The creators of two of the digital world’s most popularly used products have publicly clashed recently, after Apple CEO Steve Jobs responded to ongoing calls to open his product’s to the Flash development platform with a ringing criticism of Adobe’s most popular product.
The lack of Flash support for Apple’s mobile devices has been a long-standing point of contention between the two companies and indeed, for many users. Flash is extremely widely supported – installed on around 90% of computers according to Adobe estimates – and is commonly cited as the main tool for creating an interactive website design and responsible for the growth of 3D animation, video and other ‘web 2.0′ features.
However, though Apple’s home products support the platform, none of the iPhone derivations or the iPod touch or even the iPad can support Flash without extensive work-arounds by the user.
In an open letter posted on Apple’s website, Steve Jobs finally explained why Flash is absent from many of his most popular products in a six-part criticism of Adobe and its product. Firstly, Jobs says that Flash is “100% proprietary” in contradiction of Adobe’s claim to be an “open” system; he says that though his company’s products may be notoriously proprietary themselves, it is Apple’s belief that all standards pertaining to the web should be open.
In his second point, Jobs disputes that Apple devices can’t access the 75% of web video that is in Flash, citing the widespread availability of the H.264 format. Thirdly he says that Flash has a poor security record and performs poorly on mobile devices – leading to his fourth criticism, that the Flash drains an excessive amount of power from the batteries of mobile devices. His fifth criticism is that Flash is designed for PC’s using mice – not mobile devices using touch interfaces.
Finally, Jobs says that the use of a third party layer software could “come between the platform and developer” and “ultimately results in sub-standard apps.”
It didn’t take long for Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch to draft a response to the letter, published on the company blog.
Lynch says that the “primary issue at hand is that Apple is choosing to block” his and other company’s technologies through a variety of complex legal terms attached to the iPhone developer program licence.
He says that if Apple and Adobe were to work together then he was “confident” that they could “provide a terrific experience with Flash on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch” – but that for now, Adobe is shifting its focus away from these platforms due to Apple’s restrictions in favour of the “other major participants in the mobile ecosystem.”
In a complementary post, Mike Chambers of the Flash Platform group at Adobe says that the restrictions pose problems for other cross-platform and other cross-browser technologies and warns that the ability to build web games and 3d animation video on multiple platforms and devices is “the exact opposite of what Apple wants.”