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Adobe on Steve Jobs' Flash Foul-Up at Apple's Presentation: iPad Limits User's Web Surfing

iPad Flash

The lack of Flash capability in the iPhone's Mobile Safari browser has been a bone of contention for many naysayers for years, even if Apple's made its case pretty well. It seems the iPad won't have it either, and Adobe is upset.

Over at Adobe's Flash Platform blog there's a new post on this very matter by Adobe's Adrian Ludwig, but it's a complex little twisty piece of writing. The blog post starts by complementing Apple on the iPad—Ludwig professes himself impressed, before noting that Apple's often previously been good at driving momentum into an entire product category. "It's no surprise that the iPad looks like it's a pretty good new device," he says.

Then Ludwig's piece turns to Adobe's involvement in the new gizmo, things like PDF and ePub which were featured during Steve Job's presentation, though they didn't quite take "center stage" as Ludwig would like us to believe. He then notes that Adobe tech is "at the center of virtually every print and digital workflow, so undoubtedly a lot of what you'll see getting delivered to the iPad will have originated in Adobe creative software. Hmm.

Then comes the best bit, where Ludwig mentions the "oops!" moment during Jobs' speech whereby the Web page he surfed to contained a big empty square and a default graphic indicating that a Flash event had failed to run. Steve joked the OS wasn't quite yet optimized, but it's clear now that the iPad won't get Flash. And that's got Adobe all upset, because the next thing Ludwig does is slam Apple for "imposing restrictions" and "limiting both content publishers and consumers".


And there was me thinking, "Wow! Apple just enabled a whole new type of surfing the Web!" But if it's not done with Adobe tech, that's not true...according to Adobe. Apple is doing its usual trick of "imposing restrictions" that'll limit people's enjoyment of Flash-powered Web sites, including "over 70% of games and 75% of video on the Web." He then takes a swipe at Apple's use of ePub—noting that unlike other makers of e-readers, Apple's ePub books will be DRM-ed so that you cant read them on other e-readers (Ludwig ignores the fact that many of these other makers don't actually release their own published content, unlike Apple). We're not sure where he gets that from, as it's not on Apple's site anywhere...and it's no different from Amazon's even more closed-source solution.

The blog post closes with comments describing Adobe's role in the Open Screen Project, which is trying to let consumers get access to all sorts of media content on almost any digital platform. Basically Adobe is painted as being super consumer-friendly, while Apple is a tyrannical dictator.

All Adobe's doing is portraying itself like a snarky, pissed-off teenager who's not getting his way. Flash is undoubtedly useful for some things, but in general it's a hindrance on a mobile device—eating up processor cycles that are best used elsewhere, requiring more data downloads over an expensive and slow 3G network. Having used an iPhone for 18 months I almost never notice that I'm missing out on something due to a lack of Flash—in fact I'm more annoyed when a Web site takes me to their default mobile device version automatically, when the iPhone is more than capable of viewing the original. With HTML5 slowly seeping into Web programming, Flash may well become redundant soon—Google's already experimenting with the idea. And the iPad is certainly HTML5 compliant.

[Via blogs.Adobe]

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  • Thomas Hammer

    I think it es a great mistake. Flash is one of the most important parts in web 2.0 applications. How can they possibly ignore this significance.


  • Hagay Vider

    Your claim that Flash is bandwidth and processor resource intensive is short sighted and just plain false. I am not an Adobe employee, partner, or cheerleader, but Flash is one of the best platforms available today to send videos, design and play games, and present Web content. OS and software companies, Apple (and Microsoft) among them, are guilty of producing bloatware, draining computing devices, from handheld smartphones to server superfarms. Flash is not guilty of any of this bloatware. Vendors want users to keep upgrading devices and apps, because it's good for their business, and again, nothing to do with Flash.
    Processors are getting more powerful, memory bigger, and bandwidth more plentiful. The author's shortsighted claim ignores that fact that video and games, whatever the presentation technology, needs loads of each. Compare with Flash, every other presentation technology needs just as much or more resources than Flash.
    Flash, unlike MPEG, Silvelight, or other competing format, has some distinct advantages that the other platforms just don't provide:
    1. Progressive download. Often ignored, but useful especially on mobile devices. It begins playing content before the full file is downloaded. It's not buffered streaming, and it's not full file download. It takes the best of both.
    2. Flash is ubiquitous, it's everywhere. Apply trying to ignore it is like trying to ignore its users.
    3. Flash is an easy development platform. It's obvious Flash is popular, but why? To paraphrase Apple, flash is the presentation platform for the rest of us. Software geeks may like C++, PHP, TKL, and a long list of other acronyms. Software geeks are real people, but the rest of us are also real people. The rest of us just want to present our information, our games, and our silly videos. Find an acronyms in that long list that the rest of us can use, and the rest of us will just flock to it.
    So who is the pissed off teenager? The high school guidance counselor just informed Apple that without a high school diploma it can look forward to a glamorous career in flipping burgers.

