Adobe CEO Says No Flash on iDevices Is a Business Decision
If you missed it, this past week was the All Things Digital D9 conference, where big industry executives go under the guns of columnists and tech gurus Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen was interviewed by Walt Mossberg, who was quite candid in his grilling of Narayen regarding the ongoing Flash-Apple device drama. Narayen, however, said the Flash war is over. But is it really?
You can watch a 6-minute clip of the interview here, but I’ll give you the nutshell version: Narayen said Apple’s decision to not support Flash on its browser was more or less because Apple had no control over that application ecosystem. Since Apple has relaxed its rules on App Store applications, Narayen said there are a number of apps built using Adobe AIR available in the App Store, which pretty much mitigates the Flash problem.
But Mossberg kicked off this conversation by reiterating what Jobs said regarding Flash as an aging technology and HTML5 as the future. Narayen denied it was a technology problem, and suggested that it truly was a business issue for Apple.
But even though Flash-based apps may work well, Mossberg had no problem telling Narayen he’s yet to see browser-based Flash perform well in any of the Android devices he’s tested. For now, Mossberg said the best Flash-based mobile browser he’s used is on the BlackBerry PlayBook (and I’d have to agree with Mossberg, 100 percent). Narayen didn’t directly answer those criticisms, but said they were making progress, and that the value proposition of Flash as a cross-platform development tool still remains. That may be true, but it seems a little disingenuous for Narayen to continue suggesting that Apple’s no-browser Flash stance was strictly a business decision.
Why? Because Apple’s browser supports HTML5, and there’s no police on the Internet when it comes to HTML5-based applications (or any other content, for that matter). If HTML5 app development went crazy, there would be nothing Apple could do to control it. That’s the position Playboy Magazine has taken because of its de-facto exiling from the App Store. It created a purely HTML5 version of its content, and thus, removed the so-called Apple bondage.
While Adobe’s strategy always will be to support its developers and help them get their content to whatever platform they want to deliver it, the lack of mobile performance of Flash on Android devices hurts the Adobe team. So here’s what I think is a good way of looking at all of this:
- Apple really just doesn’t like Flash. It’s not a business move, it’s an ethos.
- Flash has its uses, but for it to be regarded as a still-relevant technology Adobe needs to make huge progress in its mobile device performance.
- HTML5 and Flash can — and likely will — co-exist.
- HTML5 will win out in the long run, but it will be a very long run.
The Flash vs HTML5 argument always sparks debate, but it seems as though the dust has settled and everyone’s okay with where technology is headed. Sound off in the comments and let us know if you’ve found mobile Flash (or lack there of) helpful, hurtful or really a non-issue.