Adobe, the maker of Flash, has yanked its availability for Android today, officially marking the end of mobile Flash for all devices. This gives a victory to the late Steve Jobs, who decided in 2007 that Flash was a bloated, insecure, battery and processor killing piece of outdated technology which didn’t belong on mobile devices like the iPhone. He took things a step further a few years later, publishing an open letter called “Thoughts on Flash” which detailed why believed the aging technology should be put to bed in favor of newer formats like HTML 5. But Adobe pushed forward with Flash nonetheless, releasing it for Android devices. Some Android hardware vendors even went so far as to run television ad campaigns based around the fact that Android had Flash while the iPhone and iPad didn’t. But in the end it turned out that Jobs’ negative predictions for mobile Flash turned out to be true on Android: it was slow, buggy, ate up battery power in unrealistic fashion, caused devices to crash, and was considered a disaster. Earlier this year Adobe announced that it was discontinuing Flash development for Android and all other mobile platforms, but it wasn’t until today that Flash was finally yanked from being available for download…
Flash is far from the only aging technology which Jobs single handedly put out to pasture. In 1998 he decided that the floppy drive’s time had come and gone, and removed it from apple’s first iMac computer. The move was considered controversial, as tech insiders predicted that its omission would cause the new computer to flop. Instead the iMac was a huge hit, putting the then-beleaguered Apple back in business, and within a few years the floppy had also disappeared from most PC computers. Some of these same tech insiders insisted that the lack of Flash on the iPhone would mean the demise not of Flash but of the iPhone itself, claiming that Jobs was omitting the technology for various supposedly underhanded reasons. But the demise of Flash on Android and mobile in general, for the reasons which he laid out years ago for not bothering to include it on the iPhone in the first place, has given him one more victory – albeit this one posthumous. HTML 5 development on the iPhone and Android platforms continues, even as major video sites like YouTube continue to phase out their Flash content. Flash still exists for traditional computers like Mac and Windows, but at this rate one must wonder for how much longer.
by Bill Palmer
Adobe has discontinued its much maligned Mobile Flash Player software for smartphones and tablets, after years of bizarrely pushing forward with the notion the the 1990s-era web development tool still had a place in the twenty-first century long after the internet had passed it by. But just when it was starting to look like Adobe finally figured out what everyone else had known about Flash for decade, the company had to go and crush that notion by stating that it only killed mobile Flash because Apple’s refusal to allow the buggy and resource-hogging plugin onto its iPhone and iPad. In other words, Adobe never did figure out that Flash is an obsolete piece of crap. Instead it merely figured out that it wasn’t going to win the battle against Apple. Adobe says it still plans to carry on with the delusion that Flash has a future on traditional computers like Macs and Windows PCs, even as public pressure mounts for Flash to be eradicated from website development entirely. The anti-Flash movement has now been personified in the form of a website called “Occupy Flash” in a nod to the Occupy Wall Street movement, and housed at occupyflash.org, the site makes a case for why Flash must go.
Although it’s not often talked about, the primary reason Flash is still used on web development at all is because a certain crop of veteran web developers were trained in Flash years ago and are lack either the open mindedness or the skills to transition to its modern replacements like HTML5. As such, these dinosaurs continue to foist Flash upon unwitting clients, who have no idea that their Flash-laden website is a pariah to potential visitors. Flash-based sites can’t be indexed by search engines which means they’re unlikely to be found in the first place, and visitors are subjects to a crash-prone Flash plugin which can take down their entire browser, can tie up all the internal resources of their computer and grind other background apps to a halt, and expose their computer to malware. But use of Flash continues in some circles because most website owners don’t know enough to insist that the developers they hire not use Flash, or to avoid hiring developers who don’t know how to code in anything more modern than Flash. A few years before his death, Steve Jobs wrote a lengthy public letter explaining that he wasn’t allowing Mobile Flash onto the iPhone or iPad for the benefit of users. For a moment this week, it appeared that Adobe finally got around to reading it. But with Adobe execs having since admitted that it killed Mobile Flash merely because it couldn’t work around Apple and not because it figured out that Flash is an outdated joke, Adobe now appears as clueless as ever. Either that, or it’s so worried about alienating the dinosaur developers who still use Flash that it doesn’t care about the negative effects on the future of the internet. In any case, the rise of the “Occupy Flash” movement appears to be a sign that the public has finally had it with the obsolete technology, perhaps finally putting obsolete developers on notice.
