Two big A’s continue their row. The latest round was fired by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs in a lengthy blog post entitled ‘Thoughts on Flash.‘ No it’s not some new memory technique or a way to save your childhood before old age strips you of it. It’s what he sees the problem being between Apple and Adobe.
Jobs states that the companies have and still work together. It’s true, many Mac users are also Adobe product users. But he also goes on to say that the relationship has soured over the years and beyond this particular area, there are no joint ventures really.
Then he goes on to discuss the open and closed nature of the technologies involved, first saying that Apple is open and Flash is closed. Personally, I think both are closed. Both are proprietary and that in and of itself means they are going to be fairly closed, as in not open source.
Now both companies are calling the other closed and their own tech open, and both would be wrong.
By Almost any Definition, Flash is a Closed System
He then bashes Adobe for maintaining a tight grip on their products from development to pricing and the direction they will take in the future. Pot calling the kettle black if I ever heard it. Let’s talk about how “open” Apple is in regards to its product line shall we? Control on the development side, no, Apple never would be such a “closed” system and maintain as much control over that aspect of its products.
Oh he didn’t mean Apple’s products, he meant the Web. Of course he wasn’t very clear on that until he started singing the praises of Apple in the next paragraph.
Apple is Open, the Web Should be Open?
Whilehe does admit that Apple has a wide range of proprietary products – including the iPhone, iPod and iPad operating systems – he further states that what he means is that Apple wants an open web.
*Brakes screeching* Huh? Weren’t you talking about the companies themselves? We’re talking about you allowing Flash on your portable platforms no? Do you so think that you are the pre-eminent power in the world that you are defending the openness of the web by disallowing Flash on your platforms? If that’s the case, then when will you be adopting an open source video codec instead of H.264?
Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.
He does tout Apple’s WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine, used in Safari and all Apple products. It’s a good system as evidenced by widespread adoption including Google Android, Palm, Nokia and RIM has also stated they’ll start using it as well.
By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.
The Full Web
The major use of Flash on the web is of course the area we’re all concerned with, online video. Now here comes his most excellent twisting of open and closed, perhaps he’s working his way into politics?
Adobe says Apple mobile users are missing out on web content. It’s true, there is a lot of Flash out there on the web, games, video, applications, entire websites. Personally, I hate Flash-based websites, love Flash games and generally don’t care about the player’s technology (when surfing and watching video), unless of course I’m on my iPhone. Then it’s all just missing. Would it be beneficial to users to have Flash on the iPhone? Absolutely. Should all developers be forced to create another version of their content just for Apple mobile users? No! That’s far from setting any type of standard. In fact, it’s more like a double standard isn’t it? “Oh Flash is fine for computers, but Apple mobile needs something else.”
Could it be that Apple is just trying to continue their closed system and drive App Store sales? Jobs himself said that there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store and that Flash is not needed because of that fact. It sounds like he’s saying “In order to maintain sales of these apps, we won’t allow Flash because much of the content is freely available on the web.” Well, that’s what it sounds like to me.
In regards to video he says that YouTube is playable on the platform, and it is thanks to the pre-bundled app. So there’s no issue there. A lot of other large sites are also using alternatives so that Flash isn’t needed.
So in looking at setting a standard open platform, it seems like what has really happened is that the industry is now fragmented and all of this has really just caused everyone else more work and expense.
On top of that he stated that 75% of all video on the web is Flash. I have to guess it’s more really. He does give a long list of sites that are using H.264 without Flash like YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic.
He fails to mention Amazon (after doing some research) the NFL, MLB, eBay, Facebook. Oh wait I forgot, HULU – requires Flash Player 10.0.22 or higher. He also fails to mention that H.24 could someday no longer be freely available.
Flash is the #1 Reason Macs Crash?
So Flash is the major problem on Macs according to Jobs and a major reason for not implementing Flash is because they don’t want to “reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.”
He continues to say that it does not perform well on mobile devices and is not on any smartphone and was promised time and again and Adobe has failed to deliver. Perhaps he didn’t see this:
Adobe is currently planning to deliver Flash Player 10.1 for Android smartphones as a public preview at the Google I/O conference May 19-20, with a general release to follow in June. From that point on, Adobe expects to see an increasing number of Flash 10.1 enabled devices to arrive (Qualcomm Snapdragon based Android phones are Flash 10.1 ready).
Furthermore, Android 2.2 Froyo will support Adobe AIR applications. Additionally, Adobe is currently working to bring Flash Player and AIR 2 to products by Nokia, RIM, Palm, Microsoft and others. It’s worth noting that Adobe AIR 2 is expected to give iPhone apps competition as far as Web-oriented apps are concerned. As a result of the Open Screen Project, AIR 2 will let developers create optimized third-party Web apps for smartphones.
The Most Important Reason
Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.
We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.
Yet keeping the consumers locked into what Apple wants to do, when Apple wants to do it is perfectly OK with him. He talks about it blocking developer’s ability to implement innovations and enhancements to the platforms because of the lag time in the third-party implementing them. First I don’t see there being huge leaps and bounds in the iPhone OS over the last year or so. Sure, multitasking is coming, but it’s been a long time coming. Also, if Apple were more open about its platform it would allow third-parties to gain access to what they were working on and perhaps speed the implementation of those features. But that would smack of collaboration and would put an end to this bitter debate. What fun would that be?
I think he wrote his blog post in several sittings. Aside from it being rather lengthy he contradicts himself numerous times. For example Flash was developed PC Age (now we’re in some other age?) for PC and mouse, then he says it’s a cross-platform development tool. He says that Adobe is not concerned about people making the best apps for the Apple mobile platform, but for cross-platforms then states that Adobe was the last third-party dev to fully adopt Mac OS X with their CS 5 package.
Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.
New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.
Perhaps Apple should realize that the so-called open standards they are allegedly supporting are based on a video encoder that could become closed at any time. That they seem more concerned about how conent looks on their platform than on all platforms and that their platform is also closed.
I highly doubt this is based on technology as much as he’d like us to believe. With their recent announcements of ads coming to the iPhone they need to give advertisers a reason to bring ads there. By locking out all other ads, they assure their potential clients that there will be far less competition in the ad space. What that really means is that Apple can set all the prices to whatever the market will bear. Of course there are already other mobile ad networks springing up that are utilizing HTML 5 so the competition is already out there. A lot of video ads are served up through Flash. By keeping Flash away from the iPhone I think they can also keep those ads away.
While he often mentions that it’s all about creating the best apps for the platform and giving the users the best experience possible, he never once stopped to think that perhaps the users actually want Flash on their iPhones, iPod and iPads. He never once stopped to consider what the consumers think, only what he wants them to think. What does he want them to think? That he and Apple have your best interests in mind. Really, I’m sure that they have their bottom line in mind and just want you to fork over cash for their goods. That is after how business works right?
I eagerly await Adobe’s response to this and I’m sure it will be forthcoming soon as Mr. Jobs posted this rant sometime last week.