Apple got Adobe Flash to work on iOS but performance was 'abysmal,' says Scott Forstall

Posted:
in iOS edited April 27
Contrary to a very public stance against the adoption of Adobe Flash, Apple at one point in the development of iPhone and its underlying iOS operating system attempted to build in support for the once-ubiquitous software.

Flash


The tidbit, revealed by former iOS chief Scott Forstall during a taped deposition for the upcoming Epic Games v. Apple trial, is salacious news for longtime Apple followers.

According to Forstall, Apple attempted to work with Adobe to get Flash working on iOS. The topic came up when the former executive was asked about integrating cross-platforming capabilities in iOS, a potential avenue of inquisition Epic could explore in the upcoming trial.

"We did not ship Flash," Forstall said. "We tried to make Flash work. We helped Adobe. We definitely were interested. Again, this is one where I thought if we could help make it work, this could be great."

When the collaboration took place is unknown, though late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs famously penned "Thoughts on Flash," an effective takedown of the software platform-- in 2010. That was nearly three years after the first iPhone with iPhone OS debuted, and the same year in which Apple adopted the now-familiar iOS branding.

It is unclear whether Forstall is making a distinction between iPhone OS and iOS in his deposition.

In any case, the experiment was a failure, as Flash proved unsuitable for Apple's power-efficient mobile operating system. Indeed, Forstall echoed some of the same complaints Jobs outlined in his 2010 letter.

"Flash has been such a problem because the way that it hooks into systems, it's been a virus nightmare on Windows, even on the Mac," Forstall said. "And when we got it running on iOS, the performance was just abysmal and embarrassing and it could never get to something which would be consumer value add."

Jobs in "Thoughts on Flash" criticized the software's lack of openness; inability to access the "full web;" reliability, security and performance; battery life; lack of touch control integration; and substandard quality of third-party development tools. He said its exclusion from iOS was "based on technology issues," and declared there would be no tool for converting Flash apps to iOS. The decision to move to HTML5 and other protocols allowed Apple to remain in full control of its ecosystem and evolve iOS APIs

9to5Mac spotted Forstall's telling of Apple's Flash for iOS trial earlier today.

Following Jobs' lead, Apple consistently denigrated Flash for more than a decade prior to its denouement this year. That pressure, along with inherent flaws and an inability to adapt to an increasingly mobile-focused industry, contributed to the software's demise.
ihatescreennames

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    Yeah..... Flash on my Apple Watch would drain my entire battery in 1 second. Just... imagine it.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 14
    XedXed Posts: 890member
    I'm pretty sure Jobs's famous editorial came well after Apple had tried to get Adobe Flash to work on iOS. Kudos to Apple for trying, but this was probably more of management telling their engineers to try even though it was obvious from engineers that Flash was never going to be good on iOS.  A stripped down mobile version could've technically "worked" the way it worked on other smartphones at the time, but not for doing what people expected of a Flash at the time. I'd like to say that Apple made the right choice, but I only see one choice that made any sense at all.
    d_2baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 14
    And if this was going on NOW, Adobe would file an antitrust suit against Apple for not allowing Flash. Screw the consumers. Every company should be allowed to do what they want to another companies hardware...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 14
    crushedcrushed Posts: 16member
    I don’t see how this is “salacious” news! It’s almost “Meh! Who cares? Not oh wow! Really? We had no clue!” Of course Apple tried to port Flash. That’s how they knew all the things they said they knew about battery life diminishing by an order of magnitude.
    What I am curious though is how does this pertain to the Epic case? How does Epic plan on twisting Forstall’s deposition against Apple? If at all it helps Apple’s case that they really did everything they could to make the best experience for their customers. And that a curated eco system is one of the plus points that a customer opts into when using Apple products. Not something that is slapped on them unwittingly.
    leavingthebiggchiad_2cincyteebaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 14
    Since only Epic’s side is being published, Apple’s side must have some damning information about Epic that the media is choosing to hide in an attempt to paint Apple in a bad light even though what is being published is old news that has nothing to do with what the court case is supposed to be about. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 14
    It’s a good thing Flash died and it would have without Job’s letter in favor of HTML5, however it’s noteworthy that Apple criticizes others of “closed systems” while being famous for their own walled garden. 
    The App Store, their operating systems, their hardware and even services like Photos not having REST API’s; it’s as closed as you can get. Apple Double Standards (tm).



