Daniel Eran Dilger
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Why Steve Jobs Loves Adobe Flash

Daniel Eran Dilger

Steve Jobs doesn’t offer his thoughts all that often, but when he does, they are articulated in masterfully convincing language. His latest “Thoughts on Flash” sounded like a distillation of every RoughlyDrafted article on the issue of Flash, boiled down into a devastating six point skewering. Secretly though, Jobs really does love Flash, here’s why.
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Critics of Apple’s stance on Flash in the iPhone OS have settled upon a conspiracy theory that links the company’s refusal to bundle a mobile version of Flash with the lost revenues Apple might suffer were Flash apps to eat away at App Store downloads. They say Apple isn’t blocking Flash for “technical reasons,” but rather “for business reasons,” a talking point shorthand for insisting that there’s nothing wrong with Flash, it’s just all a matter of Apple being corporately rude to protect its walled garden of native apps.

The first problem with this conspiracy theory talking point is that Flash does have a very clear and indisputable technical problem in the mobile arena: it simply does not yet exist! While pundits seem to think Apple is refusing to allow Adobe to offer Flash to iPhone users, the reality is that there is still simply no version that Apple could bundle or allow run on the iPhone (say, as an App Store download), even if it wanted to do so.

The experimental Flash 10.1 mobile version that is being prepared for Android 2.2, due in the second half of 2010, has not even yet had the opportunity to demonstrate that Flash can be viable on mobile devices. Why Flash’s proponents exercise so much blind faith in Adobe’s promises to deliver a workable first edition is rather difficult to rationalize, given the company’s terrible record of performance, security, and update cycles for Flash Player on any platform other than (or perhaps in addition to) Windows.

The only thing we really know about Flash 10.1 for mobile devices is that it will require at least an ARM Cortex A8 processor (that means minimally the iPhone 3GS) just to run. That’s not a solution for the millions of iPhone and iPod touch users who own a device sold before last fall. That’s the kind of thing that Microsoft and Google would roll out, along with the pat suggestion that users just run out and buy a new phone before their existing contract is even up, just to be able to play Farmville.

Flash Wars: Adobe in the History and Future of Flash
Gone in a Flash: More on Apple’s iPhone Web Plans (2007)

Which Brings Me To My Main Point

See, you thought I was just going to regurgitate all the things I’ve already written about Flash and not really ever get around to the tantalizing idea I dropped into the headline. Well no, I’m just now getting around to explaining how it is that Jobs absolutely loves Flash.

But first let me clarify: Jobs certainly doesn’t love Flash on the iPhone OS for the reasons he outlined in his blog posting, writing in character as (it would appear) the Fake Daniel Eran Dilger:

  • First, Flash is closed and proprietary to (owned by) Adobe, meaning that its future development is completely under the control of one company, making it toxic to the open nature of the web.
  • Second, the existing content Adobe keeps promoting as “critical to the full web experience” is a mixed bag of stuff that is mostly either also available without Flash (like YouTube) or junk that isn’t really desirable (those Flash games that are weak sauce and wildly overshadowed by real games written natively for the iPhone OS).
  • Third, Flash is a black hole of security problems, performance issues, and instability. Anyone on a Mac is aware of how Flash eats up RAM and CPU cycles while doing nothing. But even on Windows, Flash is a major vector for security problems because it is a web plugin, making it a front door to attacks (at CanSecWest, security expert Charlie Miller was asked which browser is safest, to which he replied, “there probably isn’t enough difference between the browsers to get worked up about. The main thing is not to install Flash!”). Adobe simply hasn’t done a good job of delivering Flash Player as a desktop platform, but in the mobile area, these issues are even a greater problem.
  • Fourth, Flash isn’t optimized for battery life efficiency. Flash was designed to animate the web on desktop PCs, where computational efficiency wasn’t an important engineering factor. Additionally, all the Flash videos Adobe brags about “as critical to the full web” is largely pre-H.264, meaning Flash has to decode it in software rather than leveraging the hardware accelerated codecs in mobile devices (the iPod/iPhone only support MPEG-4 video codecs because they can be accelerated in hardware. Most existing Flash videos are FLV/VP6, which lacks mobile hardware decoding support. Incidentally, this is also why Ogg Theora is brain dead as a mobile codec).
  • Fifth, existing Flash content is not designed to support multitouch interfaces. To upgrade it to support multitouch, you have to rewrite and redesign how the interface works. Why do that in Flash instead of embracing open web standards?
  • Sixth, Apple doesn’t want its third party developers to be tied to a “lowest common denominator” middleware platform that may not expose the unique features of the iPhone OS if it is not in Adobe’s interest to support them. And it wouldn’t be in Adobe’s interests to support novel things Apple adds to the iPhone OS if those features aren’t also in Android, webOS, BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone 7, because that would derail Adobe’s cross platform efforts. This is the same problem that has hindered JavaME from being any good across mobile devices. JavaME similarly promised to bridge different hardware and vendors, but really just watered down the features available to fancy phones, making them expensive, underutilized versions of everything else that ran JavaME. And everything else implemented JavaME poorly anyway.

