Apple CEO Steve Jobs shares a few thoughts on Flash

I guess Apple CEO Steve Jobs got tired of the criticism he and his company are taking in relation to Adobe Flash and, today, Apple put his ‘Thoughts on Flash’ on the Apple web site.  In his diatribe, Jobs gives six reasons, no, lets call them ‘tent poles’, for why Apple does not allow Flash on any of Apple’s mobile devices (except, of course, the notebooks.)  I’ve read them and while he writes very convincingly, his reasons are still only justifications as to why the technology is not allowed.

His first tent pole, “openness’” is patently absurd.  He does point out the the iPhone OS is proprietary and closed, he points out that the devices use HTML, JavaScript and CSS.  OK, let’s take a look at that:  the much talked about developer agreement states that Objective C, C or C++ must be used develop native applications. It further states that no intermediary layer can be used, which rules out pretty much everything.  So, Apple, how is this ‘open’?  You do exactly what you say Flash does.  Jobs goes on to say that Apple even creates standards for the web, citing WebKit and the companies that use it (while taking a subtle jab at Microsoft.)  Fair enough, but some of the WebKit browsers can run the Flash plug in.

He also points out that the Adobe claim that 75% of the web’s video is in Flash is wrong and that the video is also available as H.264 and that the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad have YouTube applications to play the 40% of web video that YouTube serves up.  Well, yes, however, having a player application open up video that is meant to be viewed as part of a web page (when the video is embedded on a page other than YouTube) kind of kills the ‘whole internet’ argument that Apple puts out.

Other points, or counterpoints, include reliability, stability and performance; user interface (Flash does not play nice with Touch); battery life and, of course, the whole middle layer thing.  I can’t argue the battery life thing since I don’t really know much about it.  On Windows machines, Flash is pretty stable and performs well. I’m told by some of my Mac toting friends that Flash is a less than stellar performer on Mac OS X.  Given that Apple has only recently opened up the graphics/GPU API, I’m not surprised that Flash is a poor performer, video wise.  I suspect that Flash built applications probably run just fine.  I also have to doubt Apple’s claim that the majority of Mac crashes are the result of Flash.  It’s probably very minor, but, again, I don’t know for sure.

The bottom line is that the iPhone OS is Apple’s and they can do what hey want.  Maintaining close control over the platform helps ensure a more stable product.  That the CEO of Apple felt compelled to defend it’s position is very telling and, I might add, pretty un-Apple like. For a company that generally does not care what its customers or developers think and, especially, what its critics think, to go and publish something like this is simply remarkable.

I’m sure this letter will embolden the fan kiddies to hate on Adobe even more.  This will fuel their new found anti-Flash/anti-Adobe sentiment.  You watch, every argument henceforth will include two or three or more quotes from Jobs’ letter.  If nothing else, it will be entertaining.

For your own reading pleasure, and to form your own opinion about this, the link to the ‘Thoughts on Flash’ is posted below.



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2 thoughts on “Apple CEO Steve Jobs shares a few thoughts on Flash

  1. I think Jobs is going to regret this new chatty phase of his. As one of your Mac toting friends even I see most of this as pure BS. I really don’t know how he can make some of these statements with a straight face. I know there are other software products that allow you to create flash, so you aren’t completely reliant on Adobe. My issue with Flash is that they have always made development much more difficult than it needed to be. Using the Flash development product is complex with a steep learning curve. But that’s a developer issue, not a consumer issue.The one thing I do agree with him on is that most of what you can accomplish in Flash, you now can accomplish with html, css and javascript. These technologies are less complex and more open than Flash since I could create them using Notepad if I was masochistic enough. But this only illustrates Flash’s complexity not it’s "closedness".The issue with Touch is one I’m sure could be added if Flash were allowed on these types of devices. Possibly by a third party. Oh wait that’s right that’s not allowed either. As a developer, I wouldn’t want to develop without third parties. Why would I want to re-invent the wheel all the time.My Mac crashing very little and I do use Flash. If I have ever had a crash with Flash, it’s been the browser that has crashed. And that most likely is due to the developer of the Flash app I’ve been running, not necessarily the Flash player.I think the only thing this posting will serve to do is please the fan faithful.

  2. Yeah, I think you are right. Credibility, however, does not seem to be a problem with him, even with the full on BS. Remember, this is the guy who asked ‘who would ever want to watch video on such a small screen?’ and who said ‘no one reads any more.’ So, what does he do? Not only does he introduce a video playing iPod, but creates an entire eco system to support it. Then, introduces a TABLET (something that I think he also poo poo’ed several years ago) with an eReader app and eco system. No one seems to mind. No one else, with the possible exception of Bill Clinton, can get by with such nonsense. As for Flash, yes, it is an overused technology and can be a performance hog, but it IS part of the WHOLE internet, regardless of what he wants. And lets be clear, the real issue is not the technology. The real issue, or issues, rather, are control of the platform and payback to Adobe for not getting on board with the MAC like Jobs wanted. If you will recall, Adobe was very slow to embrace OS X, the switch to Intel and, most recently, all of the newer API’s (like COCOA.) Adobe, remember, focussed on Windows and you KNOW that must have just pissed him off. Guess who’s not getting Christmas cards anymore?

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