  • Gary McGhee

    I think Apple is being the teenager here, refusing to play with Adobe and their Flash Platform because they want to see developers take up their own MacOS/iPhoneOS platform. Steve supposedly refused Flash on the iPhone because of performance issues, but this reveals that to be a lie. If he had allowed it back then, developers would prefer to use the Adobe tools they know to make web apps for the iPhone over Objective C native apps.
    It worked, as Objective C was taken up by many. Now it would be an more even fight if they allowed Flash, but still they refuse and its simply a pain for consumers. The arguments about battery life, or keeping the experience pure are just cover ups. Developers can make things just as bad with Javascript. I was expecting Apple to let Flash in sometime, just using a delay to their advantage, but now I think they really are using their monopoly of their platform to cut off the other guy's air supply. Sounds like someone else we know...

  • Alex Zaltsman

    Flash is also a competitive platform and could compete with the Apps on the iPhone. Flash could be used to create games and all sorts of applications that Apple would not be able to monetize or "protect". So its not just about limiting plug-in technology. Its about competition for apps.

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  • Gregory Ferenstein

    Great comments all. Is this a deal breaker for any of you? Would you be much more likely to buy a competitors tablet if it did enable flash?


  • Ryan Creighton

    "Adobe tech is "at the center of virtually every print and digital workflow" <- what's your reasoning for doubting this statement? Did you fact-check him, or are you just being petulant?

    There's an image in the middle of your post. If it wasn't screen-capped and then cropped/resized with Adobe Photoshop, i'll eat my hat.

    And if the No Flash image at the top of the post wasn't created in either Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Fireworks or Adobe Flash, i'll be very surprised.

    The submit button i'm about to click to post this comment? Probably drawn in Adobe Illustrator. Try to back up your reporting factually. If the Adobe guy is *actually* full of sh*t, back your assertion up with some stats instead of snark.

    That, or shaddup. You don't come off well in this article.

  • Rory Partalis

    Also, I equate them not enabling flash with software manufacturers not making a Mac version of their software because a lot less people use Macs than PCs.

    Oh yeah, well a lot of people are on Macs and would like to use that software too, just like a lot of online content uses flash and iPhone, iTouch and iPad users would like to access that content as well.

  • Steve Sobel

    Honestly, I feel your post is pretty short sighted and ignores some really important factors...

    First of all, while hardware progresses quickly, the adoption of web standards moves at a glacial pace, comparatively. HTML5 video isn't going to be anywhere near the boon people seem to keep writing about. First and foremost, Firefox doesn't support it, and for good reason, it uses H.264 video which is actually not free. You've gotta pay to encode / stream your video in H.264.

    Next, there's the issue of sheer quantity: Yes, YouTube is probably the most popular video site out there, and them supporting HTML5 is great... but what about videos on news sites and other providers that aren't jumping into that foray? They won't be supporting both Flash and HTML5 just for the sake of being on the bleeding edge of technology.

    Finally, look at who the target demographic of the iPad is... and what one of its main purposes is... it's web browsing on a more "normal" sized screen... Videos on the aforementioned sites? Forget it. You'll have to download (and maybe purchase) an app to do that separately, and forget about landing on it randomly while doing legitimate "browsing"... you have to exit your browser and open an app to get at that video. Casual gaming? Forget about it... unless of course that game also exists as an iPad game.. in which case you'll have to download and pay for it... If someone hasn't made a video streaming app or a game that matches the existing web presence, well that's too bad for you and your iPad...

    I don't think any of the pundits touting HTML5's emergence really grasp what it will require / mean for HTML5 video to really take significant hold on anything.

    Will the iPad sell despite its lack of Flash? Yeah, probably. I'm not trying to say it won't... I just think that it's more of a hindrance than you give credit for, and that the argument that HTML5 will somehow save the day is one that I've heard all too often that doesn't seem to take into account all of the facts...

  • Rory Partalis

    I've had an iPhone for over a year and have been very frustrated by the lack of flash. As Adobe said, flash is used for "over 70% of games and 75% of video on the Web." Apple gets around YouTube's use of flash with a YouTube app, but Hulu, Slideshare, online games and thousands of other sites are unplayable. I agree with using HTML5 and look forward to it being the standard, but that is not the case right now. How does Apple expect to cut into the netbook market with the iPad if they can't even play simple flash content?

  • Steven Zampieri

    Most users are probably not aware of when Flash is being used until they run into a site that requires it and they don't have it installed. While this might be upsetting to Adobe, they probably gain more general market awareness from users noticing that they need to get Flash, and the exclusion of this software has already created a fair amount of PR for the brand (including the above article).

    I'm not sure if the processing power that Flash requires will affect the iPad's performance, but with the emergence of 4G/LTE networks over the next year or two, data streaming should become a non-issue very soon... at least if the carrier isn't AT&T. Oh, wait...