Flash Wars: Is Steve Jobs Really Just Pushing for An Open Web?
In case you missed it, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter to the world about why Apple won’t support Flash. It was lengthy and covered nearly all the bases highlighted in the ongoing war between Apple and Adobe. There was quite an uproar. The Wall Street Journal jumped at the opportunity and interviewed Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen about the sudden ‘attack’. Here’s what you need to know, the bottom line, and what this blogger thinks about the whole ordeal…
First, I must point out that my opinions don’t necessarily reflect those of my publisher — The VAR Guy and Nine Lives Media Inc. Look, I make no bones about being an Apple fan. You all know it. So it should come at no surprise that I support Steve Jobs’ position on Flash and the forward front to HTML5.
For VARs and Web developers that are thinking about mobility, the Apple vs. Adobe debate could impact how web applications are developed and viewed on the iPhone and iPad.
I’ll be honest: Steve Jobs makes a lot of accusations about Flash, some of them about battery life, some of them about the age and usefulness of the product, and most notably about the idea of ‘openness’ in relation to Flash. They are good points, even if some of them are shrouded in a half-truth. But when you stack up his points against what his vision is for the iPad / iPhone line of products and their future, Jobs’ position makes sense. At least, I think so.
The Central Issue
But besides the fact that Jobs hates Flash with a burning passion, there’s one bottom line that Steve Jobs has absolutely right: Flash isn’t open, while HTML5 is an open Web standard. The lowest common denominator in this battle is the very simple fact that Flash as a platform is developed by Adobe while HTML5 is not.
Apple, whose prerogative is about having a closed-off proprietary system upon which to build their perfect little empire — does not try and control that which is not theirs. Jobs sees the web as a free open range, one which does not require the use of a 3rd party plug in to experience all the web has to offer. Nor would Jobs (and dare I say anybody) want to see a singular company whose plug-in determines the usefulness of the web end up controlling the ebb and flow and direction that the web grows in.
And this is why Jobs felt the need to say that…
“Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games…Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”
The point is that Flash, once upon a time, served a very good purpose when HTML just wasn’t cutting the mustard. But there’s a future on the horizon. And Jobs — regardless of your opinion about him — is an industry trend setter. If he thinks Flash isn’t the future, I’m inclined to believe him.
So there’s all you need to know. You can nit-pick Jobs’ letter and complain and note all the little technicalities about Flash’s ‘openness’ and dig up cute little tid-bits of information that may be contradictory or slightly untrue or — as Adobe’s CEO says “patently false” — but it boils down to that one main point: HTML5 really is the open, forward-thinking option.
The Wall Street Journal’s video interview with Narayen depicts a obviously frustrated man who dodges questions. (Interviewer Alan Murray a few times tries to draw Narayen to directly respond to a Jobs attack.) The WSJ reports…:
“The technology problems that Mr. Jobs mentions in his essay are “really a smokescreen,” Mr. Narayen says. He says more than 100 applications that used Adobe’s software were accepted in the App Store. “When you resort to licensing language” to restrict this sort of development, he says, it has “nothing to do with technology.”
There’s a few things wrong with this.
- It’s not a smokescreen. There may be a ‘reality distortion field ‘ around what Steve Jobs says is “awesome” or not, but this is not smoke and mirrors. This is not a distraction. This is exactly what Steve Jobs wanted to say. (And..100 Apps? Really? 100 Apps stacked up to the nearly 200,000 apps is your case study for good Flash implementation?)
- Apple’s restriction on development is because they don’t want Adobe Flash — like it nearly has on the web — to become the sort of de-facto 3rd party development platform on the iPhone OS.
- It has everything to do with the technology. In the interview, Narayen says that “If Flash are [sic] the number one reason Mac’s crash, it has as much to do with the Apple operating system.” Well, no, it doesn’t. It’s your software. And anyone who owns a Mac or even reads up on Mac issues from time to time knows that the CPU is taxed to hell when running Flash. Explain to me how that isn’t a software problem? Narayen smoothly injects the point that they just introduced hardware acceleration for Flash on the Mac, but the issue persists. It’s your software. The operating system is solid. You can’t blame crummy software on the operating system.
Then there’s this nugget…
Mr. Narayen poses a question to Alan Murray, asking him if the Journal would want to have “stovepipes” — or separate development processes — when it is creating content. Mr. Murray [the interviewer] says that certainly “it would be better if you could use one set” of development tools.
But that shows a certain lapse in judgment. Adobe is nearly calling the kettle black. So, it’s okay to have multiple stovepipes when it’s from Adobe — (i.e. Adobe runs the show) but then if Apple’s running the show, no good? And it’s not even like Apple is doing this on the Mac. It’s simply on their very special mobile products. Look, I admit that’s sort of a stretched logic argument, but you have to see where it’s coming from. Point me to another widely used cross-platform multimedia rich web development platform. Oh, there really isn’t … is there?
Steve Jobs’ whole point is that Flash doesn’t belong on the iPhone, they’ve got other plans. But Nayaren plays up an ‘evil Steve’ by saying “We have different views of the world…Our view of the world is multi-platform.” Again, when you think about it, it’s multi-platform at the throne of Adobe.
Everyone blames Steve Jobs for trying to be all ‘closed off’ (for their OWN device) when people are so blind to the fact that they’re in Adobe’s clutches every time they browse the web.
Just think about it.