Adobe CTO on MacBook Air, HTML5: Flash Battery Problems a "False Argument"

Last week, critics hammered Adobe over a report showing that Flash drained the new MacBook Air's battery life by several hours. It's not the first time Adobe has been in fisticuffs with Apple: the companies have been duking it out ever since Steve Jobs began ridiculing Flash and touting its alleged-killer, HTML5. Today, in an interview with Fast Company, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch answered critics who might say HTML5 is somehow more efficient than Flash.

"It's a false argument to make, of the power usage," Lynch explains. "When you're displaying content, any technology will use more power to display, versus not displaying content. If you used HTML5, for example, to display advertisements, that would use as much or more processing power than what Flash uses."

Lynch said several studies have already confirmed Flash's higher battery life, and also argued that HTML5 had far less reliable playback. But most significantly, the Adobe CTO took issue with Apple's conduct in recent months.

"I just think there's this negative campaigning going on, and, for whatever reason, Apple is really choosing to incite it, and condone it," Lynch says. "I think that's unfortunate. We don't think it's good for the web to have aspects closed off—a blockade of certain types of expression. There's a decade of content out there that you just can't view on Apple's device, and I think that's not only hurtful to Adobe, but hurtful to everyone that created that content."

"That's what upsets me the most," he says. "That people put energy into making this stuff, and now some percentage of viewers can't see it anymore because one company chooses so. That's just totally counter to our values."

As for HTML5, Lynch was surprisingly optimistic about Flash's future even as its platform competitor nears ubiquity. Is HTML5's success bad news for Adobe and Flash?

"No, that's good news for Adobe," Lynch says. "We support HTML. We're making tools for HTML5. It's a great opportunity for us. Flash and HTML have co-existed, and they're going to continue to to co-exist."

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  • silentium

    so MacBook Air does not have a power supply and Apple is not increasing their efforts in Battries..?

    Anyway I want the experience. If the heardware does not support the experience I'm looking for, I'm going for other hardware. I don't care if HTML5 or Flash.

  • Shane Petty

    Interesting that this "difference" keeps going on, but it does have a longer history than just not letting Flash on iPhones and iPads. I'm imagining in the background Apple (when measuring a small % on the computer units sold meter) pressed Adobe to fix Flash issues in the past on OSX. Based on the "several studies" links above, Flash is still a CPU issue on Mac OSX, but NOT on Windows. Now that Apple is a major player in the smart phone and tablet market, Adobe cries foul when there is an alternative option (HTML5) available to Apple. Tit for tat. Stop your moaning Adobe and move forward. I think you've ridden the Flash horse long enough.

  • David Rosen

    Richard Posey, I am of the same mind and draw the same conclusions that you do. I just got the iPad as well and find it cumbersome and taking too many steps to simply change tracks on the music while using another application. Lack of multi-tasking and multiple steps to switch tasks are frustrating. Although the touch functionality, finger movement, and other featuers are really a step ahead of Windows or MAC interfaces.

    Back on Topic: With the growing amount of multimedia and video being displayed and used by websites, and the tremendous strength of Adobe's suite of software for graphic artists, web developers, video and still editors, and even photographic hobbyists like me, I am just floored that Flash is excluded from these devices. While Apple's products are initially innovative, I think this will hold them back from follow on success.

    What happens to the user: Hitting websites and getting boxes where flash content exists forces the user to go find another system where they can see the Flash! Why force users to leave their device???? Its crazy.

    Perhaps this Apple attitude has helped it sell to the innovators, but the mass market consumers and enterprises will not find this to be their solution. The result is that Apple will end up living with the minority market share as computing evolves and changes. MSoft, Android, Apple.


  • Richard Posey


    I really bought the iPad as a demo tool ... to be able to run a slideshow for a potential customer in Keynote .... it does that, and so much more, very well.

    Apple's upcoming release of iOS 4.2 should address the multi-tasking issue, as well as several others (like printing!).

    My only beef with it has to do with the browsing experience, which is very important. It excels in almost all other categories. I took it to a conference and still had 50% battery life at dinner time, while all the notebook users had long since given up or fought for a place at electrical outlets. (Also, there weren't any truly good alternatives to the iPad when I bought it).