An Adobe Flash developer on why the iPad can’t use Flash
Five Tremendous Apple vs. Adobe Flash Myths
Fraud science used to promote Flash performance over web standards

Where Jobs Loves Flash

Jobs’ six reasons for not supporting Flash in the iPhone OS also serve as six reasons why Jobs will absolutely love to see Apple’s mobile competitors rushing to support Flash as a competitive talking point in their desperate, last ditch efforts to compete with the iPhone.

Google started the ball rolling with its announcements that it would embrace Flash on Android, recently noting that Flash Player will be bundled with Android 2.2 at some point later this year. Whether Android phone users will actually ever be able to upgrade to the new release is a matter of aligning the planets (of mobile providers and phone makers’ dependencies upon Android customizations and specific phone models) that will further delay or prevent the upgrade for many users. Of course, only the latest Android phones will even have the hardware required to run Flash Player.

Google has not explained how its support for Flash will mesh with its support for open web standards; nor mentioned the security problems, performance issues, and instability of Flash as a platform, nor its battery life impact, nor the fact that most existing Flash content does not work well in a multitouch environment, nor the reality that having Flash on Android will impede the development of native, Android-specific apps, in addition to harming the development of sophisticated, cross platform HTML5 applications that could possibly be used to share common ground with the iPhone and leverage its success.

Microsoft has similarly announced that Windows Phone 7 will support Flash when (or if) it arrives at the end of the year. And like Google, Microsoft is similarly ignoring the problems of Flash in a mobile environment. Palm’s webOS, Symbian, and RIM’s BlackBerry OS are also all set to incorporate Flash, bringing upon themselves the series of problems for their users as outlined by Jobs above, just as many of those same vendors embraced Java to their own peril with essentially no upside (and count Apple in among the platform vendors who were duped and burned by cross platform Java hype a decade ago).

Ten Myths of Apple’s iPad: 2. It needs Flash
Why Apple is betting on HTML 5: a web history

Schadenfreude and the WebKit pearls before swine

What better curse could one wish upon one’s mobile platform competitors than a bunch of performance and security problems, poor battery life, a mess of user interface inconsistencies, and a malignant boil upon their efforts to develop their own third party development platforms? Jobs didn’t express such schadenfreude himself, but he can’t possibly not be ecstatic that his competitors are all rushing to wrap themselves around the neck with the dead albatross that is Adobe’s Flash.

For its part, Apple has shepherded the development of WebKit as a free, HTML5-savvy, standards-based web browser engine that all the major mobile platforms (apart from Microsoft, which is still sticking with its completely terrible Trident browser) have embraced. It’s their own decision to climb into bed with the rotting corpse of Flash instead.

And so Steve Jobs absolutely loves Flash in the mobile realm, and must be greatly entertained by antics of his peers who are all desperate to enslave themselves to Adobe’s inefficient, poorly performing, lowest common denominator alternative to open web standards that will choke their already ineffectual efforts to duplicate the iPhone and iPad.

Once Flash for mobiles actually ships and consumers see what a completely ridiculous and wildly overhyped bunch of junk it is, all those mobile platform vendors will be stuck having to rely on Adobe to roll out security patches and updates. And they’ll be forced to keep their fingers crossed that Adobe, which hasn’t bothered to invest the resources to maintain two decent desktop versions of Flash Player, will now suddenly decide to maintain five different new mobile versions of Flash Player and keep them all up to date, secure, performing acceptably, and in feature parity. All at the expense of their own native software platforms.

Steve Jobs couldn’t wish for a better virus to weaken rival smartphone platforms.

  • worker201

    I feel kinda special because I knew all the things Jobs wrote about already, because they appeared on RDM months ago. His specific comments on point #6 really hit home with me – Adobe’s release cycle’s resistance to new platforms and enhancements are legendary. I can’t even begin to recount how many times I’ve sworn to quit putting up with their BS, only to slavishly return when I needed to do some vector work. It would be just plain cruel to hoist that drama on the mobile market.