by Bill Palmer
Goodbye, Flash. Hello to the iPad 3 era in which the modern internet is built on HTML5 technology instead. Adobe, which owns Flash, discontinued the Mobile Flash Player today, bringing to an end the company’s failed attempts to deliver the obsolete website technology to mobile devices. The iPad and iPhone refused to display Flash at all, with the late Steve Jobs having cited the buggy, slow, resource-eating, insecure, crash-prone, battery-eating nature of Flash. Competing tablets and smartphones displayed Flash, but did so poorly. Apple claimed that HTML5 was the future, as the new technology could be used to develop website components which had previously been done in Flash, and could do so in a much improved manner. In an attempt to confuse the issue, several Android tablets marketed Flash as a feature, citing the fact that the iPad didn’t have it, while neglecting to point out how poorly Flash ran on Android. But those days are over now, as Adobe has killed mobile Flash and proclaimed that Jobs was right all along, and HTML 5 is the answer. This also means the end of Flash on Macs and PCs, although that’ll take time. But Flash will begin disappearing from websites at a faster rate in general now, meaning that by the time the iPad 3 sees its release date, Flash will be fading fast…
Many major websites have alternate mobile versions which automatically display on smartphones, and most of those mobile sites are already Flash-free thanks to Apple’s anti-mobile-Flash stance going back to 2007. But mobile sites are often bypassed, and don’t typically show up on tablets at all. In other words, devices like the iPad tend to display the same web page as a user would see on a Mac or PC. That already placed pressure on website owners not to use Flash, but as it’s a pet favorite of lazy web developers who don’t want to have to learn new tricks like HTML5, Flash has continued to be used by developers to whatever extent they can get away with it. But it’ll be harder for developers to pull a fast one one site owners now that word is spreading that mobile Flash no longer even exists. And since Flash can no longer be used on any websites which tablet users visit, that means it can no longer be used on any websites at all. It’ll take some time for that transition to play out; even though it should have happened years ago, the internet is vast and some web developers will continue to stand by Flash (because it’s the only tool they know how to code in) to the bitter end. But by the time the iPad 3 sees its release date in 2012, large chunks of the Flash-based internet will have gone by the wayside, forcing modern HTML5 onto the scene in a way which could help the internet make its biggest technical strides in some time.
Apple is sitting on enough cash on hand to buy several of its competitors and have enough left over to buy several small nations. No, really. Seventy-eight billion dollars in cash is an alarming amount of rainy-day savings, and while Steve Jobs says the company is saving it for when it really wants to put it to good use rather than frittering it away in the mean time, there are several ways in which Apple could put that moola to use right now which might benefit the company. From former friend Adobe, to future partner Sprint, to little-understood Hulu, to competitors HTC and Samsung, here’s a look at five companies Apple could acquire right now for cash, along with the pros and cons of each.
Hulu: This site streams free ad-supported episodes of popular TV shows and was created by the television studios in an attempt to weaken Apple’s power at the iTunes bargaining table.
Pros: It would eliminate a competitor which was specifically designed to harm it, and it would gain the favorable contracts the TV studios and networks gave Hulu back when they thought they were going to use it as a puppet. Apple could fold all of this into its existing iTunes TV efforts.
Cons: Hulu is little-understood outside of those who use it, and it’s having trouble finding advertisers. Apple would be buying a sinking ship in the hopes of scrapping it for parts. Here’s more on Apple buying Hulu.
Adobe: Apple and Adobe were best buds in the eighties, until the latter decided it would begin handicapping the Mac versions of its products like Photoshop to keep them dumbed down and “equal” to their Windows counterparts. Things got uglier recently when Adobe acquired the dying Flash technology as part of a larger merger, and inexplicably decided Flash is the future. Apple has since banned Flash from iPhone and iPad devices.
Pros: Apple could remove Flash from the Creative Suite and help cripple usage of Flash in future website development. Apple could also turn its own programmers loose on the Mac version of Creative Suite and turn it into the kind of amazing tool it would have been if Adobe hadn’t decided to kneecap it in order to avoid hurting Windows users’ feelings.
Cons: Apple would need to continue developing the Windows version of Creative Suite, or face the rise of a competing technology within that vacuum.
