Steve Jobs tells the world just what he thinks of Flash

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Once upon a time there were two little boys, Apple and Adobe. Back when they were kids, they used to hang out, play kick-the-can, and generally lived in harmony. But one day Apple got sick and Adobe met some new kids and the two drifted apart. Now that they’re all grown up, Apple wouldn’t spare Adobe the steam of his coffee and their interests, though not divergent, are no longer really friendly. Think of it as A Separate Peace but with multi-national conglomerates.

That’s how Steve Jobs sees his company’s relationship to Adobe and, in an odd letter to the world he lays out what he thinks of Flash. He begins:

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues. Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain.

Whoa! He’s bringing out the “Open” argument right away. That should get some dander up. Isn’t Apple the most closed company in the world? If you ignore the fact that OS X is built over the Mach kernel and has its roots in FreeBSD, sure, Apple is closed as a cucumber. However, if you also understand, as Steve points out, that Adobe controls pricing, availability, and product enhancement while Apple’s choice of mobile weapons, HTML5, CSS, and Javascript, are completely open.

Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.

Jobs also mentions security (“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.”) but let’s not go there.

“Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on “rollovers”, which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?”

So generally, Steve says Flash sucks and I tend to agree. Is it right that millions of Flash developers out there can’t make their stuff in Flash for the iPad? Heck no. But is it right that I have to suffer painful rickets every time I visit a Flash site on my PC because of memory problems and poor programming? Probably not, either.

Jobs has his own agenda. Amen to that. Adobe has theirs. But don’t paint this as an open vs. free argument or a battle of the fanboys: Apple picked their side because Flash, in their opinion, is not for their mobile products. If you want Flash, get you some Android and leave Steve alone.

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