Xoom Gets Flash -- But Don't Get Too Excited

When Motorola's Xoom hit Verizon stores last month, it was missing some of the features that promised to make it the iPad's first formidable rival -- including its much-touted support for Adobe's Flash Player. That got fixed Friday when Adobe released Flash Player 10.2 for Android, a version which supports phones and tablets running versions of Android dating back to last year's 2.2 Froyo.

I installed the new Flash on the Xoom and started trolling the Web for Flash content to try. My experience was mixed. Adobe doesn't claim that this is a finished piece of software: The Honeycomb version of Flash Player is billed as a beta, and according to Engadget's Sean Hollister, it doesn't yet support hardware acceleration. (Apparently, the First Law of Mobile Flash -- the version you want is always not quite here yet -- still holds.)

A few notes:

* I watched Best of Show on Amazon Video on Demand in hopes of performing an informal battery test. It drained the battery from 44 percent full to 15 percent full in one hour and 20 minutes. But during that time, the audio got out of sync, and then the picture froze -- and I couldn't get Flash to work properly again without rebooting the Xoom. At that point, I gave up with the battery test.

* Some other standard-definition video I tried, such as that at Bloggingheads.tv, worked reasonably well.

* I watched Glee in HD, again on Amazon, and it would play smoothly in full-screen mode for a few seconds, then sputter, then play smoothly, then sputter...

* I tried Bejeweled on Facebook; it was playable, but the animation was herky-jerky.

* Hulu, as I expected, blocks Flash Player on the Xoom.

* Google's Picnik photo editor sort of works -- I could load photos and apply effects. But the sliders that are everywhere in the interface don't function properly; I don't think they really understand touch input.

All in all, it seems to be a version of Flash that works some of the time but not always, and not always well. That's not, um, ideal. Neither is the fact that Flash isn't available at all on the iPad. But the lure of Apple's audience has prompted plenty of companies to make Flash-based stuff work on iOS devices in one way or another -- I can get Hulu (Plus), Bloggingheads, and Bejeweled on the iPad. And they all work reliably.

We'll know that Flash Player for Android makes sense when having it is clearly better than not having it...

A few screenshots of Flash-based content on the Xoom:

flashandroid-puzzle

flashandroid-picnik

flashandroid-bejeweled

flashandroid-amazon

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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