Steve Jobs' Flash Dance - Contradicts Self On Reasons for No Flash for Apple Mobile Platforms

Steve Jobs Flash Dance   Contradicts Self On Reasons for No Flash for Apple Mobile Platforms

Two big A's continue their row. The latest round was fired by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs in a lengthy blog post entitled 'Thoughts on Flash.' No it's not some new memory technique or a way to save your childhood before old age strips you of it. It's what  he sees the problem being between Apple and Adobe.

Jobs states that the companies have and still work together. It's true, many Mac users are also Adobe product users. But he also goes on to say that the relationship has soured over the years and beyond this particular area, there are no joint ventures really.

Then he goes on to discuss the open and closed nature of the technologies involved, first saying that Apple is open and Flash is closed. Personally, I think both are closed. Both are proprietary and that in and of itself means they are going to be fairly closed, as in not open source.

Now both companies are calling the other closed and their own tech open, and both would be wrong.

By Almost any Definition, Flash is a Closed System

He then bashes Adobe for maintaining a tight grip on their products from development to pricing and the direction they will take in the future. Pot calling the kettle black if I ever heard it. Let's talk about how "open" Apple is in regards to its product line shall we? Control on the development side, no, Apple never would be such a "closed" system and maintain as much control over that aspect of its products.

Oh he didn't mean Apple's products, he meant the Web. Of course he wasn't very clear on that until he started singing the praises of Apple in the next paragraph.

Apple is Open, the Web Should be Open?

Whilehe does admit that Apple has a wide range of proprietary products - including the iPhone, iPod and iPad operating systems - he further states that what he means is that Apple wants an open web.

*Brakes screeching* Huh? Weren't you talking about the companies themselves? We're talking about you allowing Flash on your portable platforms no? Do you so think that you are the pre-eminent power in the world that you are defending the openness of the web by disallowing Flash on your platforms? If that's the case, then when will you be adopting an open source video codec instead of H.264?

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.

He does tout Apple's WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine, used in Safari and all Apple products. It's a good system as evidenced by widespread adoption including Google Android, Palm, Nokia and RIM has also stated they'll start using it as well.

By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.

The Full Web

The major use of Flash on the web is of course the area we're all concerned with, online video. Now here comes his most excellent twisting of open and closed, perhaps he's working his way into politics?

Adobe says Apple mobile users are missing out on web content. It's true, there is a lot of Flash out there on the web, games, video, applications, entire websites. Personally, I hate Flash-based websites, love Flash games and generally don't care about the player's technology (when surfing and watching video), unless of course I'm on my iPhone. Then it's all just missing. Would it be beneficial to users to have Flash on the iPhone? Absolutely. Should all developers be forced to create another version of their content just for Apple mobile users? No! That's far from setting any type of standard. In fact, it's more like a double standard isn't it? "Oh Flash is fine for computers, but Apple mobile needs something else."

Could it be that Apple is just trying to continue their closed system and drive App Store sales? Jobs himself said that there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store and that Flash is not needed because of that fact. It sounds like he's saying "In order to maintain sales of these apps, we won't allow Flash because much of the content is freely available on the web." Well, that's what it sounds like to me.

In regards to video he says that YouTube is playable on the platform, and it is thanks to the pre-bundled app. So there's no issue there. A lot of other large sites are also using alternatives so that Flash isn't needed.

So in looking at setting a standard open platform, it seems like what has really happened is that the industry is now fragmented and all of this has really just caused everyone else more work and expense.

On top of that he stated that 75% of all video on the web is Flash. I have to guess it's more really. He does give a long list of sites that are using H.264 without Flash like YouTube, 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.

He fails to mention Amazon (after doing some research) the NFL, MLB, eBay, Facebook. Oh wait I forgot, HULU - requires Flash Player 10.0.22 or higher. He also fails to mention that H.24 could someday no longer be freely available.

Flash is the #1 Reason Macs Crash?

So Flash is the major problem on Macs according to Jobs and a major reason for not implementing Flash is because they don't want to "reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash."

He continues to say that it does not perform well on mobile devices and is not on any smartphone and was promised time and again and Adobe has failed to deliver. Perhaps he didn't see this:

Adobe is currently planning to deliver Flash Player 10.1 for Android smartphones as a public preview at the Google I/O conference May 19-20, with a general release to follow in June. From that point on, Adobe expects to see an increasing number of Flash 10.1 enabled devices to arrive (Qualcomm Snapdragon based Android phones are Flash 10.1 ready).

