Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch Defends Flash, Warns HTML5 Will Throw The Web "Back To The Dark Ages Of Video"

Adobe’s Flash technology has been taking a beating lately. Apple still won’t support it on its upcoming iPad or its iPhone. Steve Jobs calls it buggy and crash-prone and dismisses Adobe as being lazy. Adobe is trying to fight the negative vibes emanating from Cupertino and elsewhere. It has already pointed out that it will be easy to convert Flash apps into iPad apps, and now CTO Kevin Lynch is weighing in to defend Flash.

In a blog post today, Lynch addresses the two major threats to Flash: Apple’s refusal to support it on mobile touchscreen devices and the rise of HTML5 as a new, open standard which may one day replace Flash. On Apple, Lynch says Adobe is ready and able to put Flash on the iPhone, the iPad or anything else Apple can throw its way. But, as has been the case for more than a year, the ball is in Apple’s court:

We are ready to enable Flash in the browser on these devices if and when Apple chooses to allow that for its users, but to date we have not had the required cooperation from Apple to make this happen.

Lynch points out that the next version of Flash for smartphones, 10.1, is about to become available and that practically all other smartphones will support it, including Android, Blackberry, Nokia, and Palm Pre. If they can handle it, why can’t an iPhone?

But the bigger long-term threat to Flash is HTML5, especially for rendering video. Lynch says that 75 percent of video on the Web currently is shown in a Flash player. That number could decline if HTML5 video starts to take off. Google (via YouTube, Chrome, and other products) and others are pushing HTML5 hard. Lynch tries to pretend that HTML5 is not a threat, saying in the same breadth that Adobe supports HTML5, but its incompatibilities across browsers spells doom for the Web. He writes:

Adobe supports HTML and its evolution and we look forward to adding more capabilities to our software around HTML as it evolves. If HTML could reliably do everything Flash does that would certainly save us a lot of effort, but that does not appear to be coming to pass. Even in the case of video, where Flash is enabling over 75% of video on the Web today, the coming HTML video implementations cannot agree on a common format across browsers, so users and content creators would be thrown back to the dark ages of video on the Web with incompatibility issues.

HTML5 is still a young technology, and those incompatibility issues can be solved over time. Flash is still a more capable technology when it comes to rendering video, but HTML5 is advancing faster and as a native Web standard it has many other advantages which may help it win over time.

Adobe is in a battle for developers, who buy its Creative Suite software to make Flash apps. As long as Flash is the de facto standard for video and animation on the Web, those sales will not be threatened. But if Flash developers migrate to other technologies to build better apps for the Web and mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, Adobe’s competitive position will be weakened. It will defend Flash to the death.

Photo credit: Flickr/Bill Tyne.