/ miscellany:

“no pleasure endures unseasoned by variety”—Publilius Syrus

Stick It To ‘Em: Steve Jobs Responds to
Mobile vs Adobe Flash


I could easily be accused of partisanship on the side of Apple. I’m a die-hard Mac-head and an iPhone addict. But in this case, Steve Jobs’ recent rebuttal to the ongoing mobile Flash support debate offers the most compelling arguments I’ve yet heard on the subject.

I like Flash. It does some cool things. My own design + development company has used it extensively over the years. But as SEO becomes a higher priority to our small entrepreneurial clients, we have begun to move away from it in favor of JavaScript/CSS/HTML (though we still love SiFR to render branded, system-agnostic typography–without the mobile device/SEO penalty). Not to mention that, as a closed system requiring a very specialized skill-set, professional-grade Flash developers are much scarcer than their HTML-based counterparts. It’s also harder to pass on a Flash/ActionScript code base to new vendors, and it’s typically more expensive to execute and more unwieldy to maintain, particularly when used in conjunction with a Content Management System.

I have a considerable financial investment in ppc company the Adobe software suites that are crucial to running my business. But as a compulsive iPhone user, I’m only occasionally frustrated by the lack of Flash support, though to such a negligible extent as to be almost irrelevant. And although widespread adoption of newer technologies like HTML5 is still a ways away, I’ve begun to lean towards Steve’s point of view.

Though I found his points regarding “Touch” user interfaces extremely compelling, one could argue that DHTML navigation (as much as I f’ing hate it) suffers similar disadvantages as Flash on a touch-screen device. Moreover, his arguments do side-step the glaring fact that, despite Google’s embracement of more “open,” non-Flash technologies, Flash is supported on their own Andorid mobile operating system. But friends don’t let friends drive Androids (and most definitely not BlackBerries) ;-)


I’m just a graphic design guy in love with user-friendly Interface design and Information Architecture, so I’m by no means an expert on the mobile Flash debate. I’m sure many of you could counter with your own, more well-informed arguments. And of course Jobs by definition must promote his own agenda–but his recent, uncharacteristically open rebuttals make a lot of sense without coming across aggressive or excessively partisan.

Read Steve Jobs’ thoughts on Flash vs Mobile Devices here.

In the spirit of non-partisanship (and humility in admission of my own incomplete grasp of the subject), fill in the gaps in my arguably tenable position by commenting below.

  1. Saturday 05.01.2010 | 9:21 EDT

    Johnnie says:

    KPH makes the point we all need to keep in mind in assessing any large firm’s restrictive-by-choice architectures and that is – business is king. With the MSFT, GOOG, APPL s of the world it’s all about shareholder value. And again with them, free is a loss leader.

    Case in point a recent NYorker article talked about the iPad vs Kindle biz models. Apparently, Jobs is being lauded by publishers for making deals with them that don’t cut them out by going directly to authors like Amazon. Hurrah SJ right for preserving the publishing biz right ? The agreement has a 2 year cap after which all is fair game. Enough time that is for a firm of Apple’s resources to take a huge chunk of market share and populate iBooks with as many titles as Amazon.

    Just sayin’ So in the end, controlling demand is the way to get the “right” outcomes for users. So what’dya say, shall we all switch to Droids? Eeeehmmm you first….i love my iPhone ;-)

  2. Saturday 05.01.2010 | 12:16 EDT

    kph says:

    I have very bad news for all of the Applephiles out there – this is pure business, and you should be a little scared. It is so very comical to listen to Jobs say that the biggest issue is that Flash is “closed and proprietary”, when Apple’s entire stack is closed and proprietary itself. Here’s the real reason they don’t want Flash: Apple wants absolute and complete control of everything that goes onto their devices, and that means that the applications that install on iPhones and iPads *must* use the programming languages and API’s that Apple endorses. Flash would allow developers to skirt these restrictions and use Adobe’s API’s, and Apple sees this as a risk because they don’t have control of them and can’t fully account for them.

    This is but the tip of the iceberg, however. Presently, if you are using a desktop/laptop/notebook from any vendor, you can purchase software from a multitude of vendors that have written the software using any number of programming languages (this is true for Macs, Windows, Linux, you name it.) You do not need permission from the hardware or software vendor of your notebook to install the software; if you pay for it/download it and it’s been written for your OS, you can have at it. What Apple has done with the iPhone and iPad is control two fundamental things:

    1. What apps are made available for install on their devices (via the App Store)
    2. What development tools can be used to build iPhone/iPad apps

    If you haven’t heard of apps being denied by the Apple police, read this: http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/04/mark-fiore-can-win-a-pulitzer-prize-but-he-cant-get-his-iphone-cartoon-app-past-apples-satire-police/ . If you’d like to get a developer’s perspective on why controlling programing languages and API’s is “evil”, have a look at this: http://www.taoeffect.com/blog/2010/04/steve-jobs-response-on-section-3-3-1/ . Apple is proving itself to be no different that Microsoft of old, and sadly those end users that bought into Apple as the anti-Microsoft have been willing to look the other way because of the brand. Yuck.

    As a software developer, I find Job’s attempt to “explain” the situation with Flash so transparently convenient I want to smack him. The conclusion had been set – no Flash. He simply needed to come up with a halfway-coherent sounding justification for that conclusion and present it as if the justification lead him to the conclusion as opposed to the other way around. How silly.

    If Apple wants to actually be “open” and not just talk about it, then it should read Google’s short manifesto here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/meaning-of-open.html . Google, which has done more than its fair share of evil things (i.e. censoring search in China) actually sat down and thought about their core values and *did something about it*.

    Have fun,


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