Issues with Apple’s Decision to Block Flash

May 15 2010 by Mark Cooper | 91 Comments

Issues with Apple's Decision to Block Flash

There are two prevailing issues in the fight between Apple and Adobe.

The first is whether or not Flash should be available in the Safari browser running on Apple’s mobile iPod, iPhone, iPad platforms.

The second is whether or not Flash (or any middleware platform) should be used to create apps for Apple’s App Store.

Block Flash on Apple Safari’ Mobile Platforms? Fine.

Let’s talk about the first issue. I believe Apple has the right to block Flash from running on the Safari browser.

When I was head of product marketing at ESPN Mobile (the nation’s first and last virtual mobile service provider), we blocked a number of technologies from running on our phones because they crashed our core application services.

These technologies were placed on an internal black list until the vendor providing the technology was able to demo a version that met our performance specs.

The core driver behind this approach was that our customers plunked down a good amount of cash for our service, and we needed to respect that by ensuring solid, fast performance.

So, until Adobe can demonstrate a version of Flash that meets reasonable performance expectations on the mobile version of Safari, I think Apple’s stance is justified.

Block Flash as a Platform for App Store Apps? Not a Smart Move.

As far as not being able to use Flash 5 to create apps for Apple’s App Store goes, it’s déjà vu all over again. Apple tried something similar years ago when it kept its OS proprietary (except for a brief flirtation with licensing in the mid ’90s before Jobs came back).

The result is that while their line of computers is incredibly profitable, they still command a small share of the market. My bet is that their recent resurgence is due primarily to the wild success of the iPod and iPhone.

The idea that anyone should have a say about how developers decide to build their apps is nuts. As long as they meet end-result specs and performance requirements, who cares if they use Flash, HTML5, or even ActiveX?

But Jobs loves control. And unfortunately, he ends up shooting himself, his company, and the developer community in the collective foot when he does things that inhibit freedom of choice. He evangelizes interoperability and supporting open platforms, except when it comes to Apple products.

Unless he reverses course on this ridiculous developer rule (or the FTC and Justice Dept do it for the company), the iPhone and iPad will become small share players in a market dominated by Android — a platform that’s more open. Google is loving it, and they’re taking advantage by fully embracing Flash.

A Prediction for What’s Coming

This leads me to a larger thought. A few smart people have talked about the upcoming Platform Wars – where Apple, Google, and Microsoft will begin battling for web supremacy.

You can see Adobe being an ally state to one of these platform companies, as well as Twitter, and Facebook, and the developer communities.

I think the Apple versus Adobe dispute is akin to the formal declaration of this war. And now, we’ll see a mix of strategic and shifting alliances build between these companies – different configurations depending on the category.

One front of this war is about winning users. The other is about winning developers.

Apple’s move to control how developers build apps is an effort to lock them in to their platform. Google countered this move by embracing Flash, thereby opening the door to over a million Flash developers to create applications for Android devices.

We’ll see more of this kind of alliance gathering over the next years to come. Whoever wins the battle for developer hearts — on products that require developers to supply innovation — will prevail.

And since developers — as a general rule, and matter of history — don’t like to be told how to do things, my guess is that more open platforms will win.

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About the Author

Mark Cooper is the CEO and co-founder of Frontal, an open source markup and scripting language that generates Flash. Over the past 13 years, Mark has helped launch an array of media, online and mobile businesses. You can find him walking the streets of NY looking for trouble. To get in touch, email him at mark@frontalcode.com, or follow him on Twitter: @frontalcode.

91 Comments

Ryan Cowles

May 15th, 2010

Although I am not the biggest fan of Flash, I think the decision to have absolutely no support for it hurts developers as well as end users. It will be interesting to see what happens due to this decision.

Kim

May 15th, 2010

Apple fan boys, macintosh are not cool

Robert Palmar

May 15th, 2010

Well written and spot on Mark.

“As long as they meet end-result specs and performance requirements, who cares if they [developers] use Flash, HTML5, or even ActiveX?”
This should be the simple common sense rule of order.

Apple hurts itself more than others in the not so long long run.

Chris

May 15th, 2010

I agree on both points. Apple should be allowed to block plugins from their device like Flash. Albeit, I don’t necessary accept the reasoning that Apple provides for this measure because ultimately it comes down to money, competition and control. But I also agree that Apple’s stance against Flash as a development platform is a very poor decision for a long-term strategy. I know dozens of disenfranchised Flash/Flex developers that are now redirecting all their development energies to Android after much anticipation for the Flash to iPhone compiler were abruptly destroyed.

Waheed Akhtar

May 15th, 2010

Very nice article. Enjoyed reading. I personally do not support jobs move. I am a big user of Adobe products and would love to support Flash always. No one know how Adobe improves Flash in coming years.

Khürt

May 15th, 2010

Do you think there is a danger of “lazy” designers opting to use Flash because they can cross compile for multiple platforms, e.g., Android? If this type of cross compiling becomes the norm and a lot of apps on your platform wre built with this third party tool, how would you respond?

Flash is not a web development tool. It’s a tool for web designers to do what developers do. Designers should learn to code and raise the bar instead of complaining of how hard things are. No ones owes anyone a living.

Kerem

May 15th, 2010

I hate to say this, but I do agree with Steve Jobs on this one.

Tektoniq

May 15th, 2010

The decision to shutout developers from using third party tools is akin to requiring artists to use GarageBand in order to have their music sold on iTunes. In my view, Jobs’ decision is primarily based upon the fact he wants to control how consumers access and consume media on their iDevices (i.e., iTunes), which is a HUGE profit-generating engine for Apple.

Andy

May 15th, 2010

Can we stop whining about this, please?

