Thoughts on “Thoughts on Flash”

Steve Jobs posted a nice letter on the Apple website addressing the issue of Flash on Apple devices..namely the iPhone and iPad.   I would not be sad to see Flash go the way of the Dodo personally but I think Jobs is being disingenuous when he says:

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.

It’s wonderful that there are lots of games and entertainment titles in the App Store for the iPhone and iPad.  That doesn’t help me when my daughter wants to play Bella Sara on the Bella Sara website.  That is Flash.   If my son wants to play games on the Sesame Street website guess what?  Those games are Flash too.  No love for those sites on the iPad and both of my kids love using the iPad.  They just don’t understand why they can’t play their favorite online games on the iPad.   Can they use the computer?  Sure and they do but this simple example shows that Jobs is ignoring a very large bit of the Internet when he flippantly states (to paraphrase) “Just get games from the App Store.  We have free ones there too”.

I would hope that all of those sites start to do their game development with truly cross-platform HTML/Javascript/CSS.   What we’re missing at the moment is tools to accomplish that task.   I’ve read commentary from people who work in eLearning who note that Flash dominates that arena and they just don’t have the expertise to make the move.   I call bullshit on that point.  Those applications could be done in HTML5/Javascript/CSS.  It would certainly require those developers to learn new tools but it certainly isn’t impossible even today.    I would certainly love to see Adobe work on the tools to accomplish that task instead of wasting more time on Flash.

The other interesting thing coming out of the Jobs letter is the follow-ups.   I was intrigued  by the people claiming how totally closed Apple is.   The iPad and iPhone environment certainly is closed if you want to write native applications for the platform.  I have absolutely no problem with that.  It is Apple’s technology and they have the right to make those choices and I think they’ve made smart ones.  They have very smart people there making a fantastic platform to code for.

That being said they also fully support creating applications on the device using HTML/Javascript/CSS and have from day one.  The short memory many seem to have on this point is interesting because initially HTML/Javascript/CSS was the *only* way to create applications for the phone and people bitched and whined incessantly that it just wasn’t fair.  They wanted to be able to create native applications and Apple provided the tools to do so (for free I might add).  Now people complain that it’s all closed.   Apple just can’t win it would seem.

I don’t even want to address the garbage that came out of the Adobe CEO today in his interview with the Wall Street Journal.  It isn’t worth repeating.  I understand that he has to defend Adobe but come on…”Flash is an open specification”.   Yeah Flash is an “open” specification.  Show me anyone else making tools to create Flash content?  Oh yeah…there are none.

I still love Adobe and their products.  I think they took far too long to get the Creative Suite fully on Cocoa on OS X.  Narayen loves the meme of “multi-platform” but generally multi-platform means lowest common denominator which frankly sucks.   You don’t get best-of-breed anything that way.  You certainly do save development time and it shows.  It has shown brilliantly in the Adobe applications on Mac OS X that haven’t been fully native and they’ve had  years to get this done.

In the end I think Apple will “win” this fight.   The release of the iPad already has many major sites changing their video format so that it’s supported on the iPhone and iPad.  I think we’ll see that more and more in the coming months and I for one am looking forward to it.   The more of the web experience I can get on my iPad the better.

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