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Steve Jobs’s Thoughts On Flash

Steve Jobs from Apple had published his thoughts on Flash in a recent press release. In his lengthy thoughts, he commented on how Apple got with Flash and its history before breaking down into various points why Flash should not be for mobile devices.

Steve Jobs from Apple had published his thoughts on Flash in a recent
press release. In his lengthy thoughts, he commented on how Apple got
with Flash and its history before breaking down into various points why
Flash should not be for mobile devices.

The press release was taken from Engadget which they shared their views on the release as well.

Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe’s
founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their
first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new
Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the
company for many years. The two companies worked closely together to
pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times. Since that
golden era, the companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near
death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their
Acrobat products. Today the two companies 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.

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so
that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow
Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision
as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App
Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues. Adobe claims
that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the
opposite is true. Let me explain.

First, there’s “Open”.

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. 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.

Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for
the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all
standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash,
Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards.
Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power
implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard
that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web
developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and
transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like
Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards
committee, of which Apple is a member.

Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began
with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete
open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web
browser used in all our products. WebKit has been widely adopted. Google
uses it for Android’s browser, Palm uses it, Nokia uses it, and RIM
(Blackberry) has announced they will use it too. 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.

Second, there’s the “full web”.

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. 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.

Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This
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.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

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.

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.
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?

Fourth, there’s battery life.

To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must
decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much
power. Many of the chips used in modern mobile devices contain a decoder
called H.264 – an industry standard that is used in every Blu-ray DVD
player and has been adopted by Apple, Google (YouTube), Vimeo, Netflix
and many other companies.

Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, 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.

When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them
without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple’s
Safari and Google’s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look
great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using
fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on “rollovers”, which pop
up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific
spot. Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse,
and there is no concept of a rollover. 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?

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.

Sixth, the most important reason.

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major
technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is
an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods
and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video
and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers
to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.

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

This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform
development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one
platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms.
Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set
of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are
blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not
available on our competitor’s platforms.

Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe’s goal to
help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their
goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been
painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms. For example,
although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just
adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was
the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.

Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and
innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand
directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the
world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so
developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful
applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the
best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer
base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest
selection of apps on any platform.


Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a
successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to
push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch
interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile
devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video
or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App
Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of
developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.

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.

Steve Jobs
April, 2010

So folks, what are thoughts on Flash on mobile devices ?

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