Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Flash on Tablets

Still not ready for primetime?

Flash still not on the iPad -- and that's a good thing

I’ve been trying to find Flash games that will run on my tablet, and having very little luck so far. Now, let’s get the caveats out of the way: I only have this one Android tablet to test on and maybe the Acer just stinks at Flash (though I doubt it given how similar it is to the Xoom and Galaxy Tab 10.1 in terms of internals) and maybe Honeycomb 3.1 will fix some of the stuff I’m about to gripe about. That out of the way, let’s get to the griping…

The first problem is performance. Flash on this tablet is a dog. It struggles to run high-def Flash video and can’t smoothly scroll a game as simple as Farmville. The tablet is no slouch in terms of performance otherwise, so I’m laying the blame here at Adobe’s feet. Presumably, Adobe can fix this as it continues to optimize Flash for the Tegra 2 (and other tablet) chipsets, but for now the combination of dual-core tablets and Android Honeycomb 3.0 just doesn’t have the horsepower to run Flash well.

Assuming we can get performance taken care of, the next problem is input. As I tested various games I’d run into problems as seemingly simple as a help screen that ended with “Press [Space] to continue….” and I couldn’t find a way to invoke the Android virtual keyboard to get access to the space bar, nor would any kind of tapping get me past it. Lots of games use keystrokes to move characters and those of course won’t work either. I suppose I could plug a keyboard into the Acer (hooray for that full-sized USB port) but that seems to defeat the purpose of playing on a tablet.

Even games that were built around point and click proved problematic at times. Clicking by tapping mostly worked fine, but when a game wanted me to hold the mouse button down and drag (to pan around a map, for instance) I’d be in trouble again. Sometimes it would work, but other times I’d end up scrolling the entire Web page instead of whatever was supposed to scroll inside the Flash app. There’s also the issue of clustered controls that are easy to target with a precise mouse cursor aren’t as easy to hit reliably with a big fat finger. Too often I’d trigger the control next to the one I really wanted to activate.

And the last problem I had was with the size of Flash apps. The Acer has a screen resolution of 1280x800. Some Flash games I ran into didn’t quite fit into those dimensions (the x800 aspect), which surprised me considering how many people still run their systems at 1024x768, but I guess those people just get used to scrolling the page up and down slightly.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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