Why No Flash on iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch? Steve Jobs Tells It Like It Is!

I told you slamming is always prelude to more slamming.

Less than a week after Adobe Product Manager, Mike Chambers, declared that the software company has dropped all plans to develop Flash for Apple's mobile devices and accused the Cupertino company of "want[ing] to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict[ing] their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms", Apple CEO Steve Jobs - via an open letter - responded to Chambers' accusations and outlined the reasons why iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone do not support Flash.

Before going through every reason why Apple slammed Flash in its mobile devices, Jobs first let everyone in on his company's history with Adobe -- a short paragraph that gives readers the impression that Apple practically gave Adobe its 'Big Break', quoting his open letter:

Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe's founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the company for many years. The two companies worked closely together to pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times. Since that golden era, the companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their Acrobat products. Today the two companies still work together to serve their joint creative customers – Mac users buy around half of Adobe's Creative Suite products – but beyond that there are few joint interests.

Why No Flash on iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone?

Now, on to Job's 6 reasons why Flash is NOT right for Apple's mobile devices,

Adobe Flash is NOT 'open'

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.

In stark contrast, HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – technologies that Apple adopts (in lieu of Flash) in its mobile devices - are all open standards;

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.

The 'Full Web' issue

Jobs noted that Apple mobile devices' lack of Flash support does not keep the products from giving users 'full web' experience;

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. Add to this video from 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, and many, many others. iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren't missing much video.

Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.

Flash's Reliability, Security and Performance Issue

Perhaps, this is where Jobs slams Adobe Flash hardest --

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. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don't want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we're glad we didn't hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?

Flash Could Shorten Mobile Devices' Battery Life

Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained.

Flash Wasn't Designed for Touchscreen Devices Using Fingers

True. Think about graphics that move or 'rollover' when you hover your mouse on them -- these are Flash-based and require precision via mouse or stylus pointer to work properly.

Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on "rollovers", which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple's revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn't use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

Even if iPhones, iPods and iPads ran Flash, it would not solve the problem that most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.

Jobs' Most Important Reason; The Disadvantage of Using Third Party Development Tools

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.

Interesting - if not totally valid - points, don't you think? But I highly doubt Adobe will take Steve Jobs' tirades sitting down.

So keep tuning in for the next episode of this seeming telenovela series.

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  1. Apple is starting to make themselves look really bad. They need to get rid of steve jobs and bring in some one that know what they should be doing.

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  2. Jus to comment on the Adobe Flash is not open line... is Apple Open?

  3. If the ipad had full flash capability, it would be the perfect gadget.


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