a lot of you that read anything about mobile tech probably know that one of the sticking points with the iphone and the newly released ipad is that these apple mobile products don’t support flash – and on that topic there has been a lot of back and forth between apple and adobe. concerning changes in legal language for developers and requirements to use native code, the two tech giants bickered briefly like an old married couple, ultimately culminating in a metaphorical divorce, and adobe’s final cartman-esque decision of “screw you guys, i’m going home.” after flash CS5 ships, adobe will remove the flash for apple developer kit, and focus on android and other mobile platforms. there are still a lot of people that don’t understand the moves on either side.
to clarify this, steve jobs recently published an open letter of sorts entitled thoughts on flash, concerned primarily, of course, with reasoning as to why apple is so anti flash on their mobile units. he defines six broad reasons for this: openness, the “full web” argument, reliablity/security/performance, battery life, touch, and quality. now while i did say some harsh things about him during his lawsuit against htc, and briefly attacked the man for parking his car in handicapped spaces, in this case i can’t honestly say i fully disagree with him. his biggest argument is that html5, h.264 video and other “open” standards are the way of mobile web, and there are non-flash delivery alternatives to flash that provide most of the same content. personally i’ve opted into youtube’s html5 beta, which seems to be working for me just fine. i believe vimeo is using html5 video as well, and there seems to be an increasing interest in adopting that platform.
on the security and performance front he mentions that flash is the number one reason macs crash, and cites athat even symantec called flash out as having one of the worst security records in 2009. in my group at work we can definitely appreciate that – over the last couple of years we’ve had to apply a number of flash patches around here to address potential security holes and exploits – and we think, one one occasion, stolen information through a flash security hole resulted in one of my friends getting his warcraft account hacked and our guild bank cleaned out. the security holes aren’t limited to just flash though – similar gaps (at least did) exist in adobe air, and i’ve even read of malware delivery through an acrobat document. overall in 2009, there were over 10 security issues (most of which could lead to pc hijack) that required patches and zero-day fixes to address. some may call it improper security control, while others may argue that it’s just growing pains now that adobe is large enough to affect a lot of the internet.
adobe’s response to the letter was as expected, calling the letter a “smokescreen” and maintaining that apple’s decision has nothing to with technology.
none of any of this really surprised me until microsoft entered the fray. guess which video platform internet explorer 9 is going to support? that would be h.264. dean hachamovitch, the general manager for IE, weighed in with his opinion that html5 and the h.264 codec was the future of the web, and did express that microsoft wasn’t happy about adobe security. ouch. he did say, though, that flash is good for today’s web because it’s hard for typical people to get to flash-free content.
how must adobe be feeling right now? the two kingpins in consumer computing both have issues with their product, within days of each other, and announce that one of their major products probably doesn’t have a place in the mobile web of tomorrow. the new flash is, however, adopting h.264, so we’ll see how things go from here. either way, adobe stock has been steady on the decline over the last few days on the heels of this news – still strong, but steadily slipping. it just looks like kicking them while they’re down (good thing adobe still has the rest of their creative suite). but to be fair, in my personal experience, i have never seen flash work properly on any mobile device. and in the case of packaging flash for apple mobile, even former adobe engineers have spoken out on how flawed the process was.
it’s a shame to see what adobe had once vs what it has now. when they acquired macromedia and the flash platform in 2005 they had an amazing wealth of technology at their fingertips. eventually flash dominated in share for any website or app or animation. they just weren’t able to carry it over into the mobile world. while the entire industry has been going by the code of smaller, faster, lighter” – from desktop to laptop to pocketpc to smartphones – adobe kept chugging away on iterations of their flash platform for desktops and workstations. they really just failed to keep up with the trends of industry and their competitors when it came to mobile tech. because if adobe had really focused on a mobile flash platform that worked well when their competitors were ramping up their mobile development, they would have done it.