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.

Flash is as open as HTML

What most people miss-understand is: It’s not the Flash Player which is supposed to be “open” or not. It’s the Flash/SWF specification, which is open. The Player is not and no-one said that it is.

Think of it like this:

  • HTML is based on an open specification made by the W3C. Browsers interpret HTML in order to provide web content.
  • Flash is based on an open specification made by Adobe. Flash Players can interpret SWF in order to provide web content.

The fact that Adobe’s Flash Player is the most spread doesn’t make Flash a “bad” technology.
Some years ago, the Internet Explorer was the most dominant web browser on the web. It was buggy (and still is) and proprietary and all but did anybody blame HTML on that? I’m sure no-one did.
If people say now that the Flash Player should be open: Is every browser manufacturer in the world now supposed to open their browser source as well? – I don’t think so.
It’s the same with Flash. The format is open, the Player is not.
It’s not Adobe’s fault that there are no other competitors which offer versions of Flash Player that can compete with the original one by Adobe.

Flash is not contra-productive to an open web
Don’t get me wrong. I personally don’t like proprietary systems but I can understand companies that don’t want to open their software.
For an open web, this isn’t important though. What needs to be open is the format, not the player/browser which renders/interprets the content.

Just to make things clear

  • I am not an Adobe-fanboy.
  • I hate the Flash Player, but I love Adobe’s tools to create content of any type.
  • I am not an Apple-hater. I own a Macbook myself and I love it.
  • I want as much control over my devices as possible. Thus, I own an Android phone.
    No company in the world should be allowed to tell me what I should install on my phone and what not.
    I can’t install Flash on an iPhone? – Won’t buy it. That simple.

Flash-to-HTML5: A must-have!

There has a lot of discussion going around in the past days about the big Adobe vs. Apple issues. All because of Flash.

Steve doesn’t like Flash. He says, it’s buggy, slow and unstable, which I, as a Flash developer, must agree to partially.

But this is only one side of the medal. While the Flash player itself isn’t that great, the development tools provided by Adobe, like Catalyst, Flash Builder or Flash Professional, are really awesome. For me, as a traditional software engineer coming from Java programming, all these tools are absolutely professional, easy to use and really enhance the development workflow.

Thus, there can be only one consequence:

The Flash Player must be eliminated from the web and Adobe should continue building their great developer tools, but target HTML5.

On the Adobe MAX 2009, it was demonstrated, that it is possible to export Flash applications into HTML5. I know that this is just an early prototype, but if Adobe wants to survive, I think this is probably the best way to go, since all sides would benefit from this:

  • The web gets rid of the Flash Player
  • Steve is happy
  • Flash Developers can continue using Adobe products to create web applications
  • Adobe will survive

This strategy totally makes sense. Adobe doesn’t make money by selling the Flash Player. They sell development tools which target the Flash Player. If these tools would instead target HTML5, no-one would get hurt.

I know, this is technically not very easy. There are Flash-features which do not exist in HTML5 (yet), like web-cam support for example. But time will fix this. As far as I know, web-cam support was already suggested as a new feature for the next HTML versions.

Flash + iPad: Der Druck auf Apple wächst

Auf golem.de gibt es ein interessantes Interview mit Matthias Döpfner, Konzernchef des Axel-Springer Verlags, in dem das iPad als Retter der Print-Industrie gepriesen wird:

“Jeder Verleger auf der Welt sollte sich einmal am Tag niedersetzen, beten und Steve Jobs dafür danken, dass er damit die Verlagsindustrie rettet”

Gleichzeitig übt Döpfner Kritik am iPad, da dieses kein Flash unterstütze. Die Hoffnung ruht aber auf der Konkurrenz, die Adobe’s Technologie nicht ablehnt, wie zum Beispiel HP mit seinem Tablet, genannt Slate.

Döpfner äußerte aber auch Kritik am iPad und Apple. So sei er enttäuscht, dass Flash auf dem Gerät nicht läuft. Die Contentbranche solle sich zudem mit Apple zusammensetzen und die Umsatzverteilung neu verhandeln. 30 Prozent Umsatzanteil für Apple sei zu viel. Doch die Konkurrenz bei den Tablets werde sich hier positiv auswirken. Es gebe Tablets von Microsoft und Amazon und es werde ein Tablet von Google geben.

Quelle: golem.de

Ich persönlich stimme zu 100% mit dieser Meinung überein. Keine Frage, das iPad ist ein nettes Gerät und füllt ausgezeichnet die Lücke zwischen Smartphone und Notebook. Ich kann mit gut vorstellen, wie in ein paar Jahren Menschen mit Tablet statt Zeitung im Café sitzen und ihre täglichen News konsumieren. An Flash als Platform für solch reichhaltige Medien führt allerdings zur Zeit kein Weg vorbei. Wie so etwas aussehen kann zeigt ein Video auf theFlashBlog.com (Unbedingt ansehen!!).

Langfristig wünsche ich mir allerdings ein Web ohne Flash Player. Es ist ja unlängst bekannt, dass sich Flash-Anwendungen in native iPhone-Applikationen kompilieren lassen. Wäre dann nicht theoretisch eine (teilweise) Transformation nach HTML5 möglich? Schön wär’s.

HP Slate: The better iPad

The HP Slate looks as cool as the iPad, has more features like Flash-support or a built-in camera and offers a full operating system (Windows 7).

The iPad lacks support for Flash (No Flash videos, No Flash games like Farm Ville), has no camera (hello, video telephony?) and the worst of all: No full OS.
It’s basically nothing more than a big iPod Touch with all its limits.

I don’t know when exactly in 2010 the Slate will come out, but as long as it’s affordable, I’d probably buy it.

Sorry Apple, as much as I like your (real) computers, the mobile devices you build are a joke.