Furthermore, Android 2.2 Froyo will support Adobe AIR applications. Additionally, Adobe is currently working to bring Flash Player and AIR 2 to products by Nokia, RIM, Palm, Microsoft and others. It's worth noting that Adobe AIR 2 is expected to give iPhone apps competition as far as Web-oriented apps are concerned. As a result of the Open Screen Project, AIR 2 will let developers create optimized third-party Web apps for smartphones.

Source: InfoSyncWorld

The Most Important Reason

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn't support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.

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.

Yet keeping the consumers locked into what Apple wants to do, when Apple wants to do it is perfectly OK with him. He talks about it blocking developer's ability to implement innovations and enhancements to the platforms because of the lag time in the third-party implementing them. First I don't see there being huge leaps and bounds in the iPhone OS over the last year or so. Sure, multitasking is coming, but it's been a long time coming. Also, if Apple were more open about its platform it would allow third-parties to gain access to what they were working on and perhaps speed the implementation of those features. But that would smack of collaboration and would put an end to this bitter debate. What fun would that be?

I think he wrote his blog post in several sittings. Aside from it being rather lengthy he contradicts himself numerous times. For example Flash was developed PC Age (now we're in some other age?) for PC and mouse, then he says it's a cross-platform development tool. He says that Adobe is not concerned about people making the best apps for the Apple mobile platform, but for cross-platforms then states that Adobe was the last third-party dev to fully adopt Mac OS X with their CS 5 package.

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.

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

Perhaps Apple should realize that the so-called open standards they are allegedly supporting are based on a video encoder that could become closed at any time. That they seem more concerned about how conent looks on their platform than on all platforms and that their platform is also closed.

I highly doubt this is based on technology as much as he'd like us to believe. With their recent announcements of ads coming to the iPhone they need to give advertisers a reason to bring ads there. By locking out all other ads, they assure their potential clients that there will be far less competition in the ad space. What that really means is that Apple can set all the prices to whatever the market will bear. Of course there are already other mobile ad networks springing up that are utilizing HTML 5 so the competition is already out there. A lot of video ads are served up through Flash. By keeping Flash away from the iPhone I think they can also keep those ads away.

While he often mentions that it's all about creating the best apps for the platform and giving the users the best experience possible, he never once stopped to think that perhaps the users actually want Flash on their iPhones, iPod and iPads. He never once stopped to consider what the consumers think, only what he wants them to think. What does he want them to think? That he and Apple have your best interests in mind. Really, I'm sure that they have their bottom line in mind and just want you to fork over cash for their goods. That is after how business works right?

I eagerly await Adobe's response to this and I'm sure it will be forthcoming soon as Mr. Jobs posted this rant sometime last week.

About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Sverix

    Maybe a matter of serving context sensitive add ???
    I keep thinking there may be another and relatively NEW REASON for Steve to opposes Flash so strongly. Now Apple is really focused on serving adds - could it be that apple needs strict control over compilation of applications in order to analize the contents of the application and thus serve context sensitive adds? - Idont know the technology, but I have been thinking about that!
    (BTW: as for apple openeing up webkit to an open standard - well, I think that there is an interesting history behind that. Didnt Apple take it out of the KDE project. And didnt the KDE community for a long time critisize Apple for not giving anything back to the community and not being open before Apple eventually opened up their webkit - Not sure - I dont remember it! ?)

  • Ian

    For the Cocoa part of the argument, let me point out that the Finder in OS X wasn't written in Cocoa until Snow Leopard!!! ITunes is still not there. Steve really lost me on this one.

  • Andru Bruning

    Read Job's Thoughts on Flash again. And this time you might want to throw your own basis out the window so you can pick up on the points being made. Never does he say that Apple, the company, is open. He feels that the technologies that his OS relies on should be open because that's the direction the web is headed, like it or not. Adobe's Flash is closed. It's not open source. Adobe is the company running that and controlling it. It's really not that hard to understand if you think about it and use common sense. I've been developing in Flash for years now and I totally understand the reasoning behind his decisions. It's just sad to see so many professional people whining about this because their favorite site uses Flash video or what not. People whined when the floppy drive was dropped from most computers. Apple has been the only company to push forward these new types of devices and interfaces and all people see is that they can access Flash on a industry changing device. Key words, industry changing. You see websites all over dropping Flash for HTML5 now. And that's the right thing to do for the good of the web.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      "dropping Flash for HTML5 now" - WHO? I see tons of sites that now have to
      do both - because of the lack of support for flash. Also, to clarify -
      HTML5 does not mean "video." Video is only one component of HTML5, and it
      is no where near being implemented as a standard "Apple has been the only
      company to push forward these new types of devices and interfaces" - Really?
      Comments like this are typical of those that support Apple no matter
      what.... Is there some secret Apple cult (or Apple fraternity) that you
      guys all belong to? Lastly - "Adobe's Flash is closed. It's not open
      source" - Perhaps you need to re-read the article again..... ;-)

      Honestly though, thanks for commenting - I appreciate the heated discussion
      - it's all in fun.