There are valid reasons to why Flash is not available on these devices such as performance, battery time and the fact that most flash applications does not work on multi-touch devices.

Even if that were not the case, there still would no point in whining about it. You do not buy a product and then complain that it doesn’t do the things you want it to do. You review the functionality of the device and try to match it to your requirements and THEN you decide to buy it. The iPad isn’t a replacement for your laptop or stationary computer. It’s a device with a specific purpose for a target audience. If you really need flash, then buy a product that does support it.

Everywhere I turn, I see constant complaining about Flash not being available on iPhone OS, and frankly, I’m sick of hearing about it. So, can we please drop it, already?

ManEatingFish

May 15th, 2010

You are missing the point that flash is compiled then re-compiled to create a app, and the performance and quality goes down when compared to building the app directly in objective C, the apple requirement. Objective C is a closed language just recompiling other languages

ManEatingFish

May 15th, 2010

sorry Objective C ISN’T a closed language (typo)

Matt

May 15th, 2010

I think that you are missing a bigger picture here: Nokia has backed up HTML5 as well as Flash on their Symbian platform, and Adobe already confirmed that full Flash support is coming to Symbian devices (that means Samsung, Sony Ericsson as well) and will replace FlashLite.

Overall i think that Apple’s aggressive marketing and controversial decisions will bring down the company once again.

One more thing: Symbian is becoming open, which means that Nokia will not only support its growth but also support the community by providing tools and resources to build incredible interfaces and applications.

How is Apple supposed to counter this by restricting access to certain tools and filtrating the software?

Matthew Heidenreich

May 15th, 2010

I believe that the move to block it from the browser was a smart one, and for those that feel not having flash ruins their browsing experience, well that is just wrong. The only thing Flash is good for online is for playback of video, and now that is starting to change. Playing flash games online on other devises is just buggy and not meant for use with touch screen phones.

Now, for the second part. To block Flash from backend development on the phone? Not sure that is so smart.

tungee

May 15th, 2010

What would apple do, when Adobe would stop their creative suites on osx. It would be the end of Apple.
I think Apple shouldnt go so in offense.

hollsk

May 15th, 2010

“my guess is that more open platforms will win.”

I really do hope you’re right. The whole Apple vs Adobe thing is just one aspect of the much bigger issue of open standards and software. It would be incredibly disappointing if we went back to the days of different technology being supported by different systems, which is frankly the way all of this is heading.

On top of that, all the shouting about Company vs Company is stifling creativity from developers *already* – Jonathan Rentzsch cancelled an indie developer’s conference because he said that Apple’s changes to the SDK terms had ‘broken his spirit’. Making your developers feel that way isn’t really the best way to foster innovation on your platform.

It’s a shame.

giedrius majauskas

May 15th, 2010

I do not see a reason for this fuss. Having developers coding tons of apps without caring of a system they develop for is quite bad, and moves Apples itunes store overall quality down. Thats stops really inovative apps from being developed (for any of platform) and focuses on apps that can work on worst hardware that can run flash. Also, it moves their monetarization out of Itunes.
Also, who cares if there is brand of phones without Flash? I think only Adobe does. My android phone has no flash player atm and I am still happy with it.
Also, Adobe is one of the big guys that want to take a place in that battle as well. The key is not only who keeps all the user data. There is content delivery market where Apple battles with Adobe directly.

Flash will not go away. However, I wish HTML5 support would be added to stable IE and we could forget using flash for such tasks like video.

hollsk

May 15th, 2010

@Khürt
“Do you think there is a danger of “lazy” designers opting to use Flash because they can cross compile for multiple platforms, e.g., Android?”

The three virtues of a programmer are Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris. Now if that’s what Larry Wall thinks then there’s a good chance there’s something to that. I do find it quite interesting that you’ve drawn a distinction between flash development and ‘other’ development, though – is writing ECMAScript equivalent to design now? When did that happen?

G

May 15th, 2010

As much as Apple have a problem with flash, they are using it as a vehicle for removing 3rd party VM’s. In particular Silverlight.

jeff

May 15th, 2010

http://applevsadobe.net – opinion poll. some strong comments in favor of adobe

Devon

May 15th, 2010

While I am growing tired of this whole debate, I do believe that Apple is in the right somewhat here.

While blocking developers from using Flash on iDevices may seem like a unwise move, Apple is trying to provide the best possible experience to the User. Why allow applications to be created when they are going to show a poor experience rate as well?

I personally have no issues purchasing most Apple products because I know that they are of high quality, and Jobs won’t let a half-par product out the door. I for one enjoy seeing a company keep high standards for it’s products, and what’s created for them.

Do I like every choice Apple makes? No. Do I trust them and their products more than most other computer company? Yes.

@tungee-To stop providing Adobe products for Apple products would be one of the stupidest decisions Adobe could ever make. They would alienate a large base of their users, and lose millions, if not billions of dollars.

JG

May 15th, 2010

I think Jobs/Apple are absolutely doing the right thing. Call out Flash, force the issue and lets start sounding the death-knell for this horrible technology.

If you don’t like it, don’t buy an iPad/iPhone and be done with it. I personally block Flash on every browser/machine I use and haven’t run into trouble.

Sites that rely on Flash for navigation or essentials will not be receiving my business or time. I just move on. Sites that haven’t implemented a “flash-failsafe” are too stupid to do business with anyway.

Let’s get rid of Flash and move on to something better.

@Andy

May 15th, 2010

@Andy – Why are you reading this article if you’re so sick of it?

You know what I’m sick of? This damn MacBook Pro I’m typing on. I sincerely hope Android blows iPhone out of the water.

