I have been using the Windows 8 Consumer Preview since it was released at the end of February, and my experience has been relatively good so far. There have, as is to be expected, been a few bugs here and there, but they are easily to overlook on pre-release software. The biggest annoyance, however, has been the lack of support for Adobe Flash in the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10. Surprisingly, Windows 8 won’t just support Adobe Flash in the final version, it will actually come bundled with it.
Most web developers are transitioning from Flash to HTML5, but many high profile websites still require the use of Flash. In the Developer and Consumer Previews of Windows 8, encountering a Flash-based website in the Metro browser forced the user to open the page up on the desktop side of IE10. This, while doable and fairly simple, was somewhat of a pain. It’s also not ideal on touch screen devices like tablets; especially those that run the ARM-based Windows RT, which doesn’t allow users to install traditional apps on the desktop. To make matters worse, some HTML5 video players, like YouTube, only seem to work half the time.
Once the Windows 8 Release Preview hits in early June, this will no longer be an issue–in most cases, that is. Microsoft has repeatedly stated that the Metro browser will not support add-ons. This, of course, is because browser performance issues can usually be traced back to add-ons, not the browser itself. But with Flash still a necessary evil, Microsoft has worked closely with Adobe’s engineers to include the actual Flash source code in Internet Explorer 10.
Interestingly, Flash on IE10 won’t work on every website. “Flash is supported for only those popular but legacy web sites that need it,” writes Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott. Flash support will only be enabled on websites contained in IE’s Compatibility View list. Exactly how expansive this list will be is unknown, but it allows Microsoft to ensure website compatibility while guaranteeing–to an extent–good performance, security, and battery life.
Adobe’s Flash is notorious for its security issues, so one has to wonder how updates will be handled in IE10. At this point, it sounds like Adobe might have to go through Microsoft in order to update its software. Will this require an update to IE10 as a whole, or just a small part of it? Will these updates be released in sync with Adobe’s regular releases? Only time will tell.
There’s also the question of how Flash will be handled on the desktop side. If Internet Explorer 10 has Flash built-in, will the desktop browser’s Flash support be limited to the same sites as the Metro side? Will users be able to download the “full” version of Flash on Adobe’s website and override the desktop side’s built-in but somewhat limited version of Flash?
And how will services like Hulu deal with this? Hulu allows its users to freely watch the majority of its content on traditional computers. Everything else, however, requires a special Hulu app and a Hulu Plus subscription. This includes smartphones, tablets, video game consoles, set top boxes, and much more. With Windows 8 being both a traditional computer and a tablet–and possibly a smartphone OS too–will Hulu decide to remove free streaming as a whole?
There are still many unknowns surrounding Flash in Internet Explorer 10, but all should be revealed when the Windows 8 Release Preview becomes available in early June.