      • Andru Bruning

        Video is also only one component of Flash as well. And yes, alot of sites do do both now because they are in the process of switching over. Most video that goes through Flash is H.264 so why use Flash to display it if HTML5 can do just the same minis the extra plugin. And can you name another company that has had the power to push forward devices like these in recent years. I'll wait...

        ...

        Okay, I do own Macs, as well as PCs. And I wouldn't call myself loyal to either. Both have great products and both are needed for what I do everyday. But seriously, if it can't be seen why Apple has chosen not to support Flash, on these specific devices, then I'm not sure exactly what you are looking at. It will be interesting to see how Android handles Flash. Then we can start this debate that you think is happening.

        • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

          "they are in the process of switching over" - who? I know plenty that have
          had to because they want their content to be available on ipad -
          but haven't seen any say that they are ditching one for the other. In fact,
          I know a few personally who are quite upset that they have to spend $$ on
          development resources (not that I am sympathetic) "Most video that goes
          through Flash is H.264" - not yet, still FLV's but yes, it is headed in that
          direction right now - because it is a good codec. BTW, it is not synonymous
          with HTML5 video tag... H.264 is not open, and has not been chosen across
          the board, and many MANY in the open source community are fighting that push
          - largely started by, you guessed it - Safari. "And can you name another
          company that has had the power to push forward devices like these in recent
          years." Google, Nokia, RIM, others... Sure, Apple has done a lot, and I
          would even agree that they have been a leader, but you stated "only
          company." "if it can't be seen why Apple has chosen not to support Flash" -
          Oh, dont get me wrong, I think it is completely obvious why they chose not
          to support it, and it has little to do with those things that Jobs hounded
          on... " Then we can start this debate that you think is happening." - huh?

          Anyhooo.... Thanks again for your comments Andru...

        • Andru Bruning

          When I said Apple is the only company to push forth devices and interfaces like these I meant they were the ones that started it. Of course many companies are going to follow in their footsteps because of their success. Name a device similar to the iPhone that came out before the iPhone. I can't think of any and if there were, well, they failed. So that's what I was getting at. All these touch screen devices, at least the ones that match up to the iPhone, Touches and iPad, came after the fact. Therefore Apple pushed that era forward…

          Which by the way, the writer of the post mentioned Jobs 'era of PCs and mice' quote asking the question if we are no longer there. Jobs means the touch screen era. I figured that was easy to see but obviously not to those looking for contradictions…

          And I never said any one site was switching over from using Flash video to only using HTML5 for video so I'm not sure exactly where you are going with that. And for a list of sites that are using HTML5 for video see http://www.apple.com/ipad/ready-for-ipad/.

          You mention those you are upset about spending money for additional resources so that their sites can be viewed on Apple's devices. True, I'd be upset too, which I am because as a web developer I have to do so myself, but it is the way standards are headed. Again, like it or not. And when you have companies like Apple and Microsoft both supporting these standards, well, there's not much else you can say. For now at least since HTML5 is still in development.

          And I see no debate, just conversation. I hold no opinions or loyalties so I have no real reason to debate. You act like I'm against you with everything I say. I just wanted to point out that Job's 'Thoughts on Flash' makes sense and doesn't really have any contradictions if you set your basis aside.

        • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

          no - it's all just fun conversation Andru - Im sorry that I came across otherwise ;-)

    • Christophor Rick

      Actually, I'm no proponent of Flash. I like the technology and it certainly does do a semi-decent job of a lot of things. I don't have a favorite site that uses it. I'm actually the local Open Source proponent here at ReelSEO. I'm all for HTML 5, Ogg Theora or VP 8 (if it becomes truly open source). I'm anti-H.264 as a standard for HTML 5. I want OPEN standards to be completely OPEN. Apple is just as CLOSED as Adobe is. Jobs is trying to say they're not, but really...think about what you said here "Adobe is the company running that and controlling it. It's really not that hard to understand if you think about it and use common sense." I think we could supplant Adobe with Apple there, and it would be the same thing.

