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Steve Jobs on Flash: Astoundingly Hypocritical


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

In his fourth and fifth reasons, Jobs cites battery life and mouseover controls as perfectly logical reasons why Flash doesn't cut it.

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 five hours before the battery is fully drained.


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?

Basically, Jobs is splitting one point into two: Because of existing Flash technology on websites, the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch won't run too well when accessing them. He is urging Web developers to change the interface to work with the devices or suffer the drop in mobile traffic. In other words, he's asking Web developers to completely drop Flash and revamp a service into using a HTML5, CSS, or JavaScript platform -- rather than simply change one or two compatibility issues.

Which brings us to his final point.

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.

Note Jobs' last sentence. Apple doesn't want third parties dictating when to make features available or choosing when to fix the broken ones. This coming from the company that needed an extra year to implement 3G network access and GPS, two years for Cut & Paste, Voice Control, and MMS, and three years for multitasking. The iPhone may be the industry leader and all, but some very basic functionality wasn't present for a ridiculous amount of time.

Do you honestly think app designers weren't frustrated because of that?

Denying developers from using cross-platform tools like Flash is severely limiting the breadth of innovation and, as developer Greg Slepak puts it in an email to Jobs, "creativity itself." Keeping Flash out of the picture is undercutting many of the same developers whose apps Jobs touts by number almost every time he opens his mouth. In his last email to Jobs, Slepak wrote:

The Mac has only been helped by the fact that Firefox, Ableton Live, and hundreds of other high-quality applications can run on it thanks to the fact that developers have a choice as to what tools they can use on it.

Jobs didn't have a reply for that.

Apple isn't lacking in its share of supporters who also oppose Flash implementation. They have their reasons, and many of them are valid. However, Apple is preventing every iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch owner from the option of ever switching it on. Jobs is highlighting the fact they don't truly own or control their device. Consumers hate the notion of control and inaccessibility once they legally buy a product, and Jobs' letter is just salt in the wound.

Jobs' deceitful, self-righteous letter against Adobe proves he's no longer the champion for the customer, a rebel against the elite. He's a politician using false premises and straw-man arguments to defend a point that's rendered false by his own words. Adobe was right: It's all about keeping the App Store safe from competition.

But hey, what do you expect from a closed system?
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