RIC

May 15th, 2010

Designers should learn to program…give me a break! do others professions allow other professionals to dictate the term of their body of knowledge? programmers telling designers to learn to program shows a lack of …professional respect. Professionals being manipulated by the industry attached to the new business models causes this cascading effect. The big boys playing the big money wars and we are working 16 hours a day, 6 days a week to stay afloat. and we are going mad.

miked

May 15th, 2010

My biggest fear with putting Flex/Flash apps on the App Store has less to do with stability (which is clearly an issue in itself) and more to do with polluting the existing app space with inconsistent UIs and user experiences for the sake of “platform openness”.

Apple provides an SDK that includes UI elements that are specifically designed to address the unique form-factor and display restrictions of their device. If frameworks (like Flex specifically) define their own custom UI elements that are less tailored to the way the specific way a device is used and more about being a “cross-platform” solution, the app and its users will ultimately suffer.

It comes down to this: what do you want more, an app that works the exact same across multiple devices, or an app specifically tailored to take advantage of the features on your device?

Don’t get me wrong. I am in complete support for open standards but there has to be a line drawn somewhere between the “write it once, run it anywhere” and “write the iPhone/Android/Whatever version of this app” camps. If you want to write a platform independent app, you have HTML5 and a slew of web-based toolkits at your disposal that can rival anything you could do in a Flash app. I think if you want to write native apps for a device, you should have to use what tools that device manufacturer provides.

Rajib Roy

May 16th, 2010

future world is for Mobile and touch screen, so what we will do with all of our flash website and game. Apple IPhone, Ipad does not support Flash website, game movie and they have no plan to add Flash on their device although Apple has 20% share on Adobe. Check More here.

Mohit

May 16th, 2010

do agree with Steve Jobs on this one.

Amine

May 16th, 2010

and to add another point to this article, When Apple launched Safari, itune and quick time for windows , they were so buggy crashed the systeme ect they were still allowed by microsoft!!
and now they are more stable , if apple left flash do it job i m sure it would have become more stable by now…

Jonathan

May 16th, 2010

Speaking as a software developer (and NOT an Apple developer before anybody shouts “fanboy”), I applaud Apple for taking the stance they have.

The amount of work Apple has put into the libraries and APIs to ensure common user experiences, and performance throughout applications makes ALL other hardware platforms look very ordinary indeed.

Their closing of the loop between hardware, operating system AND application software is the main reason they have better performance, battery life, and compatibility than any competing platform.

If you don’t like their decisions, go buy hardware for a different platform.

Shetil

May 16th, 2010

Anyone that agrees with Steve Jobs surely cannot be a developer. Because developers know that sharing code between different platforms and projects is a good thing.
Even if the GUI needs to be tailored for each platform.

It also seems that people have a lack of knowledge of what Adobe tried to do. Adobe made it possible to compile Actionscript into native code for the iPhone. There would be no difference between apps created in Actionscript and apps created with the tools Apple provides.

In my view Apples actions can be summarized in one word: Greed.

Pankaj

May 16th, 2010

Are you kidding me? Flash is necessary for such mobile devices, especially the ipad. Steve Jobs claimed he wanted the iPads to replace netbooks, how does he plan on achieving that with something that costs 3 times a netbook without flash?.

bunny

May 16th, 2010

@JG

Call out Apple, force the issue and lets start sounding the death-knell for this horrible technology.

I don’t like it, I won’t buy an iPad/iPhone and be done with it. I personally refuse to buy any Apple product and I now don’t run into trouble. I am also sick to death of this Macbook Pro I am typing on. I keep the trashy machine around for basic web surfing only, but I will upgrade to a Windows or Linux machine sooner or later.

Let’s get rid of Apple and move on to something better.

Also, isn’t it interesting that the only people sick of this discussion are from the cult of mac? After rallying the troops to support Apple and only apple at the cost of logic and reason, they are tired and don’t wish this issue to linger.

Bob S

May 16th, 2010

One thing to consider is that when the iphone first came out, they weren’t even going to allow people to develop apps for it at ALL. Remember when they just wanted you to write web-apps that would run through Safari? I think we’re pretty lucky just to be able to write the things at all for the phone, and don’t feel like I have a *right* to develop using the API of my choice.

That said I do think Flash is the best choice for animation on the web right now. If they are going to block it they should least offer an alternative. HTML5 is not here and not going to be here anytime soon from what I can tell.

Bob

comx

May 16th, 2010

Sure, developers want to chave a choice. But innovation is more important to them. Flash is not innovative. Multitouch is.

Tyler

May 16th, 2010

Flash has never run in mobile Safari – so fine block it if it doesn’t match your certain spec’s. But the fact that their have been Flash apps running perfectly fine (Aswell as other programs which have compiled apps), just makes it seem very illogical why they would block it. Though I don’t think the FTC will change it, its Apples choice that they will eventually lose a lot of potential developers to other platforms.

Luckily Android phones are starting to outsell the iPhone now, and hopefully something similar will happen with Android tablets and the iPad.

Gildo

May 16th, 2010

The good Steve still has to learn… At the end he will learn. It’s just a matter of time.

slaingod

May 16th, 2010

This is really about freedom of expression and choice. What I am hearing from a lot of Apple supporters and ‘Flash’ haters is just ridiculous.

What Apple is doing to ALL other languages (not just Flash/ActionScript 3) with their SDK is saying that speaking anything but Objective C isn’t good enough. This is like someone saying ‘You don’t speak English so what you say can’t be important.’ GM saying: You can’t work on our cars if you don’t speak English. Or: You can only use flat head screw drivers to work on our cars. And remember, this isn’t just Flash they are banning. They are LITERALLY SAYING YOU CAN’T CODE IN SOME LANGUAGE THAT ISN’T ‘ENGLISH’ and then convert it into English to compile. Objective C uses all English words for the grammar.

