Apple's Jobs Blogs That Adobe Flash Stuck In The Past12:30 PM EST Thu. Apr. 29, 2010
This is the letter Apple fans have been waiting for. Apple CEO Steve Job has posted a 1,675-word blog post on the company's Website titled innocently enough, "Thoughts on Flash," in which he argues why he doesn't think Adobe's Flash technology is right for his company's iPhone and iPad devices.
Apple has come under fire from both users and critics for not integrating Flash-based technology into applications that can run on Apple's mobile devices.
Jobs argued several points in the letter. First, he noted that Apple has a long relationship with Adobe, having met that company's founders when they were "in their proverbial garage."
Apple owned about 20 percent of Adobe for many years, but Jobs admits the companies have since grown apart.
"[We] still work together to serve their joint creative customers -- Mac users buy around half of Adobe's Creative Suite products -- but beyond that there are few joint interests," he wrote.
Jobs countered the widely-held theory that Adobe's flash is an open technology while Apple has a closed system.
"Adobe's Flash products are 100 percent proprietary ... 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," Jobs wrote.
Meanwhile, Apple has many proprietary products too, including the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad, notes Jobs, but Apple believes that all standards pertaining to the Web should be open.
Next: Jobs Sets Out Apple's Smartphone Innovations
In addition, Apple created the open-source project Webkit, an HTML5 rendering engine that is also used in Google's Android OS, Palm, Nokia and others, according to Jobs.
"Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft's uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers," he wrote.
Jobs also countered Adobe's reported claims that Apple mobile devices can't access "full Web" because 75 percent 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. YouTube, with an estimated 40 percent of the web's video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices," wrote Jobs.
Another Adobe claim, according to Jobs, is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This, he added, is true.
"Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world," he wrote.
Jobs also attacks Flash's reliability, security and performance, arguing that Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009.
"We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don't want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash," Jobs wrote.
Next: Flash's Problems With Mobile Devices
Flash also has not performed well on mobile devices, according to Jobs.
"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," he wrote.
"Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we're glad we didn't hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?"
Jobs' further argued that Flash technology has a dramatic effect on the life of mobile batteries.
"To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much power," Jobs wrote. "The video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained." Jobs also believes that Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers.
"Even if iPhones, iPods and iPads ran Flash, it would not solve the problem that most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices," he wrote.
Finally, Apple believes that adding a third party layer of software comes between the OS platform and the developer's app ultimately results in sub-standard apps, which Jobs explained as "the most important reason" why Apple won't support Flash.
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," Jobs wrote. "We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers."
In conclusion, Jobs said Flash was created "during the PC era" but falls short in the mobile era.
"New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind," Jobs concluded.