    Also, on point #5, when he talks about Flash being all wrong for touch interfaces: what if they’re planning a Flash Lite release? I could see them releasing a video player that only supports browser playback, but not interactive user stuff (of which the Flickr uploader is one of the better examples). I don’t know if it could even be done, but it certainly seems like the best way to hedge bets – Adobe could bring Flash to the mobile market without abandoning its foothold in the desktop market.

    Anyway, good articles – Steve and Daniel both.

  • DesperateDan

    Bullseye Dan.

    The others are scrambling so hard to find a competitive advantage over iPhone that they refuse to realise that in the long run it’s going to hang them.

    It shows that Apple, alone in the industry, has the confidence to find its own way and will not compromise a single jot. They are taking the long view and it is a long game.

    Apple is miles ahead. We shouldn’t be surprised though as it has more experience in OS’s than anyone else in the game. Microsoft are the only ones to come close and their OS game is a complete bag of spanners.

    Battery life looks like one of the main reasons HP is junking the Slate so it will be really interesting to see how Flash will work on devices with even less room for batteries. Let the games begin…

  • gctwnl

    Very funny. “Steve Jobs = Fake Daniel Eran Dilger” and the “dead albatross” were LOL-material. And not just funny, but very to the point.

  • ShabbaRanks

    I was going to ask if you’d written that letter for him.
    The BBC News website article on this paints it as though the world is up in arms over Steve’s comments and the Adobe CEO finds it “amusing” that he finds Flash “closed.”

    Anyway, off topic, I see Microsoft’s VapourPad has finally dissipated. I’m sure I called it somewhere….

    From engadget:
    “Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s VP of corporate communications: At any given time, across any of our business groups, there are new ideas being investigated, tested, and incubated. It’s in Microsoft’s DNA to continually develop and incubate new technologies to foster productivity and creativity. The “Courier” project is an example of this type of effort and its technologies will be evaluated for use in future Microsoft offerings, but we have no plans to build such a device at this time.”

    Jesus, will Microsoft ever stop spouting vapour and FUD and just get down to actually producing something worthwhile. We all know they’re rich and talented enough.

  • http://berendschotanus.com Berend Schotanus

    “His latest ‘Thoughts on Flash’ sounded like a distillation of every RoughlyDrafted article on the issue of Flash, boiled down into a devastating six point skewering.”

    That’s what I thought when I read the open letter. Good for you, Daniel!
    What I am proud of myself is that the “let Adobe build a good HTML5-editor” meme seems kind of persistent.

    “Flash Player will be bundled with Android 2.2”

    Once it seemed that HTML5 and the whole concept of web-apps was a Google hobby and not so much an Apple thing. When the iPhone was introduced seemed to be cooperating on an open web, apparently without conflict of interest. Google did the web part and needed compatible clients, Apple did the hardware and needed content. Support for HTML5 seemed to be a favor from Apple to Google in return for (the content of) valuable apps like Maps and YouTube.

    When Google is now embracing Flash enabled Java phones it seems to be way off its original strategy. It seems to be just capitulating to clueless anti-iPhone sentiments rather than sticking to its original strategy.
    Google was about heavy cloud servers feeding thin web-standards compliant clients. Don’t they believe in themselves anymore?

  • enzos

    Steve writes a great technical report: precise, factual and compelling.

  • http://blog.weaverling.org/ weave

    I have a Nokia N900 (running Maemo OS) that runs the desktop version of Flash. It has a creative (yet clunky) ways of dealing with the mouseover issue. But honestly, even though that phone has a 600 Mhz A8 whenever a site with flash video pops up, it absolutely kills the phone — sometimes so bad I have to hard restart the phone.

    Flash can’t die soon enough.

  • enzos

    And the results of SJ’s report

    >Apple’s shares were recently up 2.3% to $267.54 amid a broad market rally while Adobe’s fell 2.2% to $34.69. (smartmoney)

    Now that’s power.

  • bartb

    @Berend

    “When Google is now embracing Flash enabled Java phones it seems to be way off its original strategy. It seems to be just capitulating to clueless anti-iPhone sentiments rather than sticking to its original strategy.”

    Yes, I had the same feeling. I don’t get what Google is doing here.

    Btw, Microsoft just said that it will embrace HTML5 in Internet Explorer 9. Dan, any thoughts about that… ?

  • Per

    This is your best article in a long while, in my opinion.

    Just beware of the hubris involved of comparing yourself to His Steveness! Zeus might take offense and zap you with one of his trademark lightning bolts.

  • frankeee

    With me only having read the first paragraph of you latest article I fear I might be in for a hammering in the comments, but so be it!

    FLASH – hmmm – no teen spirit here, more like (remember) MACROMEDIA.