All of the ‘Flash’ haters probably don’t realize that ActionScript 3 is just Javascript with optional strong typing for performance. It would have been the new Javascript/ECMAScript standard if Microsoft hadn’t derailed it. And obviously you haven’t seen the HTML5 demos if you think that HTML5 is going to come anywhere close to where Flash/Flex/ActionScrip3 is NOW performance and feature-wise in the next few years. And of course by then it will have done a ton of other stuff, right about the time that HTML5 is finalized and the various browsers have sufficiently compatible versions that some 3rd party javascript toolkits will actually make it usable (ala jQuery).

That said, I think Adobe could help themselves out by open sourcing as much of Flash/AS3 as possible (ala Java) to get as many eyes on it as possible. There may be some licensing issues from open sourcing all of it.

Chris

May 16th, 2010

I could care less about the Flash vs. HTML5/H.264 thing as a consumer. However, what I do care about is Apple is limiting my choice of what I do with something that is mine – not Apple’s.

To expand on your point about ESPN. That was a service, and regular performance is expected of a service and therefore the approach is justified. The iPad/iPhone’s are devices… once I buy them I own them, but Apple is trying to control that.

Remember the rejection of the Google App and Apple’s comment that is was something already in the iPhone OS? That is the very definition of ANTI-TRUST. It is not Apple’s decision but the consumers. What if anything you bought for your PC had to go through a Microsoft Store? Mozilla and Google submit web browsers but they reject them because you already have IE. Sound familiar?

As it is, Apple products, while stunning in design, are consitently behind the curve on technology. Macs are usually a generation or two behind current standards and the iPhone has the lowest resolution screen on the market. Imagine what will happen when Apple controls all the apps too.

The Flash thing is not the issue, it is SJ and company trying to control what you have access too. I do currently own Apple products, but if they don’t change their stance on this I won’t be buying anymore of them.

Derek Watson

May 16th, 2010

It is only using iPhone we can see just how much unnecessary use of Flash there is… when directed to a restaurant site for example when travelling which is built completely in Flash with no alternative html to even get a phone number. Surely web designers have to build contingency in to stop clients losing potential sales. It is like the old days where so many sites insisted you used IE… it was remarkable easy to head off to a competitor and shop there! Flash is as bad as Steve Jobs says on a Mac and needs addressed by Adobe. I have used Flash since before Macromedia bought it as FutureSplash and have seen its performance decrease a lot since Adobe bought it.

Bilal Aslam

May 16th, 2010

I think Apple should make Flash plugin optional in their products and let customers decide whether they want to turn it ON or OFF.

If someone is excited about HTML5 (like me), please open your eyes. It would take many many years (maybe decades) to fully implement the HTML5. I’ve seen too many people still using Internet Explorer 6 even when everyone (even Microsoft) has reason to kill it. So, HTML5 might be future but Flash is shining right now.

jqs

May 16th, 2010

So wait, you are saying that Apple has the right to block Flash form Mobile Safari until it performs better, but not as an app provider?
I guess this would be true if one could guarantee that all ActionScript/Flash movies that get cross compiled to native objective-c are 100% clean, but I highly doubt it.
Typical cross-compilers do as much as they can, but they do have to make some generalizations that can hurt performance. You can’t tell me that any given Flash app will translate into good native Mobile App wihotu some glitches.
Apple doesn’t look at the code to see if you are writing good programs at that level, they just care about bugs and a lack of garbage collection. So we can’t say that every app in the AppStore is well written. But if you let someone click one button to generically cross-compile an app written for a completely different platform onto your system, you are asking for shoddy programs.

Penguintopia

May 16th, 2010

The article seems to imply that winning developers is as important as winning users. It’s not. No matter what the restrictions, the developers are going to go where the users are, even if they don’t particularly like the platform. Microsoft has huge numbers of third-party developers working on Windows because they have a huge installed base. If Jobs wins the in the market (as he did with the iPod), then guess what? Developers will code for the iPad/iPhone because that’s where the users are.

I carry an Android phone, and almost always applications come out for the iPhone first (my friends with iPhones are quick to show them to me) and Android comes later -often with only a subset of features. Things have improved significantly in the past few months, but there are still way more people developing for iPhone than Android.

If the iPad is a huge success, developers won’t really have any more choice than they do with Microsoft.

If I were developing a year from now, I’d be doing HTML5, ensuring my stuff worked in Opera, Chrome & FireFox (as they improve their support). Right now, I’d pick a platform and try to pick the short-term winner.

Paul

May 16th, 2010

Flash will be irrelevant in 5 years. When big players like Apple, Google and Microsoft all tell you HTML 5 is the future, and you are a web developer, you better listen.

I am not going to repeat the Job arguments,but he’s mostly right. http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/

As for the larger point in your article, which platforms developers can use to compile code. The problem Jobs has is obviously about control. He can’t control how often Adobe their platform and he can’t control what kind of code flash puts out. He doesn’t want developers sinking 100s of hours into a flash app then running into trouble because the newest iPhone OS has some big changes that Flash didn’t prepare for in their port logic.

Don’t stagnate. If you want to develop on the platform you may have to learn a new language. If not, just continue to develop for the Juju, the courier*, the HP tablet*.

* – may be dead in the water projects.

Patrick

May 16th, 2010

“my guess is that more open platforms will win.”

Wow. You mean like Windows 3.1 and its followers? If you define those as open, then you’re basically defining open to mean whatever gets the most market share.