Sprint: Once AT&T finishes acquiring T-Mobile, Sprint will be the only U.S. carrier which doesn’t offer the iPhone now that Verizon also has the iPhone.
Pros: By acquiring Sprint, Apple could get the iPhone 5 onto the carrier on Apple’s terms. It could also transform Sprint into the kind of cellphone carrier which would be up to Apple’s usual standards, which otherwise does not exist in the United States.
Cons: Sprint will also soon be the only carrier without a 4G LTE network, so Apple would need to build one from scratch. Also, acquiring Sprint would royally tick off current iPhone 5 partners AT&T and Verizon, with the results being unpredictable.
HTC and Samsung: Both companies are faceless component manufacturing giants for hire. Both companies also make faceless Android based phones and tablets. Apple is also in the midst of suing both companies for having blatantly stolen iPhone and iPad technologies for use on their Android products.
Pros: Apple acquires one or both of these companies, and it suddenly has far more control over its own component supply chain. No more depending on the whim of a hated “partner” in order to get the next iPhone or iPad out the door on time.
Cons: Both Samsung and HTC have major business manufacturing and selling components to other phone and tablet companies, among other components. Apple would want no part of this and need to shut down and write off that side of either company’s business, which would represent a major loss to swallow. Not that Apple can’t afford it. Here’s more on the iPhone 5.
Microsoft is considering buying Adobe Systems, say the headlines. It’s an odd move, considering that Adobe’s twenty-first century innovation most closely resembles that of a rotting corpse; the company inexplicably thinks it can build the embarrassingly obsolete technology known as Flash into some kind of platform of the future, while the company’s near monopoly in creative pro software markets like Photoshop and Dreamweaver is the only reason it still exists. Microsoft has a nearly limitless amount of cash on hand, so buying Adobe (currently worth about fourteen billion on the open market) would be easy enough. But even Microsoft isn’t crazy enough to bet on Flash as being anything other than the bane of internet users everywhere, meaning that Microsoft is only after one thing: the creative pro market.
And it all makes sense: while Apple’s Macintosh marketshare has been growing significantly each quarter for the past several years, Windows still has majority marketshare in every single user category, except one. When it comes to creative professionals, Macs rule the market and always have. Even stodgy corporations with strict Windows-only policies elsewhere in the company still typically have a graphic design department full of nothing but Macs. But these users rely on Adobe products first and foremost, and the one surefire way to make them think twice about continuing to do their work on a Mac would be to cripple or even take away entirely their ability to use said Adobe products. Even as much as Adobe and Apple seem to hate each other these days, Adobe would never consider pulling the plug on the Mac versions of its core products, because the financial impact on Adobe would be nothing short of devastating. But if Adobe were to become a mere (financially) small subsidiary of Microsoft, ditching the Mac versions and throwing away sales to Mac users in the process wouldn’t be anything more than a rounding error in Microsoft’s bottom line.
Assuming Microsoft really is eyeing Adobe for the sake of trying to force the creative market onto Windows, rather than the insane notion of wanting to be the owner of the boat anchor known as Flash, Apple would do well to block the move at all costs – even if that means Apple buying Adobe itself. Based on market capitalization, Apple is nearly twenty times the size of Adobe, so a buyout would certainly be possible even though it wouldn’t likely be entirely in cash. Such a move would allow Apple to seize control over Adobe’s creative apps, perhaps even burying the Windows versions. With Apple consistently demonstrating a better understanding of software design than Adobe, apps like Photoshop would benefit from the polish of being in Apple’s hands, while Apple could finally kill off Flash (and win the adoration of internet users everywhere for being the one to put it out of its misery). On the other hand, there’s the question of whether killing off the Windows versions of Photoshop and Dreamweaver would be wise, as doing so would create a vacuum for competitors to thrive in when it comes to corporate environments in which creative professionals are being forced by policy to do their creative work on Windows PCs. As such, Apple might end up having to not only spread its resources thin to maintain the Mac versions of Adobe apps, but also invest resources in maintaining the Windows versions – a complete waste of time for Apple.
Still, Apple can’t allow Adobe’s creative apps to fall into the hands of rival Microsoft, even if the latter promised to continue development of the Mac versions (knowing Microsoft, they’d be crippled in one deniable manner or another). Although apps are looking like the future of computing, and desktop software is increasingly looking like the past, this is one instance in which Apple might have to invest in the past to protect itself in the present.