  • http://www.learningdslrvideo.com/ Dugdale

    Two points for the title of the post. Can you picture Jobs flash dancing?

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Only 2 points? HAHA - I dont want to picture that.

      HOLY MOLY - Anybody see this - hilarious - http://www.esarcasm.com/13913/steve-jobs-apple-adobe-letter/

      • Christophor Rick

        HAHAHA there's a lot of words in there I'm not allowed to use here at ReelSEO :D

        • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

          my favorite is - "Don’t like it? Just try fucking with us. We’ll have the police raid your ass before you can get the words‘invalid warrant’ out of your proprietary mouth.” HAHA....

  • DGB

    Yes, I want to reiterate a point already made. This whole article is based on Apple and Adobe slinging it out as to who has open and closed technology. Job clearly says Apple's OSs are closed, but in comparing Adobe which he says is closed (correct) to the alternative HTML 5 is open (also correct).
    You've completely missed it on this one Christopher. And naturally Steve is taking a subtle jab whilst attempting to bolster the view of readers about the 'PC age'. He is suggesting that we're in a Mac age now. Whether its true or not is beside the point, but that's what I think he's saying.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      "You've completely missed it on this one Christopher" = missed what?

  • evildave

    The problem with Apple's position on 'HTML 5' is that any version of it that Apple eventually adapts will have scripting gutted and/or completely removed.

    Apple doesn't allow JAVA or PYTHON or any other scripting. As soon as 'HTML 5' is mature enough to build applets with, if Apple has not changed their policies, then Apple will provide a crippled subset of THAT. But that's well in the DISTANT future when HTML 5 is more than just vapor and white papers. For now, they can pretend this argument makes 'sense'. They're as bad as Micro$uck and Internet Explorer in this area. They'll try to make sure HTML 5 developers code to Apple's 'standard', not a global, complete or open one.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      Thank you evil dave "when HTML 5 is more than just vapor" YES YES YES....

  • Alan789

    Seems like no one remebers why Flash became so popular in the first place. If you want to use dynamic HTML, be it HTML5 or other, you need Javascript. Or rather, you need Javascript for each browser you intend to support. And when new browsers come out or are updated, you have to go over all your code and see if it still works. Flash simplified that to just making sure it worked in various version of Flash. Steve Jobs is a douhebag that just cares about controlling as much content as he can.

  • Rickles

    The entire "open/closed" argument between Jobs is that Adobe's argument is the usual talking point that Apple is a completely closed system, and that Flash is an open system. Jobs' argument is that Flash is a proprietary system, about as open as Silverlight. And as beneficial as the Flash is for being able to display video, develop/play games, provide rich Internet apps, it's still driven by a single vendor and proprietor...and just like the codec argument someone made, it's direction and it's availability is driven by a single entity.

    Let's not try to portray Adobe as being altruistic...they're in this to sell software, namely their CS product line. I don't see Adobe's bottom line intentions any different than Apple's. As much as we'd like to demonize the adversary, let's not introduce drama into a situation where it doesn't exist.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      All good points but Adobe didnt write an open letter to Apple as far as I
      know... I think the main point here isnt in calling one better or more open
      than another, but rather to point out that the post that Steve Jobs wrote,
      was hypocritical, contradictory at best - for many of the reasons that you
      just stated.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  • atbobarino

    He is focussed on making Apple's customers happy, not Adobe's. And in this effort, is is succeeding spectacularly.

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      if you change customers to stockholders - I agree with you ;-)