  • Reply 7 of 14
    cincyteecincytee Posts: 332member
    Since only Epic’s side is being published, Apple’s side must have some damning information about Epic that the media is choosing to hide in an attempt to paint Apple in a bad light even though what is being published is old news that has nothing to do with what the court case is supposed to be about. 
    You assume it's something insidious with "the media." Assuming this is Epic's side, it's published because Epic leaked it, and Apple hasn't leaked its side. Apple doesn't leak.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,271member
    It’s a good thing Flash died and it would have without Job’s letter in favor of HTML5, however it’s noteworthy that Apple criticizes others of “closed systems” while being famous for their own walled garden. 
    The App Store, their operating systems, their hardware and even services like Photos not having REST API’s; it’s as closed as you can get. Apple Double Standards (tm).
    The difference is that Apple doesn't embed their closed system in other products and market it as an open development standard like Adobe did for Flash-based web development.  They are very upfront that they have a closed ecosystem, and simply market the benefits of it.  They have no need to create an "open" trojan horse to lock people in.  A more apt comparison would be to Java, where Sun marketed it as an open, cross-platform application development platform, but still held the keys to the kingdom (the Java application runtime environment and licensing of it).

    As for getting Flash to work on the iPhone, while I'm sure performance was a big part of it, another part is that interacting with an app using fingers on a small touchscreen is very different than using a mouse on a large monitor.  So it would have required Flash apps to undergo a major overhaul to be usable (as well as Flash itself).
    edited April 28 watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 14
    WgkruegerWgkrueger Posts: 312member
    It’s a good thing Flash died and it would have without Job’s letter in favor of HTML5, however it’s noteworthy that Apple criticizes others of “closed systems” while being famous for their own walled garden. 
    The App Store, their operating systems, their hardware and even services like Photos not having REST API’s; it’s as closed as you can get. Apple Double Standards (tm).



    Why in the world would anyone want a REST API to their photos that would open up even more potential to data breaches? Seems like a very bad idea.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    I kinda miss updating Flash twice a month...NOT.

    iOS is like a big party going on, and everyone wants to show up.  
    But there's a doorman and a dress code... DEAL WITH IT !
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    XedXed Posts: 890member
    It’s a good thing Flash died and it would have without Job’s letter in favor of HTML5, however it’s noteworthy that Apple criticizes others of “closed systems” while being famous for their own walled garden. 
    The App Store, their operating systems, their hardware and even services like Photos not having REST API’s; it’s as closed as you can get. Apple Double Standards (tm).
    You're missing the point about web standards being open. Jobs never once claimed that every thing a company does should be open source or that companies should being non-profits, or anything else ridiculous. It was about web standards.

    Even if Adobe Flash had already been made 100% open, like Adobe did with PDF, it would still have lost to modern development. Perhaps they had tried doing this a decade earlier things may have advanced differently to keep it active, but chances are it would've just reached its inevitable end since it was built on bloat and had been repeated shown to be weakest point in a webpage in terms of security.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adobe_Flash#Open_Source
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 14
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 903member

    This whole Flash episode happened about the time that Adobe was going through a significant business model transition, greatly raising the price of their software and ultimately going to a subscription model a few years later.  Bean counters took control and they weren’t in any mood to spend time and money updating their software (Flash or otherwise) for no perceived gain.  Their balance sheet clearly didn’t include a loss column for when they lost out on iPhone and mobile.

    I grew up on Illustrator and Photoshop as well as Aldus/Adobe PageMaker and then InDesign.  Great programs that Adobe priced out of my financial reach at the time.  I didn’t leave Adobe.  They left me.

    get seriouswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,609member
    This isn't really news is it?  I remember reading articles way back in the day about this.  

    I still have a smirk once in a while remembering all those Flash fanboys that skewered Apple for not including Flash on iOS.  As usual, they all disappeared like a fart in the wind.
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 14
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 817member
    Wgkrueger said:
    It’s a good thing Flash died and it would have without Job’s letter in favor of HTML5, however it’s noteworthy that Apple criticizes others of “closed systems” while being famous for their own walled garden. 
    The App Store, their operating systems, their hardware and even services like Photos not having REST API’s; it’s as closed as you can get. Apple Double Standards (tm).



    Why in the world would anyone want a REST API to their photos that would open up even more potential to data breaches? Seems like a very bad idea.
    A REST API isn’t unsafe. It’s only unsafe if it has flaws, but that’s like other software. Your Apple Photos is using an API right now. If you have bad intents you are tracking the calls to Apple’s servers anyway and find any weaknesses to exploit.

    The only difference would be to (at the very least) ask Apple Photos on behalf of the end user and a third party app (like a backup service), to provide read-only access to their photos. That always requires user consent. This is usually done through a protocol line oAuth.

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