You have to feel a little bit sorry for Adobe Flash. The much-maligned technology has been dissed by Apple. It's unstable on Android. It's a potential no-show on Windows Phone 7. It doesn't yet exist on BlackBerry. Now it's being blamed in part for lackluster battery life on RIM's forthcoming PlayBook tablet.
According to reports, Kaufman Bros. analyst Shawn Wu said Flash is contributing to the relatively short battery life of the PlayBook, which he estimated might hit the six-hour mark -- on par with that of the Samsung Galaxy Tab -- with "significant re-engineering." Wu said, "As seen in recent tests for the new MacBook Air, use of Flash can cut battery life in half. It should be no surprise to anyone that our checks indicate Adobe is furiously working on reducing Flash's consumption of resources to make it a viable mobile platform vs. HTML5 that both Apple and Google are moving toward." (By comparison, Flash-less iPads run for 10 to 11 hours, typically)
Wu's assessment did not sit well with at least one Adobe employee: "I'm sort of astonished this long-debunked talking-point is still floating around," wrote Adobe's John Dowell in response to a report on Wu's analysis of the PlayBook. "Richer-media usually takes more work than static media. Running video costs more than not running video. And when running video, using hardware decompression is usually more efficient than running everything through the CPU. And when Adobe Flash Player runs video, it's usually more efficient than vendor-specific solutions."
It's difficult to believe that simply supporting Flash is, in itself, a significant power drain. There are more likely contributors to the PlayBook's reportedly lackluster battery life. Wu cites two other potential culprits: the QNX operating system, which was designed for devices that draw power from a wall socket or car battery; and RIM's relatively poorly implemented power management features. Other hardware components under the hood might also play a role.
Flash -- despite all its benefits -- has endured many slings and arrows from critics of late, the most infamous being Steve Jobs's public trashing of the technology. As such, observers might be increasingly willing to view the technology as a scapegoat for subpar hardware performance, as well as comparing it unfavorably to HTML5, despite the fact that the latter remains incomplete and untested.
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