Patrick

May 16th, 2010

Another comment – I want to use Xcode and Objective-C to program on the Android devices. Also I want to use that toolset to program on Windows and Linux. Please write an essay to whomever’s in charge of Android, Windows, and Linux and let them know they’re not open and therefor they will all wither away.

Jose Galdamez

May 16th, 2010

“But Jobs loves control.”

Remember that when developers first wanted to develop for the iPhone in 2007, Apple’s “directive” was for them to write Ajax Web apps with HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. It wasn’t until after some hair pulling that they actually released an SDK where people could write apps natively. People can still write Web apps if they choose to, and Father Jobs will have no control over how crappy your code is or isn’t.

This site is still completely dedicated to the Web apps portion of iPhone development, which shows they are still supporting Web apps as an option.

http://developer.apple.com/safari/

@Shetil
“Anyone that agrees with Steve Jobs surely cannot be a developer. Because developers know that sharing code between different platforms and projects is a good thing. Even if the GUI needs to be tailored for each platform.”

If you are too lazy to learn Objective C then you are not a developer. Part of being a developer is learning new languages that best suit the needs of your environment. The day where programmers could get by being one trick ponies is long gone.

Besides, write once run anywhere is a farce. This is why Java and AIR have not taken off as standards for mobile devices. You get the best performance when you write specifically to the platform, and mobile devices don’t have nearly as many resources as desktops do. Battery life is very finite, as is processor power and memory.

“There would be no difference between apps created in Actionscript and apps created with the tools Apple provides.”

No difference other than not directly utilizing the best APIs available for the platform. Nothing wrong with that?

@Pankaj
“Are you kidding me? Flash is necessary for such mobile devices, especially the ipad.”

Right, which is why the iPhone and iPads have sold so poorly. Customers need Flash on their devices.

Mark Cooper

May 16th, 2010

Khurt, this isn’t about laziness, this is about freedom and efficiency. Designers/developers should have the freedom to decide the best way to code, and the best way to use their time efficiently.

If I can figure out a way to create badass cross-platform apps for the iPhone and Android with a lot of the same code, I should have the freedom to do so.

Apple has every right to enforce quality and performance. Dictating how apps should be built doesn’t accomplish this – a lot of terrible apps in the App Store are written in Cocoa.

Here’s a great email exchange between Jobs and a Gawker editor that captures the whole argument – definitely read the actual emails at the bottom.

http://bit.ly/bu64cI

EWW

May 16th, 2010

@Shetil

“Anyone that agrees with Steve Jobs surely cannot be a developer. Because developers know that sharing code between different platforms and projects is a good thing.”

Really? I’m a developer and I understand where Apple is coming from. “Code sharing” is fine, but what happens when you have an API or feature in one product that’s not available in another? What do you do if you want to have common code across products? Right – you go for the lowest common denominator and “reduce” the use of features that are specific to that device so you can have uniform code?

Now, that’s fine for an individual developer, but let’s say you abstract that a bit. You have you (developer) using a tool that is taking the “lowest common denominator” / shared code approach (Flash) written by another developer (Adobe) and then you want to use it to write for iPhone or Android or WinMo 7 for that matter. YOU are being forced into the uniform code model and have no choice but to adhere to common practices and approaches that reduce your ability to really leverage the platform. Let’s say the Android SDK allows you to do something and it’s years before Adobe rolls around to updating their tools to support or allow that feature. Maybe it’s the geolocation API or whatever and you REALLY want to use that for your app and that’s a feature that’s just not supported through the middleware dev tools (Flash). How long are you going to wait around for Adobe to update their tool before you break down and just “go native” as it were? Who are you going to blame then? The target product team (Apple, Google, Microsoft) or the middle ware dev tool provider (Adobe)?.

There are a few things this article just ignores:

1) Adobe has taken AGES to get their act together. That coupled with Apple’s experience relying on middleware tool providers (and thereby adding more time to product feature uptake) has already burned both Apple _and_ developers. Apple is fighting a life and death war for the future of the app market and doesn’t want to be dependent on another company when it comes to their features or schedule. Period.

2) Apple sells based on their features vs. the competition. That’s one of their core principles. Anything that puts that principle at risk must be crushed. You really think Apple wants to compromise one of their main strengths by letting Adobe govern the feature set / user experience? Not a chance.

Jeez. It’s just a single product in highly competitive market that is only going to grow. Nobody is forcing people to even bother with it. Go code for Android or WinMo7 if you really want to use Flash. A company isn’t a democracy and nobody can force Apple to do something just because they have some sort of philosophical notion that “freedom of choice must be available.” Apple seems to be doing just fine going with the “control” route. In fact, I’d argue that it’s helping them move out of “computers” into “consumer electronics.” Notice how it’s “Apple” now and not “Apple Computer?”

P.S. – before you shout “fanboy!” (a great argument) I code almost exclusively on varieties of Windows using MS-provided tools. I actually don’t even use Apple tools any more and haven’t for almost ten years. Occasionally I dip into PHP, Python, and Java, but – I drink the blue kool-aid. Rant at me about how much I love VS.NET over Eclipse (NetBeans is pretty nice). :)

Tom

May 16th, 2010

I have “great” news for you!

Flash is dead! Don’t you see this?

Windows Mobile 7 is not supporting Flash.
Apple OS is not supporting Flash.

Flash is SEO unfriendly.
Not everybody has installed Flash.

So I think, it’s just a while, until Flash will be something like IE6.

And Adobe? Their starting to place Flash everywhere – into inDesign, they made Flash Catalyst and so on. In my opinion Adobe is making great mistake. They should develop Flash to higher level or deprecat it.

Tom.