  • stevenjklein


    Users are hitting fewer and fewer of those websites, because website owners are working hard to make sure their content can be viewed by everybody, not just those with Flash.

    A few months before the iPad shipped, Adobe employee Lee Brimelow blogged about how so many websites wouldn't work on the iPad. His blog shows nine examples:

    Well, here we are just seven months after the iPad shipped, and already seven of those nine websites have been updated to work on iOS devices like the iPad.

    Going forward, website owners will have three choices:
    1. Develop a Flash-only version that just won't work for users without Flash,
    2. Develop separate Flash and non-Flash versions of their websites, or
    3. Just develop a single website, using HTML 5, which works on every current browser (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and IE) on every major platform (Windows, Mac, iOS and Android).

    I think anyone with a brain will see that option 3 is the least expensive way to reach the greatest number of users. I'd bet that none of the top 100 websites will require Flash by the end of next year.

  • Richard Posey


    Maybe the top 100 ... and below that, what is the distribution of conversion among how many zillions of sites that run Flash? I think you might be living several years ahead of reality. Not every user out there runs the most current browser. From the design side, to be truly inclusive, you still have to deal with IE6 ... THAT's the sad reality. It really would be wonderful if you could count on your audience to stay up to date. 20% of the IE-using visitors on one of my sites are still on IE6 or 7. And, then there are the increasing number users running all kinds of mobile browser variants, many of which don't do either HTML5 or Flash.

    Flash will continue to be a good tool for displaying certain types of interactive content. And, not every business has the resources to make a quick conversion from Flash content to HTML5 (or to a mobile-adapted site). No matter what you think about the wonders of HTML5, you still have to deal with legacy technologies ... and I'm not sure I'm ready to call Flash a legacy technology, for that matter.

    I just can't live with the Apple-centric view of the world. Would that it was all clear and simple. It's kind of like religion, when you're in one you can't exactly see the world the way others who are not see it.

  • TheMan

    Perhaps you need to understand a little more about Apple's history with Adobe. Back in the early days when Apple was in trouble, Adobe dumped Apple in favour of windows. I have no doubt Steve Jobs swore never to be reliant on a third party and opted to go for open standards.

    Like it or not, Flash is not an open standard, its proprietary where as HTML5 is. If Apple let them on the iPhone and development for Flash based games and apps took off, and then Adobe decided to go only Android and stopped development on the iPhone OS, Apple would be in trouble just like they were before. With HTML5, they don't have this concern. Sure, it has more headaches initially but at least they are in the drivers seat, not some company who has a poor history of loyalty.

  • Walt French

    Would that the “Apple-centric” view of the world was the issue.

    We're seeing hundreds of millions of smartphones sold per year, and only a tiny fraction of them — Apple, Nokia, Palm, Windows, BlackBerry plus yes, even two-thirds of today's Androids — can see Flash work. Some of that has Apple's fingerprints on it, but if that were the only reason, iPhone would be the ONLY phone without Flash.

    So, to my point expressed elsewhere: people talk about Flash missing from the iPhone being Apple's fault, but when you ask them whose fault is it that Flash is missing from every BlackBerry ... well, there's this big consortium of 20 companies that've been working day and night for a year on it. Flash missing from all the Androids that will never see Froyo? Well, it just wasn't worth the trouble. Flash missing from WinPhones and WinMobiles? ... uhh, you know Apple is being a big hassle for us. You know, it doesn't seem intellectually honest. There's a lack of consistency. One that suggests an effort to shift attention/blame from the real problem.

    So Flash will continue to be a good tool for display on (especially, Windows) desktops and laptops, but NOT on hundreds of millions of smartphones that people increasingly use for their personal use (versus the Work PC).

    Flash seems to be not-too-bad on devices that have a 1GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM. Not “it's here, NOW.” but do-able (going by a range of reviews). Give Adobe's engineers a bit more to work with and they should be there. But give them what BlackBerrys, WinMos, Nokias and Apples have, and you get what you get: zippo for Flash.