    Ok this won’t be short – but I try to limit myself – it is completely biased and completely random and nothing actually researched upon, just experience really:

    Right, once upon a time, there was a company called Macromedia. The supplied some nice tools to the creative folks out there – back in the day – when creative meant “I get that triangle to move to the square and *boom* – that would look nice on your website”.

    Right2, all of this sucked of course (and one ALWAYS had to install this ugly little duckling called plugin – on any machine the triangle and the square met)

    Right3 however – I remember myself fiddling around with Flash proprietary videos and encoding – after all I am a lonesome punk rocker who encoded his first “SUPER PRO” video clip on a Cyrix486 with an overlay video card and a whopping 600MB(!) hard drive – the wow was then! The encoding into a 120x65px web clip not only took 48 hours to encode, no: it looked as shitty as it can get, was like a stamp on steroids and also took 500 Million Light Years to download – let’s just not talk about browser performance etc … I really can not even recall what format it was.

    Hence I had sort of a sweet spot for my first video I watched as a Flash file straight over the internet. It was spotty. It sucked same ass. But it loaded quickly. And it was not as tiny as my first endeavour. However I think it was just blown up more – pixels as far as ones eyes can see.

    To be honest: at the time I thought “this is kinda interesting” alongside a multitasked thought – which is extremely rare to find in males – of “hmm, I alaways thought Flash is for Vectors and stuff – what’s the deal with moving JPEGs?”

    Anyway – I went through a whole lot of trouble to get a Macromedia software package and … voila … encoded myself exactly 3 videos. Kinda just cheking it out. One of my trizillion mistakes I made in computing over the last 25 odd years or so.

    I abandoned the Flash flagship, got a Mac, started working for Apple as Ex Rel Spec and continued using the $29 Quicktime encoding – for which I obviously gained an Apple Internal License – shame on them for f..king me over my X-Mas super. I was a good bloke – and actually did some great shit, just … I hate corporate.

    Right4: That’s the tricky one! I actually started to get kind of used to the process of installing the Flash plugin on many a machine – mainly because people would tell me “oy, there is this website where i can see kids getting hurt – i think it is called You Tub or so”
    I had never even watched anything on there. It seemd ludicrous to watch yet another 25 seconds of shit video on the web – however people started to dig it.

    Right5: I tried it!
    True – I am by now a complete YouTube ‘Dude’ – even if it’s just for BBC and a few German documentaries I enjoy in 10min segments (how awesome how a human being can adjust to shit quality, long downloads and 10min @ a time split up stuff, isn’t it?)

    Right6ish: We all know Adobe came – and bought Macromedia. To make a statement – at the time I only thought: “OY?”
    That’s correct – OY as in: WTF?
    Here is my deal: There is people who listen to the Rolling Stones and then there is people who listen to the Beatles – those folks hardly ever overlap (although my ex bass player was Stones – I am Beatles – we worked well).
    Compare that to people who used to use Dreamweaver and the folks like me who used GoLive? *tribute to the original (i think German) GoLive team, u guys changed my life back then!

    Right666: I did however install ClickToFlash recently and try to click the Full Screen Quicktime button as often as I can – in support.

    Anyway – Right711: in bullets::

    – QuicktimeX for the web still sucks, slow starting, weirdo controlls and more if u ask me

    – Flash on the Mac sucks, slow, crashes (8% of all times), makes my computer go ..zz..zzz..zz, and really is not what Flash was meant to be for, quite frankly

    – HTML5 looking good, however browsers still suck so much, maybe even more than quicktime and flash together … I mean … what’s the deal with stuff looking the same on anything? wow, i thought we are in 2010 when the jetsons fly their cars and shit?
    No: we can’t even have content look the same on any device! on the web. seems to work for any other file content – except MS Word, which is the worst piece of software ever having been updated and upgraded – on any platform.

    – As much as I would like to raise sheep in Tasmania, I can’t help being that same punk rock and just still being sort of a tekkie. Hence I ignore all the crap and try to be entertained by either flash or html5 etc

    but here is my WRONG 101s:

    – Flash is so old school, like anything Macromedia from back in the days. What started off as a cool multimedia thingy for the Mac ended up having MacOS8.5 GUI interface STILL even in brandest newest incarnation of the Adobe Suite – this can only be labelled as wrong!

    – Flash requires a f..kin’ PLUGIN – the WOW ended just then, and it’s just really wrong!

    – and the most wrong thing for me personally: what’s with every site trying to implement their own controls in a Flash video, this so reminds me of the current struggle of mobile/cell phone os manufacturesrs/developers to stand out.

