Steve Jobs slams Adobe Flash as unfit for modern era

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2014
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs published a lengthy letter Thursday, detailing his personal stance on Adobe Flash, declaring that the Web format was created for the PC era, but that it "falls short" in the mobile era of low-power devices, touch interfaces and open Web standards.



Jobs' letter was posted on Apple's website Thursday. In it, the chief executive said he feels Apple and Adobe have "grown apart" and the companies now share "few joint interests," aside from Mac users who purchase roughly half of Adobe's Creative Suite products. He also said that the blocking of Adobe Flash from the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad is not business-driven, but "is based on technology issues."



His criticisms of Adobe and Flash were based on six points: openness; the "full Web;" reliability, security and performance; battery life; touch; and the substandard quality of third-party development tools.



The CEO also restated his opinion first expressed in an e-mail earlier this month, that an intermediary tool for converting Flash applications to the iPhone would produce "sub-standard apps," and would hinder the progress of the platform. In his letter published Thursday, Jobs said it is known from "painful experience" that allowing developers to become dependent on third-party tools is restrictive. "We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers."



He also reiterated the stance that Flash is a closed system, calling Adobe's Flash products "100% proprietary." Jobs admitted that Apple has a number of proprietary products, but added that his company has adopted open standards, including HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. He said that the transition of many major sites to HTML5, including YouTube, along with applications from services, such as Netflix, means that iPhone, iPod and iPad users "aren't missing much video."



Jobs said it is clear that "Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content," as the App Store has a plethora of games and applications, and media outlets have switched to iPhone OS-compatible HTML5 for streaming video. He dismissed Adobe as simply "criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind."



Other highlights from the letter:



"Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free."



"Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now."



"Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?"



"Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple?s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X."



"Flash was created during the PC era ? for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards ? all areas where Flash falls short."



Jobs' letter is republished here in its entirety:



Thoughts on Flash



Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe?s founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the company for many years. The two companies worked closely together to pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times. Since that golden era, the companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their Acrobat products. Today the two companies still work together to serve their joint creative customers ? Mac users buy around half of Adobe?s Creative Suite products ? but beyond that there are few joint interests.



I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe?s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven ? they say we want to protect our App Store ? but in reality it is based on technology issues. Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain.



First, there?s ?Open?.



Adobe?s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe?s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.



Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript ? all open standards. Apple?s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.



Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web browser used in all our products. WebKit has been widely adopted. Google uses it for Android?s browser, Palm uses it, Nokia uses it, and RIM (Blackberry) has announced they will use it too. Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft?s uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.



Second, there?s the ?full web?.



Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access ?the full web? because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don?t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads. YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web?s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever. Add to this video from Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic, and many, many others. iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren?t missing much video.



Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, 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 iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.



Third, there?s reliability, security and performance.



Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash. We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems, but they have persisted for several years now. We don?t want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.



In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we?re glad we didn?t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?



Fourth, there?s battery life.



To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much power. Many of the chips used in modern mobile devices contain a decoder called H.264 ? an industry standard that is used in every Blu-ray DVD player and has been adopted by Apple, Google (YouTube), Vimeo, Netflix and many other companies.



Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained.



When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple?s Safari and Google?s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.



Fifth, there?s Touch.



Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on ?rollovers?, which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple?s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn?t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?



Even if iPhones, iPods and iPads ran Flash, it would not solve the problem that most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.



Sixth, the most important reason.



Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn?t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.



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. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.



This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor?s platforms.



Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe?s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple?s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.



Our motivation is simple ? we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins ? we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.



Conclusions.



Flash was created during the PC era ? for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards ? all areas where Flash falls short.



The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple?s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple?s App Store proves that Flash isn?t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.



New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.





Steve Jobs

April, 2010
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 350
    agl82agl82 Posts: 15member

    .

  • Reply 2 of 350
    paulmjohnsonpaulmjohnson Posts: 1,380member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by agl82 View Post


    "While Adobe's Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system."



    Wow, that's rich! One proprietary dinosaur of a company bad-mouthing another. Apple is just as proprietary as Adobe, if not more so. Nice try, Steve!



    Difference is, Apple openly admits where they are closed. Adobe claiming Flash is an open system is clearly a lie.
  • Reply 3 of 350
    awesome letter.
  • Reply 4 of 350
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Well said. Is he correct though that Adobe is the last major vendor to move to Cocoa? Isn't Office 2008 still a Carbon app?
  • Reply 5 of 350
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,745member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by agl82 View Post


    "While Adobe's Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system."



    Wow, that's rich! One proprietary dinosaur of a company bad-mouthing another. Apple is just as proprietary as Adobe, if not more so. Nice try, Steve!



    You're forgetting . . . He admits that they keep a tight lock on the platform, but this is the web he's talking about. Despite what people think, you don't have to be totally for open technology everywhere.
  • Reply 6 of 350
    tcphototcphoto Posts: 65member
    It's the technology version of the Unibomber's Manifesto!
  • Reply 7 of 350
    I couldn't have said it better myself. Seriously - I couldn't have.



    In my opinion, this is a great PR move on Apple/Steve's part. He shifts attention away from iPhone 4.0 disaster, attempts to silent all of the "it doesn't have Flash" critics, and explains the "WHY" to non-technical folks. Bravo.
  • Reply 8 of 350
    jmmxjmmx Posts: 341member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by agl82 View Post


    "While Adobe's Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system."