    I believe Moore's Law fixes this. With a reasonable projection of technology (CPU, batteries, RAM) and economics (customers' income, unwillingness of late-adopters to pay premium prices), you will NOT be able to expand the smartphone penetration nearly as fast by making heavier, more costly and shorter-life gizmos. Look for a decent platform for Flash in two years or so.

    Long-term, I think that the bigger issue will be in funding all the apparently intricate work to support Flash on dozens of OS, CPU, GPU and screen platforms. Too expensive for Silverlight. Android manufacturers already have vanishingly thin profit margins; Moto made a profit last quarter equal to $1 per phone. You could even wonder if Google would undertake it today, now that they have gained a decent customer base (and not, I think, because people who will never run Flash were duped into thinking they were getting it).

    Mind you, I'm not claiming HTML5 is "ready" to do everything that Flash does; I'm saying it's amazingly bad business to lock out hundreds of millions of prospective customers by using a Flash-only approach instead of dynamically scaling back to something that in many cases would double or triple your reach.

    And I am amazed at developers who don't lay it out for their customers: I can do amazing work that reaches PCs and I can do amazing work that reaches a like number of mobiles. But you have to choose between SK's 3 options. Flash today just DOES NOT WORK on the overwhelming majority of mobile devices.

  • Richard Posey

    When I purchased my first Apple product, an iPad, I had to admit it was every bit as amazing as its reviews. But the utility of the device on the web is compromised by the fact that the Apple people just cannot get over themselves (or maybe Steve Jobs can't get over himself) and incorporate a technology that is ubiquitous. It's very frustrating to hit a site or page that incorporates Flash for significant content and feel like the iPad might as well be a brick. I love the iPad, but this is a serious flaw, in my mind. So, yes, I think the purchasers of the iPad have been cheated a bit and Apple was wrong to exclude Flash in what appears to be a political act.

  • Mimsy

    Flash has only just arrived on Android in the last month, so how you can expect it to be on a device that was released in April is rather beyond me. And if you did know in advance of Jobs' antipathy to Flash then you can't really complain of being a "cheated" iPad user. I suggest you try a Samsung Galaxy Tab and enjoy the juddery browsing experience and reduced battery life that comes with Flash. On a more sympathetic note, keep an eye out for Skyfire in the App Store which will bring a lot of Flash to your iPad, without the juddering and power drain.

  • Richard Posey

    As the iPad is derivative of the iPhone, and since the iPhone has been around for a while, Apple has had plenty of time to resolve those issues. Adobe had their own initiative for adapting Flash to these devices, but shut it down when Apple more or less told them to p*** off.

    I could be wrong, but I think it's all politics (or hardball competition) and/or Apple narcissism. It's Apple's customers who get the short end of the stick when it comes to the the web browsing abilities of the iPad and the iPhone. I don't think the "adapt the world to me" approach works very well when it comes to the Web.

    That said, the iPad is still a remarkable device and what it does, it does very well and very elegantly. It very much deserves to be anyone's "product of the year."

    (I have a foot in both camps as I own a Motorola Droid and the iPad ... they're both very good tools).

  • John D. Reader

    Richard, you committed the ultimate message board sin. One must never criticize Apple under any circumstances. Doing so will only draw a chorus of Apple Acolytes pointing out how silly and wrong your opinions are.

  • Info Dave

    @Kevin Lynch - you said

    "If you used HTML5, for example, to display advertisements, that would use as much or more processing power than what Flash uses."

    Prove it!

    Apple has pushed you to improve Flash. It didn't run on Android until late this year. It only runs on the latest Android, and not very well. Suddenly you come out with a Flash to HTML 5 generator. You've committed more resources to Flash than you have in a long time. And you owe it all to Apple.

    p.s. You're still not even close.

  • Bob Dole

    "That's what upsets me the most," he says. "That people put energy into making this stuff, and now some percentage of viewers can't see it anymore because one company chooses so. That's just totally counter to our values."


    That's funny. I mean truly hilarious. I could barely breath when I read that line! When has Apple -ever- cared who they exclude? In fact if anything, Apple is all about excluding any product that isn't their own, web based or otherwise. In fact it's practically their marketing formula - Apple = good, not Apple = bad.

