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Steve Jobs on Flash: Astoundingly Hypocritical

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Apple CEO criticizes Adobe for being closed and overcontrolling. Pot, meet kettle.

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This morning, the Grand Poobah of Apple (AAPL) took time from his busy schedule bashing Adobe Flash (ADBE) to, well, bash Adobe Flash. But instead of his curt jabs at the platform during Q&A sessions and email exchanges with developers, Steve Jobs posted a lengthy open letter that covers Apple's reasons for keeping the ubiquitous platform off its mobile devices.

Titled "Thoughts on Flash," Jobs' letter addresses the six major issues the company has with Adobe Flash and, in doing so, obliterates his credibility with unbelievable hypocrisy.

Jobs opens his letter with a brief history of the relationship between the two companies and mentions they have drifted apart. He then attempts to rebut Adobe's claims that his company's opposition toward Flash is not about business or App Store protection but about technology -- a stance he contradicts a few paragraphs later.

But Jobs' biggest folly is to kick off his six points by labeling Adobe Flash as a "closed system." He writes:

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.


Oh no, he di'n't!

Insert "Apple" in place of "Adobe" in that excerpt and see if any inaccuracies pop up. None do.

Jobs even admits to Apple having "many proprietary products," but qualifies Apple's "openness" by mentioning the company's adoption of HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.

Great. So explain iPhone's inability to install apps not found in the iTunes Store. Elaborate on how Apple purposely and continuously blocked non-Apple devices like the Palm Pre (PALM) from syncing with iTunes. Enlighten us as to why Apple booted Google's (GOOG) Voice and Latitude apps to the curb. And, refresh my memory, why is the USB port on the Apple TV locked from use by the legal owner?

And hey, Steve, the overall argument to keep software away from a device under any circumstance -- even as a selectable option -- is the very definition of a "closed system!"

He continues with his second point:

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.


Jobs notes that, along with YouTube, Apple mobile devices are able to access video from many other providers including Vimeo (IACI), Netflix (NFLX), ABC (DIS), CBS (CBS), CNN (TWX), Fox News (NWS), MSNBC (GE), etc. Of course, many of these can only be accessed in app form, not by a Web browser. So Jobs' "Full Web" argument -- which, curiously, is more of a defense of Apple rather than an argument against Adobe -- isn't very sound.

Only in his third point does Jobs hit upon a valid reason: "Reliability, Security, and Performance."

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.


Users may have some time before Flash arrives on Android and BlackBerry (RIMM) devices, but as it stands, its performance is adequate at best. And admittedly, unlike Windows (MSFT) systems, Flash is extremely taxing on a Mac. Add to it the frequency of crashes and security issues, and Jobs would've been best to base his entire argument on these issues.

However, Apple's new video acceleration API, which takes advantage of an Apple unit's GPU, will drastically cut down on the CPU drain a Flash video or game will have on a Mac. While it may not directly translate to an iPhone or iPad, considering the speedier A4 chip and improvements in the Flash platform, is a ban still perfectly reasonable in perpetuity?
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