The issue of Flash – or rather lack thereof – on the iPhone and iPods (and now the iPad), has long been a source of frustration and consternation for Apple devotees. More and more discontent has spilled into public discussion, with Apple openly taking what some perceive as potshots at Adobe, the makers of Flash, and Adobe, in turn, responding. Now it has erupted into open discussion (ok, attacks), with none less than Steve Jobs openly publishing on the Apple web site his “Thoughts on Flash”, and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen responding in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Says Jobs, after laying out a more friendly history with Adobe in times past, “I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues. Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain.”
Further on in the letter, Jobs mentions that “Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don’t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads. YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web’s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever.”
He goes on to mention that “Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.”
He then goes on to talk about how Flash negatively impacts battery life, and Flash wasn’t created to work well with touch screens.
But, says Jobs, in closing, “the most important” reason that Apple will not let Flash on its devices is that “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.”
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He goes on in some length to talk about what he sees as the inherent dangers of a multi-platform (“cross development”) approach, pointing out that Adobe started out developing for the PC (they now develop for Android and other OSs as well).
“This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features,” explains Jobs.
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Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen responded in an interview today with the Wall Street Journal, in which he said that the difference between Apple and Adobe is that Adobe is pro open content, that their “innovation is blowing people away”, and that they are being true to their roots, including that they believe they should “help people deal with multiple platforms.”
He called the issues raised by Jobs “a smokescreen”, jabbing that when it comes to the sorts of restrictions such as Apple has in place, “When you resort to licensing language…(it has) nothing to do with technology.”
Narayen also responded to Jobs’ criticism that the number one cause of Mac crashes is Adobe products, saying that if Adobe products cause Macs to crash, that has “to do with the Apple operating system.” He also said that the allegation that Flash drains battery life is “patently false”, and that, in response to Jobs’ comments generally, Adobe is being prevented from innovating to address these concerns, stating that “for every one of these accusations made there is proprietary lock-in”.
“I find it amusing, honestly.” Narayen said of Jobs’ statement that Flash is a closed platform. “Flash is an open specification.”
Of Jobs specifically, Narayen opines that “We have different views of the world. Our view of the world is multi-platform.”
Perhaps this is highlighted nowhere more than in the current tablet arms race. While Narayen concedes that the iPad is “a good first-generation device,” he adds that “I think you’re going to see just tremendous innovation in terms of tablets,” and says that Adobe is working on dozens of tablet projects.
You can read the full text of Steve Jobs “Thoughts on Flash” here.
So, what do you all think? Do you agree with Narayen? Jobs? Both? Neither?
And what do you think the outcome of this all will be? What should it be?
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