Why Steve Jobs Is Full of Crap About Flash

Steve Jobs must have been a lackey for the mob back in the 70’s before he started Apple, because that side of him is really starting to come out lately.  He wrote a blog post in the news section of the Apple site this morning that reads more like a mafia threat letter than a discussion of the facts.

I’m sure his intention with this letter was to try to silence the critics who take issue with Apple not allowing Flash on its mobile devices, but it comes to no surprise to me that it’s the best indication yet of the disturbing path that Apple has begun to take in the past few years.

Let’s take a look at some of the points that Steve brings up in his letter.

“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.”

Only somewhat true.  Yes, if you want to actually create Flash, you need to buy a version of the Adobe Creative Suite.  However, there is no “pricing” when it comes to the Flash plugin for standard browsers.  And Flash is available on any browser that accepts it, including the standard version of Safari.  The use of Action Script, the programming language behind Flash, is also highly modifiable and extensible by developers not employed by Adobe.  Steve is only speaking in half truths here.

Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don’t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

He takes an interesting stance here by framing the argument in terms of video.  Not too many web geeks will argue the point that video is better served through H.264 and HTML 5, which is far less of a resource hog in terms of streaming media.  Flash has been more or less shoehorned into this purpose over the past five years, and was never intended to be a video platform.

However, much functionality across the web utilizes Flash in a way that has nothing to do with video, and it’s really misleading for Steve to frame it only in those terms.  Flash is also a driving force behind animation and rich UI apps.  For example, check out this really cool interactive ad for Iron Man 2.  Done in Flash.  Have you wasted time on Chatroulette?  Done in Flash.  Used something like MLB.com’s Gameday to keep track of a ballgame?  That’s Flash too.  Granted, things like MLB have dedicated iPhone Apps that allow you to do that on the device since they don’t support Flash.  But that’s the issue.  These organizations are being strongarmed into supporting Apple’s App Store since they can’t get their content to the device otherwise.  MLB seemingly reluctantly introduced an Android app last year, but not every organization has the resources of a national sports league.

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it.

Hey, um, Steve?  Google already announced that the next version of Android will run Flash. Your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.

I could go point by point on a lot of things that he brings up, but here’s the quote from Steve that bothers me the most…

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. .. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

Steve and his PR goons are very, very good at how they frame an argument.  They take the approach that an intermediary between developers and a final product is bad for the consumer.  Ironic, considering that Apple itself is a middleman between developers and consumers in terms of taking whatever time they please when it comes to approving apps to be it’s store.  At the end of the day, Apple really wants every bit of control.  If there is to be an intermediary, they want it to be themselves.  If someone has come up with a better way of developing apps that is independent of their proprietary programming language, they’re going to do whatever they can to crush it.  While Steve goes on and on about open standards in terms of the web, he still makes it very clear that he wants developers working for Apple apps working only in the way that he wants them to.  Adobe is using Flash as that intermediary, and he’s only using HTML5 as a wedge, not promoting it as a tool.

Steve Wozniak is famous for promoting openness, but it takes only just a little bit of investigation that his version of openness is a night and day difference from what Steve Jobs is trying to portray here.  The Apple of today that has come about since the release of the first iPhone is doing whatever it can to crush competition and keep customers and developers in line with its wishes.

Apple is now the company that it threw the hammer at in 1984.


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