    RIGHT 000:
    – call emergency and ask to see if there is any ambition around to make video on the web USER F…ING FRIENDLY please … oh and by the way: i find the whole geo-lockout pretty lame too! Steve, do u have something in mind? I stay will even stay ‘locked into the close case of yours’!

    Thanks for reading!

  • MetalboySiSo

    Actually, Dan, that was what I was thinking as I read “Thoughts On Flash” last night, before I came and posted in the forum about it — “Steve sounds like he’s been reading RDM, and compressed the last 6 months worth of Flash related articles down to 6 points” was my (almost) literal thought.

  • Stephen

    I feel kinda special because I knew all the things Jobs wrote about already, because they appeared on RDM months ago.

    Yep, amazing what cogent evidence based analysis can do.

  • http://scottworldblog.wordpress.com scotty321

    AMAZING INSIGHT, Daniel!! i didn’t even think of this, but of course you are 100% TOTALLY CORRECT! Thank you for this great article!

  • berult

    From the Book of Jobs-Dilger, Flash Genesis (point blank.6):
    ” … and on the seventh, they rested … their case.”

  • ChuckO

    I suspect Android and Windows Phone 7 Series (Man I love saying and typing that. It’s so ridiculous I almost fall out of my chair laughing) both see allowing Flash on their platforms as a no lose proposition. Android and especially WP7S is going to need any enticement possible to get people to buy it and they know if Flash sucks it won’t be seen as their problem and if it does suck it will only speed up the move away from it’s use and to html5.

    The pressure is really on Adobe to deliver something good. It will be very interesting to see which way they’ll go: take the time to deliver something good or get something out quick. My bet is on delivery delays followed by a mediocre product.

  • http://berendschotanus.com Berend Schotanus

    On second thoughts:

    I don’t think Steve Jobs really loves Flash. I think he is truly disappointed that Adobe never (at least for 10 years) accepted his invitation to benefit from Cocoa and move to more sophisticated programming paradigms, even when that would have made Adobe a stronger competitor. I think he is sincerely disappointed by the limited opportunities the once promising Java-platform offered him in achieving his innovative ambitions at which point he reconsidered his point of view about “meta-platforms”. And I think he feels hurt, more than alleviated, by the bunch of crap that Flash really is.

    But well, that’s the way I see Steve Jobs. I don’t think he is motivated by money or market position (which makes him so problematic for people who are). He isn’t motivated by personal relations in the industry either. I think he is motivated by the sheer beauty of the devices he is creating.

  • kerryb

    I just love all the drama. If only there was a romance thrown in….

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    The most amusing part of this is how Shantanu Narayen is choosing to defend Adobe. If you had a proprietary runtime that was competitive *in existence*, you might have a leg to stand on.

    How any OS or device maker would not only bet on a 3rd party with a horrible track record to deliver differentiating functionality, but do it prior to any satisfactory implementation of it, is beyond ridiculous. It’s moves like this that make Apple’s dominance in mobile devices hardly surprising.

  • mcloki

    Google still supports HTML 5 and open standards. It costs them nothing to say they support Adobe and Flash. Adobe is responsible for making it work so no engineering efforts there. For the marketers at Google it’s another box thay can check off on the box. Consumers do not care about the political wrangling of Silicon Valley companies. We do , but they don’t. Google supports Flash as a point of difference from the iPhone/Pad. It’s a marketing bullet point that costs them nothing but gives thero ANDROID partners somethign to crow about. And they do need somethign to differenciate their offerings from the iPhone. Nothing to get worked up about. Too much jumping up and down about nothing. It’s Martketing.

  • macpeter

    I am sure that Steve Jobs only not declare his thoughts about Flash without having a alternative plan to do it better than Adobe. I guess, we will see much new stuff at WWDC in June like Safari 5 supporting WebGL and HTML 5 video tag also in the Windows version as well as a next generation XCode developer tools with full integration of SproutCore, PastryKit and WebGL to develop better, faster and more compatible RichInternetApps for every Webkit browser. This will blow away mobile Flash even before this technology will appear on the first device.

  • Mike

    Google … you sellout!

    As for Shantanu Narayen, don’t get me started on him. Sounds like he’s simply just ignoring the problems of Flash and saying it doesn’t have any problems, when clearly the opposite is true.

  • iLogic

    Dude, the Fake Daniel Eran Dilger ripped them a new one. I’ve heard he had released “Thoughts on Flash” but didn’t think it was a big deal. The only reason I actually took the time to read was because of RDM, and all I have to say is: WOW – he took’em to the cleaners, no wonder the Adobe exec was at a loss for words. Now all of a sudden the boys in Redmond decide to support only H264, days after Adobe gets muted? Daniel “this happened before”?

