In a case of selective fact-picking reminiscent of the most bitter divorce battles, Steve Jobs posted an open letter today about Apple’s ongoing hate-hate relationship with Flash. Among the juiciest tidbits is this statement about Flash’s openness:

Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.

Substitute “Apple’s iPhone” for “Adobe’s Flash,” and you’ll have a similarly true statement. More funtastic highlights after the break.

“iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video.”
Right, so they can easily watch the latest in bipedal French cats, but as for one of the most popular sites for video actually worth watching? Not so much. (Yet, anyway.)

“Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?”
Setting aside that HTML5 is still an immature technology — it isn’t scheduled to be approved as a standard for another twelve years — it lacks a standard video codec, and it isn’t actually able to recreate most of the functionality of even the most rudimentary Flash-based site. But of course, that’s not a problem — you shouldn’t want to do that stuff anyway. Just go download some apps from the App Store! (Sorry, Android users.)

“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.”
This, of course, is the real reason: it’s about control. If Flash were to be adopted as a popular tool for creating apps for the iPhone/iPad OS (or even available in the browser), Apple would lose its iron grip on the direction of the platform. This is a valid point, one that has been echoed elsewhere by people more familiar with the deeper issues than myself. If anyone is going to hold iPhone developers hostage, Apple wants to be the one to do it, with its famously opaque and fickle approval process and shifting development landscape.

None of which is to say Jobs is wrong — he is doing exactly what he should be doing to protect Apple’s position as the premier smartphone producer. But his arguments about Flash as a closed, proprietary platform and HTML5 as a robust alternative are merely smokescreens, and given that virtually everyone sees his real intentions, there might be more dignity in just being honest: “It’s smelly and obscene and disgusting and I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!”

» Thoughts on Flash (Apple, via Engadget)

One Response to “Pot, Meet Kettle: Steve Jobs on “closed,” “proprietary” Flash”

  1. Brent Says:

    I’m inclined to agree with Jobs…for the most part. And I only say this after longing for Flash on my iPad and my iPhone (when I had it). Fact of the matter is, Flash is a buggy piece of crap on Apple products. Has been for as long as I can remember. Who’s at fault? I’m not sure I really care. As someone who works at this stuff some of the time for a living, I just want to be able to rely on the tools I need to do my job. When it comes to Flash on my Mac I’d be lying if I said it worked just the way I wanted all the time, both from a developer/designer point of view and from a web surfing point of view.

    That said, there’s no reason these two companies, run conceivably by mature, intelligent adults, shouldn’t be able to work together to get something done. That’s what mature, intelligent adults do, right? But either Apple hasn’t allowed it to happen or Adobe simply hasn’t delivered. Based on Adobe’s track record with mobile devices (my Droid Eris being one of them) – I’m putting Adobe at fault here. There’s really no point in ever attempting to run Flash in its current state on a mobile device. It simply isn’t pleasant. That’s not to say that sometime in the future it could be.

    I think Jobs has done a great job of setting Adobe up for the opportunity to hit a big old homerun if their Flash player on Android 2.2 can come remotely close to the Flash we know and love/hate in our desktop browsers. Time will tell.

    At the end of the day, I’m tired of listening to these two adults carry on their public pissing match – just like I got tired of listening to my parents when they got divorced!

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