Steve Jobs Shares His Thoughts on Flash

Early this morning Apple posted an open letter from its cofounder and CEO, Steve Jobs, regarding the company’s stance on Adobe’s Flash technology. Apple has come under fire from many folks over the exclusion of Flash from the iPhone OS platform over the past few years. I honestly couldn’t give Apple more praise for excluding it.

To answer the outcries of Flash sympathizers, Mr. Jobs composed a letter to let everyone know exactly why Apple hasn’t and won’t include Flash on their mobile devices. Jobs addressed six tenets of Flash’s shortcomings:

  1. Openness
  2. The Full Web
  3. Reliability, Security, & Performance
  4. Battery Life
  5. Touch Interfaces
  6. Development Hindrances

Jobs gives great supporting evidence of those points, and I agree with Apple’s stance. Not only is the Flash plugin a largely power hungry component, but it doesn’t scale the transition from a mouse to a touchscreen.

Along with the plugin, I completely understand why Apple recently blocked Flash CS5’s cross-platform compiler in Section 3.3.1 of the iPhone OS 4 SDK Agreement. Apple can’t have a third party become the de facto app development tool and expect to have a smooth and clean operating system of their own. Apple rarely repeats mistakes, and one of the chief mistakes Apple made with OS X was allowing third parties to make development tools. Apple told developers a couple years prior to the Intel switch to move to Apple’s own XCode tools instead of CodeWarrior. Well, when the Intel switch dropped, developers using XCode could recompile and have a working universal binary that ran on PowerPC and Intel Macs. Developers who didn’t heed Apple’s warnings had to start from scratch in XCode.

Take a guess which two high profile developers had to scramble into XCode. Microsoft and Adobe. Both companies hurriedly released crippled and/or buggy versions of their Mac applications in order to catch up.

Microsoft released a version of Office that removed key components making it largely incompatible with Windows versions of Office. This was one of the key reasons I use iWork instead of Office these days. If I have to miss out on some features, I’m at least doing it in style and without frustration. Microsoft is finally adding in the features they removed previously later this year.

Adobe ended up releasing a 32-bit version of Creative Suite for Mac while the Windows version was 64-bit. Also, I can’t vouch for the Windows side, but I know of many folks using Macs and Photoshop CS4 experience a horrid bug that crashes the app upon a Save command. It’s very counter-productive. And to prove Adobe has shortcomings on OS X as a whole, Jobs writes:

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.

It makes sense that Apple wants to control iPhone OS soup to nuts. I greatly encourage you to read Jobs’ open letter for yourself. It’s quite the read. I wonder how Adobe will respond.

I leave you with the closing paragraph from Jobs’ letter, which sums things up quite 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.