Bobby

May 16th, 2010

@shetil There is a difference between the compiled flash apps and native ones. Adobe has an FAQ explaining the limitations but no one seems to read it. Here’s my friends two cents on it: http://www.popularfront.com/posts/adobe-hearts-apple-just-not-quality-iphone-experiences/
In my opinion the flash cross compilier was kind of a piece and I would’ve been embarrassed to write an app using it.

Ryan

May 16th, 2010

Apple hasn’t had Flash at all on the iPhone and it’s been perfectly fine without it.

Their decision doesn’t hurt anyone except Flash developers that only know Flash and nothing else.

Pankaj

May 16th, 2010

@Jose
Its not about how many products they have sold.
Am just quoting what Jobs said that he wanted to replace netbooks with iPads
He cant do that with a device which costs 3 times the price. And doesnt have “FLASH” and lot of other things which will take some time to mention. Flash can reduce the difference in between a netbook and iPad marginally, but it certainly can. Plus the pros are much more in my opinion than the cons.

Jim

May 16th, 2010

The only people who appear to care about Flash, and the decisions Apple has made about it are Adobe and nerdy tech writers who can’t come up with something better to write about.

As for the rest of the world, we could care less about how you create an app, nor do we care about having Flash on our phones – which is proven by the sales figures of all the phones (not just iPhone) that don’t support Flash.

Jim

May 16th, 2010

Oh, and that comment about developers don’t like to be told what to do at the end of the article; that really cracks me up. We all know that you need consumers more than consumers need you.

In case you were picking your nose through business 101 in school, the market creates the demand, and you supply it – or you don’t make money and we still find someone who will.

Pffftt.

Shetil

May 16th, 2010

@Jose Galdamez

You just echoing the view of Steve Jobs, “My way or the highway”. But I rather want choice by myself, based on my requirements and needs, which approach that fits me the best.

And I have coded enough to know that “write once and run everywhere” doesn’t work. That said, application across platform can still share a lot of code.

@Bobby
There are limitations, but for a subset of applications Actionscript could be a good fit.

You state “I would’ve been embarrassed to write an app using it” and I ask you why? I rather say that reuse of existing code and expertise is the smart way of doing software development.

Freddy

May 16th, 2010

This article really made me laugh there are a lot of major platforms that you must use the development tools provided by the vendor and only there tools. Just to name a few popular ps3, xbox360 and the wii. Also can you build native windows mobile apps with flash? Any .net code with flash?

If you are a real coder you know if you want to develop for a platform learn the tools and language used. This is just a bunch of half ass flash developers crying about having to do what real developers do.

Shetil

May 16th, 2010

@EWW

The arguments you use against cross platform development can also be used on native applications to some extend.

“what happens when you have an API or feature in one product that’s not available in another?”
This can also be said about the different generations of iPhones.

“YOU are being forced into the uniform code model and have no choice but to adhere to common practices and approaches that reduce your ability to really leverage the platform.”
Same for different generations of iPhone.

“How long are you going to wait around for Adobe to update their tool before you break down and just “go native” as it were?”
The guys behind MonoTouch (Framework for using .Net code on iPhone) used a few days to implement the new API from Apples latest SDK.

Again, it should be up to me as a developer to choice which approach is the best. Sometimes an application is best done with Apples SDK, other times the best solution could be MonoTouch or Actionscript.

Mak

May 16th, 2010

@Andy

I’m really sorry to hear that you are personally sick of other peoples opinions – could you stop posting about people whining about flash and drop it already?

Paolo

May 16th, 2010

I love my macbook, it rocks. But to say that this move has everything to do with quality and nothing to do with control is simply blind. Steve would like everyone to bow down to his view of what we should see and how we should consume media. He might get some people to follow him as well, but he will always be a niche player with that attitude.

Look at the terms on the SDK for collecting advertising information and then see the articles about the million dollar minimum for iphone advertising. Then hit yourself in the head and say: “I see it now. All he wanted was control of all that money.”

sowhat

May 16th, 2010

“Mark Cooper is the CEO and co-founder of Frontal, an open source markup and scripting language that generates Flash.”

nothing more to say…

Tai

May 16th, 2010

Shutting out the competition is a business decision that Apple made concerning Flash. They have the right, but its simply a poor move on their part.

Google Android and open-source will prevail. Apple, in the end, will have to come around. Flash is simply to powerful and universal to ignore.

Jordan Walker

May 17th, 2010

Seems to me that Google has been doing an excellent job lately.

Dev

May 17th, 2010

For everyone who is basically making the argument that developers and designers should get to decide what language they code in, my simple question is ‘What world do you live in?’

If we divorce this from the emotions of Flash vs Apple, this is analogous to a producer of, say, hub caps (or ‘rimz’ or spinners, if you want to be all Pimp My Ride) bidding for a contract from BMW by saying, “Actually, we had a look at your specs and, despite the fact that you make the cars and we only make the bits that stick onto the tyres, we don’t really want to design a product that meets your needs. What we really want to design is a product that meets our current talent and capacity and we think that you should change your entire production chain to fit the product that we want to offer you.”

Whether Apple or Adobe are proven right in five years’ time hardly matters. What matters is that, at this very moment in time, when I’m pretty sure that every industrial economy is in the toilet and jobs are pretty thin on the ground, Apple’s various platforms present a potential customer base for an app designer and that leaves two choices: you either meet their needs or you accept that they’ll never be your customer.

Otherwise, all you’re doing is howling outside those BMW offices that they’ll rue the day they didn’t start making the square tyres that fit your beautifully-designed cube hubcaps.

wolfkin

May 17th, 2010

The decision to shutout developers from using third party tools is akin to requiring artists to use GarageBand in order to have their music sold on iTunes.

