-run the test.

I am not an Adobe/Flash fanboy.

I own and love many Apple products.
Actually, this blog entry was written on a Macbook Pro and I’d probably never trade it for a Windows- or Linux-based notebook. I even recommend Macs whenever I can to friends but as much as I like Apple’s products in general, I really dislike their recent behavior towards Flash.

In a nutshell

  • Animations (like Flash-ads) can cause a lot of CPU load while surfing the web. It’s in the nature of animations to do so. Replacing those ads with HTML5 canvas animations would make things only worse.
  • HTML5-based video playback seems to require much less CPU power than Flash-video. Since most ads rely on animations rather than video playback, this argument does not really apply.
  • Apple’s accusation of Flash being a battery-drainer is wrong. Animations drain power, not Flash. Thus, their test-series of battery lifetime on the new Macbook AIR is not objective.

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