Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flash! Steve buries Adobe cash cow

Steve Jobs signed an open letter this morning on six reasons why there is not — and never will be — Flash on the iPhone, iPod and iPad.

His first five points:

  1. Instead of being open, it’s single-vendor proprietary.
  2. It’s got security flaws, it’s slow on mobile devices and is the #1 reason Macs crash.
  3. Adobe says that no Flash means not “the full web” — but most video is now available in H.264, and the iPhone has its own games.
  4. Battery life is 2x as good using H.264 as using Flash.
  5. It’s designed for mice, not a touch interface.
But, he concludes with the argument that many of us suspected but Apple never stated explicitly:
Sixth, the most important reason.

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.
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. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.

Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps.
Jobs concludes — with his usual élan — by suggesting that Flash should be consigned to the dustbin of history in a speech:
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.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.
To my ear, this seems reminiscent of Mark Antony in Shakepeare’s Julius Caesar (“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”)

Whether one agrees with Jobs on the specifics — and a few examples seem stretched to make a point — the entire posting is a clear articulation of why Apple is not only blocking Flash on its platform, but seeking help from others to replace it with open standards where it controls the implementation.

Note to readers: Normally I avoid posting two major articles in one day, but the recent Apple and HP announcements were too important to ignore.


Kenneth M. Kambara said...

Oh, I think a bit of Twain needs to be invoked, regarding the news of the death of Flash being greatly exaggerated. I'm far from a cheerleader for Adobe and I'm also not an Apple Fapboi, I mean fanboi, but I have to say that Jobs is insulting our intelligence with his irreconcilable differences LULZ manifesto.

You're right alluding to the social relations {strained, in the instant case since the mid-90s} of innovation and embeddedness. While I haven't seen the specifics of Skyfire, I'm curious how Apple handles that one, if it's solid. I think we all know what's likely to happen, in any case.

I have yet to talk to my programmer {for a smallish social media project} on this very issue, but we're fortunate that Flash wasn't really part of our yellow brick path dependence.

Joel West said...

Yes, I'd agree that Steve hopes to bury Flash whereas M.A. was speaking when Caesar’s body was getting cold. And (to mix metaphors further) the Flash product manager is heard to explain “I’m not dead yet!”

The big question mark is: what allies will Adobe get in the long run? In the short term, everyone wants to having Flash as a club against the iPhone, but in the long run, at least Google (and perhaps Nokia) will want to be independent of Adobe’s control.

Stan said...

Of course you mean too important to ignore, which I agree with wholeheartedly. I look forward to digging into your blog as "openness" (or claims to it) are important in my industry sector.