An interesting analogy but I think wrong. It’s more like if 98% of music artists started using only auto-tune only on their music and samples instead of instruments. Then Universal said “No on our label we’re only taking on artists who use actual instruments and sing”. There’s still what four other labels if you want to make auto-tune, but universal has decided that auto-tune which is supposed to be a fine tuning control instrument shouldn’t become someone’s voice. So I gotta side with Khurt on this one.

Paul Neave

May 17th, 2010

What exactly prevents developers from learning how to make apps both for the iPhone AND Andriod? I’m a Flash developer, but I’m also learning how to make iPhone OS apps. It’s more time consuming but I’m learning new things, and that’s a good thing. I don’t see this as a wholly polarizing situation as you’re making it out to be.

Richard Millward

May 17th, 2010

Paul, that’s the most common sense post I’ve seen on this whole godforsaken thread. Good for you. You’re first and foremost a DEVELOPER, not a Flash Developer, and you’re stretching your own skills to meet the needs of the market and the supplier, rather than whining about how your knowledge of square hubcaps doesn’t meet Apple’s round tire design.

I have no sympathy – NONE – for developers who stamp their little feet and pound their little fists because their skills are no longer in demand. Welcome to the business, kids.

(I also have an incredibly low tolerance for “pundits” who author articles on tech blogs and conceal their professional affiliations for the small print at the end. How about admitting UP FRONT your livelihood depends on the continued market penetration of Flash before we have to slog through 500 words defending the status quo?)

Jacob Gube

May 17th, 2010

@Richard Millward: I don’t think it was concealed at all. His bio is highlighted in gray, right beside a bright orange avatar. Hard to miss unless you’re using a screen reader (even then, his bio isn’t concealed).

Chad

May 17th, 2010

I really don’t see the problem with this. Apple doesn’t like flash because it is slow. They can support whoever they like. Nintendo doesn’t support Xbox or Playstation, and is anybody upset?? No. Nor should anyone be upset Apple chooses not to support Flash.

Mike James

May 17th, 2010

There are two sub-issues here.

“Should Apple be allowed to do this”
Sure, they should be allowed to do anything they want.. It’s not like they are a monopoly or anything. Give Jobs the freedom to do what he wants.

“Should Apple do this”
Uh no. In my opinion it is just bad business to alienate your development community. dictating that devs use a specific language/compiler/etc is insane.. Especially when that is Objective-C .. This is one of the worst languages to come along. Just bad business.. iPhone had a good run.. They have fallen behind, and will lose more and more as devs leverage better technology on Android, WP7 and even WebOS
Eventually the iPhone wont have the benefit of having the best apps.. What is left (even on iPhone 4) is an out of date phone on the worst network in the country.

smithap

May 17th, 2010

very good article. I support Flash being blocked on Apple Safari’ Mobile Platform. but then forcing developers to use certain set of tools to develop for iphone/ipad is kinda too much. Apps are what made iphone so hot. now if the process of developing those very apps is made hard then who would invest in it any more…. apple is repeating history once again.

Darren

May 17th, 2010

“So, until Adobe can demonstrate a version of Flash that meets reasonable performance expectations on the mobile version of Safari, I think Apple’s stance is justified”

Yes, the first part is perfectly reasonable. But Steve Jobs has not taken this approach. He has said, an unqualified, ‘No, never’. So to attribute this reasonable attitude to Apple is misleading.

Najam Siddiqi

May 18th, 2010

I also dont think it was canceled

awicks44

May 18th, 2010

Prohibiting IPhone app creation through flash is just one limitation. There is still free reign to create apps using apple’s framework which was the initial purpose anyways. Yes, the desire for control is there, but Jobs is also keeping the integrity of his product. One would think that people (particularly developers) wouldn’t have such an issue with this. Learning new languages, frameworks, and concepts is one of the great things about being a developer in the first place.

Amber Weinberg

May 18th, 2010

“or the FTC and Justice Dept do it for the company”

- not to get political on anyone, but isn’t Steve Jobs free to do whatever he wants with HIS company? You don’t like it, don’t buy the products. This is a free country and the govt shouldn’t be allowed to tell me what I can or can’t offer in my company….China anyone??

Milo Lamar

May 18th, 2010

This article does seem a bit paranoid, as if it’s coming from someone who doesn’t want to do anything except Flash. Flash isn’t the best framework to use imo. It has always had end-user compatibility issues and performance issues.

It seems much easier and safer to block Flash than allow programs that would potentially ruin end-user experience. You can argue that winning developers results in more apps and in turn results in more users, but I’d have to disagree if the apps are slow and annoying to use.

Najeeb Puthiyallam

May 19th, 2010

I really hate using Flash and visiting Flash Websites.. It makes my browser freezed.. I wonder why people, i mean Web designers not other creative designers like for presentaion making like stuff still want to use FLASH for websites when we have great great HTML5 !!!! i guess those guys must not aware of whats goin on current web world.. Dude HTML5 is awesome it can play Videos Sounds whateva its all in HTML format.. So i really support Steve Jobs decision coz am a Front-End Developer.. Plz open your eyes and lets get rid of FLASH for web development.. FLASH IS GREAT PRODUCT FOR PRESENTATION WHICH WE WANT TO TRANSFER FROM PC TO PC THRU CD OR SOMETHING BUT ITS NOT A PRODUCT FOR WEB DEVELOPMENT… !!!!

chaz

May 20th, 2010

To my knowledge, Apple does not allow Flash because it encourages piracy of apps. I’m not sure how Google has tamed pirates (or if they even care) but a smaller company like Apple probably cannot afford to the loss to piracy or even third party stores for that matter. As popular as the iPhone is, imagine if everyone (or even a large portion) of users decided to bypass the App Store and download every App of a normal website. Whether the site was legit or not, it wouldn’t be good for Apple or developers.

john

May 20th, 2010

I think flash is a pain in the but especially on linux or BSD platforms. People are annoyed at having to run an emulator to get it to work.

