By Frank James
One of the knocks on Apple's iPhone, iTouch and iPad lines has been that they don't run Adobe's extremely popular Flash player. That would seem to be a negative.
But in his past comments and now in a lengthy written explanation, Steve Jobs explains why it's not a weakness at all that his company's devices don't use Flash. Indeed, it's a signal strength that they don't, Jobs argues.
Jobs makes Apple and Adobe sound like a once romantically involved couple that just grew apart:
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.
The remainder of the letter is Jobs' attempt to persuade readers that the fault lies not with Apple but with Adobe whose Flash product, Jobs argues, just doesn't meet Apple's high standards.
For instance, Apple has received much criticism for having a closed, proprietary platforms on its devices, meaning it controls how its OS evolves and the kind of apps that are available.
But Jobs argues it's not Apple that's closed but Flash.
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.
And then there's what is one of the best smackdowns of the entire essay:
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.
Adobe's defenders have weighed in.
This from the blog called blixtsystems.com:
He want's full control over the platform, and if that means not providing a very often requested feature then so be it.
Of course it requires less effort to not have to work together with any third parties...a dictatorship is a very efficient form of government as well.
Developers and customers expect a certain degree of interoperability and backwards compatibility. And one have to strike a balance between trying to keep the platform progressing and ensuring differentiation in the marketplace while also ensuring that developers and customers are happy.
Looking at the many voices demanding Flash on the iPhone/iPad and developers outrage over section 3.3.1 it seems to me that Apple clearly is out of balance here, but time will tell. Personally I think a put option on Apple stock is looking better and better for each day.