    Keep doing it Daniel! (and Fake Daniel!)

    iLogic

  • limey

    “I just love all the drama. If only there was a romance thrown in….”
    Oh come on Kerry, Dilger/Gruber isn’t enough for you?
    :)

  • clochard0816

    Steve was wrong: Adobe InDesign CS5 is still based on Carbon according to a Plug-In Developer I know.

  • MetalboySiSo

    Evidently, parts of it (I’m not entirely familiar with *which* parts, seeing as how I don’t own it yet, and haven’t read tons and tons about it) are still Carbon, but a majority of it is supposed to be Cocoa these days. That’s what Adobe’s been preaching, anyway.

  • HCE

    Daniel,

    One thing you haven’t addressed is that Flash *is* getting more open. A couple of years ago, Adobe started the OpenScreen project which does open Flash up to members (and pretty much all the big names in tech other than Apple are members). No idea how open it is though – any thoughts?

    – HCE

  • macpeter

    @clochard0816

    Only 3 apps of the CS5 suite are ported to 64 bit Cocoa:

    Photoshop, Premier, AfterEffects

    The rest ist still plain old 32 bit Cocoa with probably the same bugs.

  • gus2000

    So do we believe that Jobs is a RDM reader? Or is it that these truths are self-evident? Great minds do tend to think alike.

  • JohnWatkins

    Great article, Dan.
    “. . . competitors are all rushing to wrap themselves around the neck with the dead albatross that is Adobe’s Flash.”
    LOL

    “When Google is now embracing Flash enabled Java phones it seems to be way off its original strategy. It seems to be just capitulating to clueless anti-iPhone sentiments rather than sticking to its original strategy.
    Google was about heavy cloud servers feeding thin web-standards compliant clients. **Don’t they believe in themselves anymore?** ”
    Too true, Berend! Well said.

    It appears Google’s CEO is the modern day version of Sculley/Spindler. Google’s vision and focus have been displaced by a business school-esque, formulaic, mediocrity that will drag the company down.

  • MikieV

    Amazing to see the baclash in the press.

    I was listening to NPR’s Morning Edition [Friday, April 30] and heard a woman describing how Steve Jobs had “lashed out” at Adobe over Flash…

    She’s obviously never been around when el Jobso “lashes out” at someone/something. :)

  • macpeter

    @HCE

    When Adobe says “open” they mean multi platform support full controlled by their own.

  • clochard42

    @macpeter
    Thanks. And I think you this should have been:
    The rest ist still plain old 32 bit *Carbon* with probably the same bugs.

  • md5sum

    “[…] the reality is that there is still simply no version that Apple could bundle or allow run on the iPhone” — I don’t see the browser plugin as a big issue. I really don’t think anyone does. Flash is typically implemented on web pages as annoyingly obnoxious and buggy (watch the Flash debugger console some time). Funny thing about the Flash bugs is that it’s usually got nothing to do with the Flash plugin, and usually has more to do with yet another crappy person thinking they can program because the somehow managed to make a Flash web app that almost works right.

    On the other hand, there are ~100 apps in the app store that are written in Flash and deployed as stand-alone apps. They’ve been proven to work, and support multi-touch perfectly fine. And they were both REVIEWED and APPROVED by Apple.They haven’t been shown to cause excess battery drain over any other application.

    While it’s Apple’s choice whether or not to allow/support it, and they have every legal right to deny Adobe access to their little fairytopia, I think people would still like the choice. I propose that Apple allow native Flash APPS. Apps that are written in Flash, but compiled to run natively on the iPhoneOS. They can flag them in the App Store as “This app was written in Flash and may not perform well on your device.” if they want to. Just let the people decide. If the apps suck, people won’t use them. The apps will get bad ratings, and bad reviews. Just like any of the other multitudes of crappy, crash-prone, and utterly useless apps that exist, people will express their opinions, and other people will listen if they want.

    I’m not going to choose sides in an Apple vs. Adobe war. I’ve not had Flash ever crash on my Mac, but I also only use Chrome, not Safari. Flash does continuously annoy me though, more the way that people utilize it, than any technical aspect of it. Apple annoys me in many ways, too. And I firmly believe that people have a right to choose for themselves, and not have a dictator make their decisions for them.

  • gus2000

    Consumers DO have a choice, md5sum. They can take what Steve Jobs gives them, or they can pour themselves a nice, big, steaming hot cup of go fuck yourself.

