Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, has explained why his company does not allow Adobe Flash on its iPhones, iPods and iPads. His counterpart at Adobe responded by saying that consumers would ultimately decide. Both claim to support open standards, but some platforms are more open than others.
In a long article entitled “Thoughts on Flash” the chief executive of Apple suggests that the decision not to support Flash is based on technology rather than business issues, although Adobe suggests that the latter play their part.
“We don’t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash,” writes Steve Jobs, claiming that it is the main reasons that Macs crash and it does not perform well on mobile devices.
He argues that while Flash can support H.264 video, many web sites with Flash video use compression schemes that are not implemented in mobile chips and must be decoded in software, reducing battery life.
Furthermore, Flash was designed for mice rather than for multi-touch interfaces and as a result he suggests that many Flash web sites will need to be adapted to support touch screens.
Finally, he objects to the use of Flash to create apps for Apple mobile devices, arguing that this could result in sub-standard applications that may be unable to take full advantage of the platform.
Flash was created for computers with mice, he concludes, but “the mobile era is about low-power devices, touch interface and open web standards — all areas where Flash falls short”.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Shantanu Narayen, the chief executive of Adobe, refuted the suggestions, as the company prepared to launch the latest release of its Creative Suite software. This was to have enabled developers to create applications in Flash that would run on Apple mobile products. Apple has decided not to allow such applications to be delivered on its devices.
He described the Apple article as a “smokescreen” and said that Adobe had remained true to its vision of helping people to deal with multiple operating systems. He said that this benefits publishers and consumers. “It doesn’t benefit Apple and that’s why you see this reaction.”
For the moment at least the dispute between Apple and Adobe appears irreconcilable, but the Adobe chief executive remains quietly confident. “We think that the multi-platform world is one where open systems, with multiple companies contributing to innovation, will eventually prevail.”
However, with HTML 5 offering native support for video without requiring the Adobe Flash plugin, and H.264 encoded video from many leading sites supported by in this way by a number of browsers, the dominant use of Flash to deliver video on the web could under threat.