  • macmann78

    So I can't watch every little video in the world on my iphone. So I cant play every little web game out there. Now here is what I don't miss about having flash on my iPhone. 1. All those little flashy adds on the sides of nearly every website. 2. Stupid web games that pause after every game for 2 minutes so your computer screen can be obliterated by pop ups and advertisements, then offer for you to by a months worth of mahjong for some ridiculous price that would probably pay for 10 good games at the app store that you can keep forever. Heck, do a search for mahjong on the app store and you will most likely find several free versions, most complete with online play and scoring, 3d graphics and movements that are not even possible to manipulate on an actual computer (one's without there own touchscreens of course). 3. All those flash based web widgets (little interactive menus and schedules and such, some act as apps or games themselves) that are all clunky and barely work. One website I go to changes the widget almost every week and it still never works right no matter what browser I'm in. In Conclusion.. I can't really think of many times, if any at all, that I have sat with my iPhone and wished it had flash. Between the nearly endless selections of apps available to me 24/7 and the fact that most websites are switching to newer higher quality protocols that work on my iPhone anyway, I don't think not having flash is a big deal at all. Apps like the built in youtube app, justin tv, netflix, and features such as being able to access my mobile me gallery (which can allow you to watch any or all of your personal videos, photos or slideshows) anywhere on my iPhone, and all the games from silly, simple little games all the way to high depth 3d, online, first person shooters, RPG's etc... that are usually way better than most of the crappy flash games you'll find elsewhere. In the end, Ive never developed anything, ive never written flash or html5, or any of that stuff. I am the End User, the consumer, the one whos money is being clamored for by these companies. In that spirit I began asking some of my friends who are iPhone and iPod touch users (despite it's selling one million, I still don't actually know an iPad user personally) what they thought about not having flash on their device. their responses were all very similar to one another and mine as well.... They haven't even thought about, Not in one single case could even one of them come up with an instance where they were hindered enough by lack of flash to actually register a response. Many of them could not even think of one time. Funny enough was when I asked my girlfriend what she thought about and bless her heart, she didn't have the foggiest idea what I was even talking about and even after I explained it to her she still was mostly clueless.
    So I will finish with this... Thank you Steve Jobs having the guts to protect me and my investment from poor experience, Thank you for saying 'here is your device, it fast, it is fun it is helpful and it is stable, now go ye forth and explore new worlds not possible on devices before, learn things once hidden by previous lacking's in technology, even go to school (which is what I did a few weeks after getting my first iphone 2 years ago, and I can not place a value the importance of having that iPhone. It has helped me in ways that I cannot describe) with a real advantage that will the change the way people learn forever. Go ye forth and I promise I will stay the ship and keep its right of way even if some feelings get hurt in the process".
    For those of you who do not own one of these awesome devices, just download iTunes, go into the app store and just browse, you don't need an iphone or ipod, just go and look and my guess is after about 30 minutes you'll be looking at your current phone or mp3 player wondering, "I paid how much for you when I could have had all this". You'll soon see that Apple may be "locking the consumer" into its own ways but what that means to the end user is a clean, fast, smooth environment that is stable and protected. The only people here who are really mad are the developers who all of a sudden don't want to adapt to protocols that would benefit the consumer. When did that occur? I thought that they were trying to sell me something so I would in turn hand them some money. They are starting to sound like these mortgage lenders who nearly destroyed our country because they refuse to adapt. So again I say thank you to Steve Jobs for protecting from these people who don;t care if I have a bad experience just so they can make a few extra dollars.

  • lorrainegrula

    Utterly fantastic article and discussion. Read it all. I even went and read the entire bullshit translator and that sure was hilarious and right on the money IMHO.
    It will be interesting to see how Mr. Job's gamble will pay off in the end. There is no doubt in my mind that his decisions were driven more by marketing considerations and personal feelings than technology considerations. It certainly will hasten the demise of flash and will also be a royal pain in the ass for many folks from practical standpoint. Time marches on. Bullshit leads and often prevails. Life is wonderful. Now back to work. Thanks Mark!
    Lorraine

  • vacation9

    this review lacks any real depth other than some thinly veiled pc vs mac whining to me...talk about dated... adobe has been sweeping up macromedias mess for a long time now and trying to create a killer app in hiding..well almost..open source is overrated and just one of many waves that have rolled in that have never caught fire commercially (for the benefit and respect of the user..not the ah's who develop it) because there is no commitment to supporting open source save forum based support which is conjecture and usually headed up by zealots with dreaming about the next big thing..i too suffered linux and os long ago/enough and decided it was a house of cards. flash is good in some respects but the as-as2-as3 chain of bs is hard to monetize long term because of that same wave..object oriented? ok thats another rant for somebody else..apple is apple and this is apples and oranges.

  • Sap R3

    Business in general also happens in back room development projects. I was developing an RIA form for an Enterprise Application that has a built-in Flex server programmers can use in adding Flex apps as view elements in the RIA form. Internal politics kicked in mandating that external Flex programmers be employed to write Flex apps which would be linked statically to the RIA form citing that Flex programs be developed by hand instead using the built-in Flex server using visual tool. This became a huge issue because the whole development lifecycle now is shoehorned with a third party developer introducing extra design and development tasks and redtape. Anytime a 3rd party is shoehorned into a app development process the quality of the app goes down and the overall costs go up, not mentioning personal agendas. Apple's decision is pro-developers and sound architecturally, and Adobe's decision is for its own sake.

  • Dasj

    You know nothing of adserving technology.