    Choice is overrated. I respect Apple for having the balls to say “no” to bad ideas, even when that idea would add a nice bullet-point on the marketing materials. I wish the companies for which I’ve worked had shown the same level self-confidence in their technology, rather than delivering illogical “choices” because some ignorant customers were clamoring for them.

    Do you think surgeons give consumers choice? I usually get the choice of “have the procedure, or you’ll die”. I don’t usually get to choose which technique they use, or which thread for the stitches. That’s because I’m not a medical expert, my doctor is. And I may be a “tech expert”, but the real experts on the iPhone hardware and software are at Apple. Frankly, I’m just not qualified to make platform choices. So I rely on their expertise.

    Want a choice? Go find a better platform and buy it. Better yet, buy an open platform and then write the code yourself. Presto! Infinite choice!

  • ccs181

    Great read Daniel.
    I was choking over Adobe’s errant logic that Flash was “open” due to its ubiquity. I guess that holds true for Microsoft as well.
    But wait, does that mean that as Flash and Windows lose market share they become more “closed”? ;-)

  • ChuckO

    @gus2000 35, Couldn’t agree more. I read sites like Engadget and Gizmodo just because the mentality they are pitched at is totally foreign to me. They seem to be written for the tech equivalent of nymphomania: more, more, more, new, new, new, new. It’s demented.

    @macpeter #21, Interesting points. I hope you are correct.

    “I am sure that Steve Jobs only not declare his thoughts about Flash without having a alternative plan to do it better than Adobe. I guess, we will see much new stuff at WWDC in June like Safari 5 supporting WebGL and HTML 5 video tag also in the Windows version as well as a next generation XCode developer tools with full integration of SproutCore, PastryKit and WebGL to develop better, faster and more compatible RichInternetApps for every Webkit browser. This will blow away mobile Flash even before this technology will appear on the first device.”

    Did anyone see the WSJ web news show about Job’s letter? Man how annoying. Pure attitude, zero knowledge or insight. Treated like TMZ would a fight between Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.

  • md5sum

    From what I saw, the only real attitude on WSJ’s part was laughing at Jobs calling Flash a “closed system”. I also find it amusing that gus2000 35 and ChuckO 36 are so quick to ridicule giving people choice, but failed to comment on the fact that there are already Flash apps in the App Store that work fine and were approved by Apple.

  • Maniac

    “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
    – Napoleon Bonaparte

    Steve Jobs would have been an awesome General.

  • Maniac

    @Mike – “As for Shantanu Narayen, don’t get me started on him. Sounds like he’s simply just ignoring the problems of Flash and saying it doesn’t have any problems, when clearly the opposite is true.”

    Exactly. Let’s see if Narayen can ignore Microsoft’s rejection of Flash in IE9. Is that just “a smokescreen”? Pretty hard to use illogical ad-hominem attacks against a straight out “NO”.

  • HammerOfTruth

    Ahh, the dance continues. This fight has been brewing for awhile. For about 15 or so years since Adobe stopped caring about Mac users when owning a Mac was compared to owning a Coleco Adam. Adobe had let their engineers publicly bash the platform and proclaim it’s death. Sure Steve Jobs hadn’t come back yet, but I’m sure he heard what was being said and was waiting to deal with Adobe if he came back.

    So he came back, saved Apple and tried to get Adobe to put some effort in keeping the soul of the Mac into the Apps that they made, since their DNA had not only Apple in it, but NEXT as well. There is also Adobe DNA inside of OSX that helps the OS handle PDF, probably better than any other OS.

    Now that Adobe has managed to absorb it’s competitor Macromedia, it has returned to abusing Mac (Apple) users. Making inferior versions of Flash and IRONICALLY Acrobat, (Ironic since PDF is in essence the next generation of Postcript, something that Microsoft truly despises). They expect Mac users to shut up and take it. They expect to be able to make Flash for the iPhone. Do they expect to make it well? Hell no. They think that people that buy Apple products already know what kind of quality you get from Adobe, so where is the big surprise? It’s Steve Jobs and he’s not going to let Adobe crap all over the iPhone OS ecosystem like they did with OSX.

    Plus now you have Microsoft announcing that they as well think the future of the web is HTML 5, not Flash.

    http://www.providingnews.com/microsoft-agrees-with-apple-flash-is-not-the-future.html/comment-page-1#comment-25557

    Plus HP is rumored to be using Palms WEBOS on their portables. How much do you want to bet that there will be no Flash on that platform either.

    So Adobe can get all chummy with Google. Well, right until they find out that Google has made copies of Adobe apps that run in the cloud.

    Karma is something Shantanu needs to look up.