    Wow, that's rich! One proprietary dinosaur of a company bad-mouthing another. Apple is just as proprietary as Adobe, if not more so. Nice try, Steve!



    Hello???? What -- do you expect Apple to give away all its technology? What planet are you on?
  • Reply 9 of 350
    akf2000akf2000 Posts: 223member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tcphoto View Post


    It's the technology version of the Unibomber's Manifesto!



  • Reply 10 of 350
    desuserigndesuserign Posts: 1,316member
    It reads like one of his keynote presentations?clear, sensible, and convincing.
  • Reply 11 of 350
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,745member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by tcphoto View Post


    It's the technology version of the Unibomber's Manifesto!



    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8L39UwOS-Y
  • Reply 12 of 350
    agl82agl82 Posts: 15member
    .
  • Reply 13 of 350
    djintxdjintx Posts: 454member
    To Steve J.: Good answer! Thorough, logical, and straightforward.



    I would think that Adobe couldn't argue with that, but only time will tell.



    To Adobe: Now you need to stop crying over your spilled rotten milk, move on, and learn to make some better digital laser-guided milk with patented unibody construction. Just don't forget to pay Apple to licence the unibody thingy.
  • Reply 14 of 350
    The simple fact here is that regardless of who is truly proprietary (adobe ), the reality is that adobe will either have to get on or off the apple train. Mobile computing is starting is becoming more and more mainstream, and the demand for everything on the go is increasing. As Apple continues pioneering the mobile computing industry adobe should start working a little harder to keep up. Steve Jobs stated it well,



    "New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind"
  • Reply 15 of 350
    "open"? HAH
  • Reply 16 of 350
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    There is some good advice for Adobe in there, in that they are good at making authoring tools. If they would make their tools generate HTML5 they could continue on much as they have.
  • Reply 17 of 350
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,581member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by agl82 View Post




    Perhaps, but Steve Jobs claiming H.264 is "open" is an absolute falsehood. It is nothing of the sort. That's why Firefox and Opera are not adopting it.




    "H.264 is neither free nor open-source. If...you want to use H.264 to serve HTML5 video in your browser, you need to pay MPEG LA, the owners of the codec, a $5 million licensing fee. This has raised some eyebrows by the likes of Mozilla Firefox, who want HTML5?s video compression standard to be the free, open-source Ogg Theora. Their argument, summarized, is it?s foolish to build the next decade?s internet video standards upon the back of a licensed codec when there?s a free alternative that works nearly as well."



    http://www.cultofmac.com/h-264-will-...ugh-2016/28982



    A bit misleading, don't you think, since the fees are waived through 2015, by which time there will likely be a new standard, and I don't think there's any evidence to support the assertion that Ogg Theora, "works nearly as well," unless one is very liberal in the meaning of 'nearly'. Firefox risks slipping into irrelevance if they don't get on board.
  • Reply 18 of 350
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,581member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ascii View Post


    There is some good advice for Adobe in there, in that they are good at making authoring tools. If they would make their tools generate HTML5 they could continue on much as they have.



    I think they're worried they might actually have to compete on the merits of their software if they did that.
  • Reply 19 of 350
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by agl82 View Post


    "H.264 is neither free nor open-source. If...you want to use H.264 to serve HTML5 video in your browser, you need to pay MPEG LA, the owners of the codec, a $5 million licensing fee. This has raised some eyebrows by the likes of Mozilla Firefox, who want HTML5’s video compression standard to be the free, open-source Ogg Theora. Their argument, summarized, is it’s foolish to build the next decade’s internet video standards upon the back of a licensed codec when there’s a free alternative that works nearly as well."



    It is by far the best available choice and it is also a very stable video platform. OGG is a terrible technology which has already been left behind, and will continue to fall behind. The attitude that something should be adopted to the utter exclusion of other technologies because those technologies are patented, regardless of how bad a technology is, is exactly the sort of thinking that will ensure one platform is never a leader, and will always serve to undermine the end-user. And as a final nail in the coffin of this ridiculous argument, OGG could very well be patent-encumbered as it crosses onto plenty of other patents that might one day lead to action. H.264 is guaranteed stable for years now and will, in near certainty, remain a viable internet technology indefinitely—as good an offer as any competitor can offer, including OGG. I'll take H.264, thanks.
  • Reply 20 of 350
    sevenfeetsevenfeet Posts: 402member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by agl82 View Post




    Perhaps, but Steve Jobs claiming H.264 is "open" is an absolute falsehood. It is nothing of the sort. That's why Firefox and Opera are not adopting it.




    "H.264 is neither free nor open-source. If...you want to use H.264 to serve HTML5 video in your browser, you need to pay MPEG LA, the owners of the codec, a $5 million licensing fee. This has raised some eyebrows by the likes of Mozilla Firefox, who want HTML5?s video compression standard to be the free, open-source Ogg Theora. Their argument, summarized, is it?s foolish to build the next decade?s internet video standards upon the back of a licensed codec when there?s a free alternative that works nearly as well."



    http://www.cultofmac.com/h-264-will-...ugh-2016/28982



    You're miscontruing what he meant here. When he meant open, he meant "widely available and not owned by one party". It does not imply that H.264 is (or should be) free. Flash isn't free either. I know the open source community likes to make hay on this point but the word "open" here does not mean, nor has ever meant "open source".
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