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Playing an unhealthy dose of Zynga's Empires & Allies has taught me two things. First, even in my 40s, I can still like act like I'm 12. Second, Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE ) , which supplies the underlying platform for E&A, is in a very dangerous place right now.
I'll understand if that sounds confusing. How could powering some of the world's most popular games be dangerous? Isn't it good to be the development runtime of choice for Zynga when more than 200 million users actively play its games monthly? Yes, of course. On all counts.
Unfortunately, Flash isn't the only platform Zynga is toying with. Facebook is also experimenting with a pure HTML5 app layer for Mobile Safari that would entirely circumvent Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) App Store. Gamers and Facebook alike are about to get a lot of data about how Flash compares to HTML. Adobe may not like the outcome.
Why? Flash chews up processors the way dogs chew on bones, pummeling them with workloads til they run hot enough to burn your lap. I've seen this firsthand. The TweetDeck app would routinely push my Mac's CPU well beyond 100% capacity. Before long, the rising heat pushes the twin internal fans to close to 6,000 rpm, and my computer begins to sound like an idling jet engine.
TweetDeck runs on AIR, Adobe's platform for Web-based apps, but Flash is notoriously no less inefficient. That's not a big deal when you're only talking about a passive YouTube video viewer, but gamers are anything but passive.
I don't want to overstate the potential impact here, because Adobe's diversified business embraces far more than Flash. But Flash has been -- and at least for a while, will be -- an essential technology for delivering audio, video, and apps via the Web. Both Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) have taken steps to change that by publicly committing to HTML5. Facebook and Zynga could reverse the tide, but only if Flash keeps white-hot social games such as Empires & Allies from leaving CPUs similarly scorching.
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