Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Flash. Boom.

Today, in an open letter published on Apple’s website, Steve Jobs shared his thought on Adobe Flash and its place (or lack thereof) on Apple devices such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Steve’s “Thoughts on Flash” can be found here. I break down his points after the jump.

1) Flash isn’t an “open platform.

Steve claims that by being a “closed” format, Adobe controls all means of creating Flash content. Apple themselves has been extremely tight with control of its application developement, but Steve claims they prefer open standards when it comes to web content, such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

2) Accessing the “Full Web”

Steve addresses Adobe’s claims that without the Flash player you’re missing out on the “full web” because 75% of internet video is played in Flash-based players. He points out that most of the time, videos are available in H.264 which is supported across all iDevices. Steve also addresses the Flash-game issue and invites users to check out the thousands of games that exist on the Apple App Store that don’t need Flash to run.

3) Reliability, Security and Performance

Steve explains that Symantec have claimed that Flash had one of the worst security records for 2009 and that Flash is one of the main causes of crashes on Macs. Apple, he claims, don’t want to add that kind of security or stability risk to their platforms. He also claims that Adobe is yet to produce a Flash Player that performs well on any mobile device.

4) Battery Life

Software decoding of web video needs a lot of CPU power, which needs power. Steve explains that despite Flash added support for H.264 (which is played through hardware in most mobile devices), most web video is still in older formats that require software decoding, which doesn’t sit well with batteries in mobile devices.

5) Touch

Steve explains that Flash sites have been designed with “the mouse in mind” – using rollovers and other interface elements that require a constant on-screen pointer – which doesn’t exist in a touch interface. Steve says that if you’re rebuilding your site to support touch, then why not rebuild it using a “modern” technology such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.

6) The using-Flash-to-make-iPhone-applications thing.

Lastly, Steve addresses why Apple refuse to allow applications built using Adobe Flash CS5 on the app store. He claims that third-party technologies, while helping developers jump in to a new platform short-term, hurt them in the long-term because new developments on the technology can only be accessed by these developers when the developers of these third-party add the extra functionality – functionality that might not be cost-effective to add. By forcing developers to use Apple’s proprietary platform, they get instant access to new features without delay or dependence on the timelines of third-parties.

Steve also adds that Adobe are traditionally slow to adopt Apple techonology and that they only just started developing their apps with Cocoa (Apple’s core framework for developing OS X applications) with CS5.

Steve concludes with:

“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.”

Make of these points what you will. I’m not sure about them myself. There’s a pretty amusing breakdown of it at eSarcasm.

I find it interesting that online media (as in banner advertising) wasn’t mentioned. Apple themselves spend a lot of money on elaborate Flash banners to promote their products.

Love it, hate it or need it, Flash is a major part of the web and it’s not going anywhere just yet. HTML5 is still in the early stages of adoption and current implementations (such as the YouTube HTML5 player) are a little shaky.

This war isn’t over, at any rate.

Update: The backlash has begun! Some great industry responses here. HT Matt Smith.


5 Responses to Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Flash. Boom.

  1. […] Lynch, CTO of Adobe responded to Steve Jobs’ ‘Thoughts on Flash‘ open letter (summary here) with a short blog post late last week.Kevin writes that if Apple tried to cooperate with Adobe a […]

  2. i like your stlye Steveee 😉

  3. Mike Ellis says:

    If flash goes away I will miss it dearly. I’ve used it since it first came out.

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