Lord of Apple Steve Jobs has penned a rare letter to the public, appearing not on a stage in 501s and a black turtleneck, but on the official Apple website to announce exactly why his company has taken an anti-Flash stance.
At first look it seems Jobs goes into great depth to explain why his iWhatevers will no longer ship or work with Flash, in an articulate but preachy and typically Jobsian 1,700 word rant. He claims that his stance on Flash isn’t down to a business-led attempt at global domination, but rather down to security, reliability, general performance and battery life.
The first point he makes is that Apple’s favoured video option, HTML5, is far more open than Adobe’s proprietary Flash offer. He says that Apple’s WebKit tech is the one to use for smartphones, naming Google, Palm, Nokia and RIM as fans. He boasts that “Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.”
Steve goes on to say that iWhatever users won’t miss out on web content, offering a list of major players such as Vimeo, Netflix, The New York Times, Facebook and about a billion others that use the iPod and iPad compatible H.264 video format. When it comes to Adobe’s claim that Apple devices won’t be able to run Flash games, he says that’s true, but “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 Apple gizmos, he says, “than for any other platform in the world.” Hang on a sec though – if you check out this story we posted in early March and have a click around you’ll see that the fast growing independent games scene often builds its most popular and interesting efforts in Flash.
Next, Steve delights in telling us that in terms of security, Flash is a poor contender and often causes Macs to crash. “We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now,” he whines. Battery life is rubbish with Flash on his devices, and Adobe has struggled and delayed to have Flash ship on a smartphone for ages now.
Jobs tells us that as Flash is closed, and it doesn’t support touch devices, it makes little sense to have it ship or work with Apple devices. He says “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.”
We’d like to offer the idea that if Apple is so convinced of its decisions around Flash and superiority technology-wise, then why isn’t it prepared to sit on its laurels and let products speak for themselves? Deliberately locking people out of Flash so they have no choice does not make sense. People will naturally, except perhaps in the case of BetaMax versus VHS, flock to the more popular and better technology. They don’t need to be forced to use it.
It is also interesting that he makes such a point of Flash having closed doors. Apple is one of the, if not THE most ‘closed’ company in the industry – it’s not hard to prove. Deliberately locking developers out, and viciously guarding its app store, banning rivals such as Google apps from being in the iTunes store, etc., etc., etc.
In his letter, which you can read right here, he does well to go on and on about how excellent his products are and how wise his decisions have been – but he says nothing to convince us why the move isn’t an attempt to get the entire industry under his thumb.
We reccommend that you read this fantastic Cracked.com post about why it’s probably quite a good idea to be Steve and Apple skeptic.