Steve Jobs Criticizes Adobe and Flash. Again.

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Here we go again. Apple’s Steve Jobs has received more publicity this week following his Flash-bashing open letter. The CEO doth protest too much, methinks. Let’s have a look at his 6 points in more detail but, before we do…

Note: We’re all biased

I don’t have or use Apple products. I admit they regularly create glorious devices but I don’t always understand the appeal or the price people are willing to pay for them.

I don’t develop in Flash. I prefer web standards but Flash has its uses. It is used inappropriately but the same can be said for any technology.

I’ll be accused of bias in one way or another, but those people will have their own biases. Everyone does.

Steve’s first point…

Flash products are 100% proprietary … Flash is a closed system.We strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open.

Great, although we could pick holes in that 100% figure — Flash comprises several closed and open source technologies. I’d hate to see the web evolve into a Flash-only platform, but it’s not likely to happen Steve.

almost all [Flash] video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads

What Steve means is that YouTube offer H.264. While that’s the most popular video site, it’s a different story when iPhone users go elsewhere on the web.And why H.264? It’s covered by patents which impede royalty-free usage — hardly the “open” web standards Steve wants.

Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.

Flash has a bad reputation on the Mac but has that stopped people using it? Adobe should fix the problems, but will they bother when Apple publicly berates their efforts? Would Apple have the same attitude if Adobe pulled PhotoShop from the Mac platform?Besides, I’m sure Steve would be horrified by much of the software I run on my PC and phone. Isn’t that my choice?

Fourth, there’s battery life.

Steve quotes a specific example:

  • You can view a (hardware-decoded) H.264 video on the iPhone for 10 hours.
  • The same video in Flash (assuming it’s not H.264-encoded) drains the battery in 5 hours.

Does it matter? How many other applications drain the iPhone battery? Would Apple criticize or ban other products for irresponsible electricity leakage?

Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on “rollovers”…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?

First, Flash has it’s roots in SmartSketch — a drawing application for pen-based PCs.But I don’t understand his point? HTML-based websites often rely on rollovers and mouse input. If standard HTML works so well on Apple devices, why are many companies urgently producing iPhone-specific versions of their existing web applications?

Sixth, the most important reason.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.

That can happen. But it can also generate healthy competition and choice.The iPhone is one of the most closed and proprietary products on the market. Apple has total control over what applications you can write, distribute and run. That’s their prerogative, but it grates against Steve’s call for an open web.Ultimately, Apple is protecting their business interests. They’re not consumer champions protecting users from Adobe evil.Enough of my ranting. Here’s a chance to have your say — it’s unlikely to affect Apple’s decision, but cast your vote on the SitePoint home page or leave a comment below.

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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