    Don't get me wrong, Apple makes amazing, reliable, and high quality products; still nobody would ever accuse them of being open minded towards others. They are the never resting never compromising Necromongers of the internet age - converting or killing all things that are not them.

    Thanks for the laugh though :).

    Maybe next do a piece on how sorry they are about the recent iOS update that practically ruined their older phones conveniently as the new one came out, and how they really wish Android and iPhone could play nice together.

  • John D. Reader

    Speak no ill of Apple! they are just a plucky little multi-billion dollar company, intent on taking over a number of non compatible products which will force you to buy more of their non compatible products. Just ask Walt French, he'll tell you!

  • Walt French

    Maybe you could aim your anti-Apple vitriole at an actual Apple statement.

  • Walt French

    “That's what upsets me the most,” he says. “For years, I've had to lead our customers on. I had to claim that Flash would be on a billion (!) smartphones by 2009 and also by 2010. I hate having to do that, but hey, if designers don't buy those Creative Suite upgrades, I'm out of a job!

    “And think of our poor shareholders. ADBE is off 20% for 2010, while Apple is up 50%. You might imagine that I just have to duck a lot of phone calls these days.

    “I know that it's been ten years since Nokia made the first smartphone, and it's five since we fired all the Macromedia teams that'd put primitive Flash on the phones of that era. We've had some great successes! Flash now can potentially run on about 7% of today's smartphones — 36% of Android's 19% share. Of course, that assumes that users don't turn it off because the glitz isn't worth the download time over 3G or the stuff is just a bunch of blinky, distracting ads. I actually didn't think Android users cared.

    “Well, I feel bad. I hate to lead people on, part them from their hard-earned money by promising stuff we know we can't do. But in compensation I get downright giggly that Wired, Engadget, Fast Company, even supposedly tuned-in guys like Dave Winer, all buy this notion that it's Steven P-as-in-Prickly Jobs who's keeping Flash off all the BlackBerrys out there. Off all the Palms! The WindowsMobiles! Heck, people probably think his Really Destructive Field extends to Helsinki and it's Apple's fault Nokia doesn't have it! And sweetest of all, he's the bad guy keeping all our customers' High Art off of two-thirds of the Androids — the ones that'll never get Froyo! What an incredible hoot! Are our PR types the world's best, or what?

    So, you know what? People swallowed this We Heart Apple crap that we ran just weeks after one of our guys tested the waters with his ‘Screw you Apple’ tirade. That worked great! It provoked Apple into trying to deal with a reality-based argument, so they wrote the anti-Flash manifesto. We rebutted the most trivial two of the five points and declared a PR victory. Now, Apple seems to be busy making phones or something, not bothering to comment on our latest PR campaigns, not bothering to buttenhole scriveners from the tech press. We're touting NEW AND IMPROVED vaporware so people keep thinking Flash is Forever! Forget trying to deliver on that Flash on Smartphone stuff!

    “That's just totally counter to our values.”

    Fixed That For Ya!

  • Walt French

    A (partial) history of Apple's sabotage of Flash:

    Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch: Flash Expected to Reach One Billion Devices by 2009

    "Our goal (was to make) a billion phones Flash-enabled by 2010," Lynch said. "We're actually going to get 1 billion Flash-enabled phones by 2009."

    This will help the codec be distributed to a billion people in less than a year, Lynch says.

    Five years after Adobe took over Macromedia, Flash might actually run on a SMALLER share of cellphones than it did then.

  • mikechambers

    "Our goal (was to make) a billion phones Flash-enabled by 2010," Lynch said. "We're actually going to get 1 billion Flash-enabled phones by 2009."

    The Billion number is in reference to Flash Lite (see the date of the quote), which was the previous mobile version of Flash. It did end up being distributed to over a billion devices.

    The current Flash player for the smart phone, is Flash Player 10.1 which has only been out a couple of months.

    This will help the codec be distributed to a billion people in less than a year, Lynch says.

    That article is referring to the desktop player, and the projections are in line with past adoptions of Flash Player versions.

    Hope that clarifies any confusion.

    mike chambers