To respond to Steve Jobs’ official criticisms of Flash, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen granted an exclusive interview this afternoon to the Wall Street Journal, which promoted it via a blog and its News Hub online video. Note to iPhone owners: News Hub cannot be viewed without Adobe’s Flash.
While most of its responses fairly presented Adobe’s side, Narayen made two comments that bear response:
We are multi-platform.Actually, Adobe wants the world’s web developers to write for a single platform — Adobe Flash — that is hosted on top of all the other major platforms.
Flash is an open specification.That doesn’t make it an open platform — if there’s only one implementation, then the firm gains all the benefits of lock-in and economic rents of a proprietary standard (Adobe’s a little more open with PDF, where it supplied its technology for ISO 32000 standardization, through a process known for allowing firms to retain influence and control.)
So if Adobe’s idea of an open specification is one where everyone can implement what it decides, that’s even less open than an open source company that throws dual-license implementations over the wall while using “fishbowl development” processes that don’t allow for open governance and participation.
In his letter, Steve Jobs was reasonably accurate on this point:
Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.Sharing an implementation provided under a non-viral license (as WebKit is) is today the most open form of platform available. Apple is rarely this open, but for WebKit they deserve credit for sharing code and control, just as IBM shared code and control with Eclipse.
Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web browser used in all our products. WebKit has been widely adopted. Google uses it for Android’s browser, Palm uses it, Nokia uses it, and RIM (Blackberry) has announced they will use it too. Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft’s uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.