  • Imapolicecar

    Hi Daniel,

    Jobsy has obviously been reading your columns. I think he owes you a few beers (or a new bike) at least for writing his letter for him, ;-)

    ——

    Re: “… meaning Flash has to decode it in software rather than leveraging the hardware accelerated codecs in mobile devices (the iPod/iPhone only support MPEG-4 video codecs because they can be accelerated in hardware.”

    I was reading an article on CiF on the guardian.co.uk where someone claimed that the reason Flash was so intent on software decoding on the Mac was that Apple had not allowed Adobe access to the APIs for hardware decoding.

    Can anyone verify or deny this and is there any evidence to support Adobe’s claims.

    Once again, I remind myself why I like your site. All the news 6 months early. :)

  • Chipotle

    @Imapolicecar: Adobe is correct that there was no low-level API for hardware video decoding. It wasn’t that Apple was disallowing Adobe specifically from this; the API just wasn’t there and Apple wasn’t interested in adding it. It took me a while to convince myself of that, actually: there are API calls in both Carbon and Cocoa that do in fact allow just that, but they only allow it within the context of QuickTime decoding. Flash needs something like, say, “a C programming interface providing low-level access to the H.264 decoding capabilities of compatible GPUs” — that being a direct quote from the API documentation for the new Video Decode Acceleration framework in OS X 10.6.3.

    In practice, the pre-10.6.3 situation was a bit more complicated than even that: OS X has several graphics frameworks and not every browser uses the same one. Safari 4 uses Core Animation; most other browsers use Quartz 2D; Opera and older browsers use QuickDraw. Before the Video Decode Acceleration framework, the only way to get hardware decoding at a low enough level was through Core Animation — which Flash Player 10.1 on OS X apparently will indeed use. Later versions of Flash will almost certainly move to the VDA, though.

  • gus2000

    Don’t get hung up on the inefficient video decoding for OSX Flash…that’s not the issue. Pull up a Yahoo! or Google Flash-based stock chart, and watch your CPU peg to 100% as you do nothing but roll the mouse over the chart. Pathetic.

  • wil194

    Apple makes the whole box and dice, if the user has a bad experience, then they get blamed. My question, if an ‘average’ person has a bad flash experience on an Android or future MS product, who are they going to blame? I bet they will blame the manufacturer. So I think its no wonder that Google and MS don’t have the same qualms about Flash as Apple- diluted responsibility.

  • JohnWatkins

    Chipotle,
    I’m not knowledgeable enough to know about this, but wasn’t existing access to Core Animation sufficient for Adobe to get good performance from Flash if they wanted to? And without allowing them to cause much trouble with lower level access (why give the car keys to the reckless teenager who has already cracked up the family station wagon several times?)

  • GeorgeFromNY

    Gus2K,

    “I wish the companies for which I’ve worked had shown the same level self-confidence in their technology, rather than delivering illogical “choices” because some ignorant customers were clamoring for them.”

    Exactly. And exactly why MS is so completely boned. All the smart, capable people there – and there are many – will continue to be suffocated under the weight of supporting such a massive, lowest-comment-denominator installed base.

    Of course, I blame IBM and the PS2 for it all. But that’s another story.

  • Mike

    @JohnWatkins

    Arguably, yes that is true. However, Adobe probably would have to rewrite millions of lines of code to make it work really well on the Mac. But they’re not really interested in that, because doing so would only benefit Apple and not them. Plus they don’t care for the Mac version being outstanding, they just want it to be “good enough” so people won’t complain as loudly when compared to the Windows version. They’re only now starting to try to improve performance on Macs because of the resulting bad press that Flash has had lately. Mostly it’s to mollify the critics who’ve been saying for years that Flash is buggy, crappy, and yet somehow sites still need it because they haven’t been written in HTML5.

    The problem with that VDA API is that it only applies to video. The animations (except video) on websites will still take up the same amount of CPU time regardless. Your Mac will still go to 50-100% for various Flash animations (not to mention the ads) on websites. There’s only so much hardware can do for sloppy coding… So really, all we have is a half-baked product that shouldn’t have gained mass-market dominance in the first place.

  • MipWrangler

    While I was reading Mr. Jobs’ essay, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d read it all before. Major kudos for painting the landscape so closely in advance!

  • MetalboySiSo

    Mike –
    “There’s only so much hardware can do for sloppy coding… ”

    Absolutely 100000% correct. This is the story of Adobe’s life, at least for the last 15 years or so, particularly on the Mac.
    (Having said that, I love Fireworks, Illustrator, and Dreamweaver is growing on me in a couple of ways, 2 of which, of course, were Macromedia products.)