Bruce

May 21st, 2010

I also dont think it was canceled

TJB

May 21st, 2010

Nice concise article.
As a developer who works with several microsoft technologies, I’d like to comment that MS is very good to developers. Nobody is as dedicated as they are to making great tools for developers (just look @ visual studio, nothing even comes close) and they do offer lots of free versions of their tools(e.g. visual studio express). Apple may appeal more to end users, but MS is a developer’s best friend

unique font

May 23rd, 2010

I guess, the javascript will be dominant rather than flash

Goran Gligorin

May 25th, 2010

I read the entire Jobs’s letter about not supporting Flash and I still have mixed feelings about it. On one side, as you say, it limits what to use for app development. On the other hand Flash not being up to date to develop apps with all the functionality that Apple’s platforms can give also limits the developers.
I’ve tried making apps for iPhone and I’m not a fan of low level programming. But that’s exactly what Objective-C is. In my opinion Apple should provide an alternative higher level programming language for developing their apps. Maybe Java or C# libraries if not entire frameworks modified for iPhone/iPad/iPod platforms.
That’s my view on Flash for apps. Flash in Safari though is another matter. I stand here, although a bit wobbly, on the side of not supporting it. As a web developer I’m keen to see HTML5 and CSS3 to spread as fast as possible and I think this will contribute a bit to that. Using these two technologies combined with JavaScript gives developers a very very very powerful set of tools. If those damn out-of-date IE browsers would just die already and Microsoft would develop a competitive up-to-standards browser we would see some things that would just blow our minds.

Why

May 26th, 2010

Apple products may look cool, but Apple doesn’t act cool.

Lisa Thomason

August 22nd, 2010

We prefer to use Javascript over Flash unless the client won’t budge. LT

Stefan Brink

September 15th, 2010

The choice to ban Flash from the iPhone browser is not such a good choice as was the choice they made to ban Flash for app development. Steve is not at his best lately. He has started a war he cannot win and has put himself in a weak spot. Google on the other hand is expanding like the ancient Romans did! Why? They deliver what we want. As ex-iPhone user I can say that the iPhone is a perfect phone, for my KIDS. We want control over our smartphone and Google delivers.

Freek

September 15th, 2010

Ever since i’ve seen a specific flash cms at work I am a total hoockup for flash. A pity that it doesn’t show the flash version on the iphone, but the html version is a perfect solution. Like Mark I hope that open platforms will win!

WC

September 29th, 2010

The move to block it from the browser was a smart one indeed, and for those that feel not having flash ruins their browsing experience, that is simply wrong.

Kim

December 14th, 2010

That just does not make any sense to me at all all. Perhaps they are getting too big for their own good.

manpan

January 11th, 2011

I think one reason Apple won’t support Flash that is often overlooked is Apple QuickTime lost the battle for video streaming on the Internet to Adobe’s Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash) long ago. Sure QuickTime web streaming (in browser) is still possible Flash became the popular format of choice for doing so In response Apple proposed the new canvas tag that is part of HTML5 which would serve to neutralize Adobe’s Flash as the leading video format on the internet. With the canvas tag video can be played in the browser without the need for proprietary plug-ins (like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight).

There is also the argument by Adobe that Apple is protecting its revenue sources (if Flash were allowed on iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch then more people would play Flash games and applications rather than buying apps from Apple’s App Store for iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad.

Also Apple lost a platform war for desktop PC market share to Microsoft. If applications are developed in the open HTML 5 format this also levels the playing field between Apple’s Mac OS and Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Microsoft would no longer enjoy the benefits of a much larger market share to attract developers to its platform. HTML5 obviously also moves value away from PCs where MSFT rules and into the cloud where Google rules. So HTML5 hurts Microsoft dearly. This is why Microsoft is dragging its feet with HTML5 support for Internet Explorer. As an aside, this is also why we’re experiencing a second browser war after MSFT had already won. Firefox, Safari, and Chrome are accelerating the move into the cloud with JavaScript, CSS and HTML improvements while Internet Explorer is slowing it down with its lengthy upgrade cycles (IE6 still enjoys a 20% share almost 5 years after IE7 was launched!) and slow adoption of new web standards.

Sure HTML 5 gives Google some cloud based advantages but it helps Apple neutralize very important disadvantages.

Of course this begs the question that couldn’t HTML 5 based web apps hurt Apple’s App Store: Well HTML 5 is still a very new format and it would take a while for interest in native apps to die if ever (and for native apps to lose dominance to web apps) giving Apple ample time to innovate and find other ways to differentiate its devices. Standards are good, but their deployment process is slow. There is still a debate on what video format HTML5 will support, as an example. These delays enable device manufacturers to innovate beyond the standard and launch additional proprietary features and APIs to differentiate their platforms.

Haze

March 28th, 2011

This whole debate is silly iPhones and iPod touch all can be jailbroken then you still have the quality. Plus u can have multiple ui’s. I have a jailbroken iPod touch with stood software and cydia (almost a remake of apples lame software) you are waisting your time complaining. Go inStall greenpoison then u have a quality product with a very open ui interface

dc3304

April 16th, 2011

I’m not technically informed about this; but, I can’t use the Amazon Prime Instant Video Service on my expensive Ipad because of Apple’s ban on Flash. I DON’T LIKE IT!!!!

Nathan

May 4th, 2011

Flash is awesome. And i think the apple devices can handle it. But jobs is just going against his commercials. Mac is the stuffy fat businessman and PC is the businessman who allows flash and likes FPSs

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