April 29, 2010

Steve Jobs lays out six reasons why Apple is not supporting Flash in one of his rare direct communiqués on Apple’s Web site.  Jobs says that Adobe has portrayed Apple’s reluctance to a business decision but that the reasons are mostly technical. The essay reveals it to be somewhat of a mixture although it boils down to semantics. Reasons such as impact on battery life, performance and optimization for touch are mostly technical. Jobs also notes that Adobe has not shown Flash running well on any mobile device.

As I noted in my Volume Up column for CNet yesterday, “Until now, for all the controversy about the iPhone’s lack of Flash support, it’s effectively given Apple a directional, rather than actual, disadvantage with respect to competitive phones.” The column also discussed how, according to NPD (my employer), only 14 percent of those who are not interested in the iPad cite Adobe Flash as an inhibitor.

The first reason given, openness (and I think there is more debate to how open Flash is, or is becoming) is a mix of technical and business reasons. And the last reason, the one that Jobs says is most important, is about attracting the best and perhaps exclusive apps to the iPhone. That’s more of a business consideration than a technical one, although I would argue that most (or at least smaller) Flash developers interested in using a cross-platform tool are not using it instead of Apple’s tools. They are either using Flash or not supporting the platform. Furthermore, there are plenty of uninspiring apps created with Apple’s tools.

While the essay lays out what is a rational argument, there are several instances that could be interpreted as Jobs, who has noted that he believes in karma, sees the turn of events as a natural consequence of  the companies’ courses. In the first paragraph, he draws the contrast,[t]he companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their Acrobat products.” In other words, Adobe left Apple behind. And later he notes how Adobe hasn’t embraced changes in Mac OS, “Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.” That said, it has come to light on Twitter that some of Apple’s own apps, including iTunes and Final Cut Pro, are still Carbon, and not Cocoa, apps.

In any case, while there are still fundamental differences in Apple’s and Adobe’s motivations, and the note portrays Apple as trying to move toward the future, one comes away thinking that there could be more room for the companies to work together if Adobe could overcome these technical limitations and is serious about making Flash a credible way to develop great mobile experiences.

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March 5, 2008

Over at News.com, Coop joins the reaction to Apple’s “slam” of Flash, throwing in the Adobe reaction that both Flash and Flash Lite have been very successful, thanks so much. I’ve often marveled at how responsive Mac OS X feels on the iPhone. This was a thread that Jeff Atwood referred to in the post about Vista’s perceived performance. Jobs says simply that desktop Flash is too heavy for the iPhone, and that Flash Lite isn’t up to desktop performance. Essentially, he’s asking Apple Adobe to do the same thing Apple has done, which is to optimize desktop software for a mobile platform.

If you are an iPhone user, you have to read between the lines here because Jobs is essentially saying that Apple wants Flash on the iPhone (which is good news considering the scenarios I laid out as to why Apple might not) but just can’t accommodate it. That’s an engineering problem Adobe is motivated to solve given as iPhone sales grow and consumers do more mobile browsing on it.Adobe will get there. And let’s face it, few software companies have as long a history of supporting Apple technologies as Adobe.

We may not see it announced on the 6th, but Flash playback will come to the iPhone.

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