In the typical Steve Jobs manner, Apple posted an article detailing his thoughts on Flash this morning. They didn’t add the letter to their typical “Hot News” page… instead they have a link to the article directly on the homepage. I was very interested in Steve’s actual perspective on Flash, but realistically, there’s not much we haven’t already heard Steve say at one point or another.

After the break, we cover Steve Jobs’ main points and add a little bit of our perspective into the mix. We also interviewed Jason Carr, a prominent PC developer, and asked his opinion on Steve’s letter. His answers may surprise you. So click the “Continue Reading” button and get the whole story.

    Steve breaks the article up into 5 main points:

  • Openness: In a somewhat interesting twist of events, Steve calls Flash a closed system… and says they’d rather support standards that are available to everyone like HTML5, CSS and Javascript. Recently, people have been calling foul on Apple because they primarily run a closed system… but Steve makes an interesting point here: not everyone wants to spend thousands of dollars on Adobe’s Creative suit in order to write web code. With free languages like HTML5 with CSS and Javascript, a developer could essentially write the same visual content without spending any money on Adobe’s development tools.
  • Full Web: Steve says that Adobe has criticized Apple mobile devices for their inability to play Flash games and movies. Steve counters this problem by explaining that YouTube makes up 40% of the Flash movies online and many companies are choosing to support Apple mobile devices without Flash.

    YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web’s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever. Add to this video from 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, and many, many others. iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video.

    No one really knows how much of the Flash content that covers but I can tell you this: I don’t miss Flash. In fact, I don’t miss crappy web ads at all. That’s where a lot of Flash content ends up and I don’t care about that one bit.

  • Reliability, Security and Performance: Flash has always sucked on the Mac. Apple is right that the majority of system crashes can be traced back to Flash content. The iPhone has been out for somewhere around 3 years and people like me don’t really miss Flash that much. In fact, if every Flash object started working now, my user experience would start to suck. Page loads would take longer because the device can play all the Flash ads in the background, my browser would most certainly crash more often, and my battery life would decrease. As it stands, the device just ignores everything that is Flash… I’m okay with that.
  • Battery Life: Online content should be decoded with your hardware, not your software. The Mac and iPhone allow for this with H.264. The biggest issue with online video is the fact that not all video content is encoded with H.264 so those videos would have to be decoded by software… and that drastically decreases battery life and reduces the overall performance of your device. Even if it is H.264, the Flash wrapper would have to be written in a what that would utilize the hardware decoding… which again, most of the Flash out there is older code that doesn’t know how to talk to the hardware… thus decreasing battery life and performance. My browsing experience is perfectly fine on the iPhone. I don’t want to change that by adding Flash.
  • Touch: Flash content often requires a mouse hover to activate animations. That just doesn’t work with a touch-based device. Steve says that Flash content that requires these hovering actions will need to be re-written, so why not re-write them in something other than Flash? I don’t think that websites need to be re-written, but I can tell you that a Flash website is immediately black-listed in my household. I don’t find it cool, innovative or entertaining… I find it annoying. I’d rather have a simple, pleasant website to browse, not a Flash movie.
  • Cross-Platform Development: In his last argument, Steve explains his thoughts on layers and conversion tools. Ultimately saying that developers will always have the best experience and create the best apps by developing natively. This is true in some aspects and a bit off in others… we actually have a response from Jason Carr, one of our favorite PC developers, who finds Steve’s arguments a little biased. You can read more on that below.

Ultimately, the letter addresses the many reasons why Apple is closing themselves off from the Flash platform. We find it a little ironic that they consider Adobe “closed” when Apple is just as “closed” if not more so than Adobe. Anyways, we’ll leave that up to Jason Carr‘s CTA-exclusive response to explain that. Here you go:w

Steve Jobs is smart enough to know that Apple’s anti-Flash and native-code-only ideologies are stifling innovation. He knows that there are both advantages and disadvantages to his approach; he’s only sharing the advantages, however, because that is best for Apple’s business model. Make no mistake, Apple’s decisions on this matter are meant only for financial advantage and have very little if anything to do with benefitting end-users.

Platform restrictions such as these are just that: restrictions. Restrictions always stifle innovation. Adobe’s Flash platform may have some serious flaws, but there are plenty of things that Flash does significantly better and/or makes significantly easier to develop than Apple’s development tools. Ease of development is so important that it is the driving force behind Microsoft’s success in the desktop world, despite having an arguably inferior desktop solution. And yet, ease of development is exactly what Apple is purposefully throwing out the window with these decisions.

The fact of the matter is this: Apple is just as closed or more closed than Adobe. It is ridiculous for Jobs to try and bash Flash’s closed nature when he’s arguing for a closed model himself. Jobs creates an excellent argument, but conveniently (and unsurprisingly) leaves out many valid points regarding both Apple and Adobe. What is good for Apple is not necessarily good for the end-user, and this is the perfect example of a decision that Apple has made only to benefit itself.

To add more fuel to the flame, Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen spoke with the Wall Street Journal this afternoon about Steve Jobs letter. He, just like Steve Jobs, didn’t have anything “enlightening” to say, but there were a few interesting counter-points. He claims that while Adobe software is “proprietary,” it works on many platforms and will work on Google’s next version of the Android platform. Narayen also blames all of the problems Mac users face with Flash on Apple… really? Everything is Apple’s fault? We find that hard to believe.

The Mac holds about 8.5 percent of the total computing market share. It only makes sense that companies devote less time to an OS that has such a small percentage of the market share… it does. Instead of pointing fingers and calling each other names, companies need to admit that they’re not giving non-Windows OSes the necessary resources to be amazing. Apple could also improve their side of the argument by making the Mac OS a little more appealing/easier for developers to write for the platform. Both sides are making progress to improve Flash on the Mac but both Apple and Adobe are at fault here… and it’s not even one more so than the other. Maybe someday they’ll realize that and move on.

All in all, today was just another day of finger pointing among the tech world’s top executives. But what’s new?

Josh Carr
Josh founded eciov in 2008 and has overseen it's evolution into a lifestyle site. He enjoys all things digital, art, music, creativity -- anything that can evoke emotion. If he's not working on this site or at his day job as a UX Engineer, he's out riding his motorcycle or jumping his truck on trails in the mountains.
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