The iPhone and iPad don’t have the ability to play Flash content because Flash is a crappy, outdated, buggy, unsafe, battery-chewing, processor-killing piece of crap – so says Apple CEO Steve Jobs, if not in those exact words, then essentially with that sentiment. Web content makers are already abandoning Flash in favor of twenty-first century technologies like HTML 5, and it’s telling that the most common complaint about not being able to display Flash on an iPhone comes when the user is attempting to load the notoriously outdated MySpace. And while Flash maker Adobe begs to differ as it enthusiastically pushes the idea that Flash will soon be thriving on every mobile device except the iPhone and iPad, there’s bad news for Adobe on that front: a leading self-identified “geek” journalist has just declared Flash to be a disaster on his non-iPhone. In the words of Laptop Magazine’s Avram Piltch, “After spending time playing with Flash Player 10.1 on the new Droid 2, the first Android 2.2 phone to come with the player pre-installed, I’m sad to admit that Steve Jobs was right. Adobe’s offering seems like it’s too little, too late.”
Meanwhile, the iPhone and iPad have more than two hundred thousand third-party apps available through the App Store, none of which require Flash. While leading geeks have been confidently predicting the demise of the iPhone due to its lack of Flash support since 2007, and making the same claims about the iPad’s demise since before the product even officially existed, it now appears that geek sentiment toward Flash is finally starting to change now that the Flash-enabled Droid has fallen victim to exactly what Steve Jobs warned would happen to the iPhone if Flash were enabled on it. Not that the geek world has ever been a relevant driving force (positive or negative) when it’s come to the mainstream fate of either the iPhone or the iPad (the last time the geeks predicted success for an Apple product, it was the ultimately weak-selling Mac mini), but one has to wonder if, with even the geeks now turning against Adobe’s continued Flash debacle, what strategy will the company now adopt? Will Adobe finally give up the ghost of Flash, or will its head of PR merely continue referring to tech journalists as twerps and comparing Steve Jobs to Josef Stalin? Time will tell.
What initially appeared to be a mere rogue Adobe blogger has since revealed itself to be a much deeper problem for the corporate giant, as Adobe’s own PR Director referred to rival Apple as a “Stalinist regime” in an on the record exchange with Beatweek today – and may have inadvertently revealed that the Adobe blogger in question may have been hired specifically as a hatchet man for the purpose of attacking competitors and journalists by proxy and hiding behind the fact that the most egregious attacks come instead from a linked Twitter account.
John Dowdell, who blogs on Adobe.com and identifies himself as an Adobe employee, encountered an article in which Beatweek criticized Adobe’s Flash technology, and in response Mr. Dowdell publicly insinuated that Beatweek was being compensated by Apple for doing so. When we subsequently contacted Adobe’s PR department to inquire as to whether they were aware that one of their employees was committing libel against a journalist on Adobe’s behalf, Adobe’s own PR Director Russell Brady informed us that we would have to work it out with Mr. Dowdell directly, and went on to take a bizarre, random shot at Apple and Steve Jobs in the process:
“Thanks for your email. Adobe allows its employees to blog and tweet and our policy states that, when they do blog or Tweet, it is their views – not Adobe’s. It is one of the great things about our company – we are not run as a Stalinist regime.”
Mr. Brady also then went on to take a random cheap shot at another publication (not Beatweek), comparing them to Stalin’s state-run newspaper ‘Pravda.” And yes, this all came from the individual who, best we can tell from his “PR Director” title, is the top-ranking official public spokesman for Adobe.
Editor’s note from Beatweek Editor in Chief Bill Palmer: We get accused of various libelous lunatic conspiracies on a daily basis and we generally ignore them (for instance, in a week in which I had publicly asked the feds to investigate the questionable business practices of AT&T, someone still managed to accuse me of being on AT&T’s payroll after a comment I made about rival Verizon). The problem here is that the libelous accusation, however ridiculous, was made by an individual who’s been given the power to speak on Adobe’s behalf, about Adobe’s industry, using Adobe’s own official website to do so. The more I study Mr. Dowdell’s behavior, both on his blog and on his linked Twitter account (upon which he identifies himself as being an Adobe spokesman as clearly as possible), the more I’m left to wonder aloud whether the true reason that Adobe has hired him (and others in his position) is merely so that Adobe can lob public insults at competitors and journalists by proxy and seal itself off from being directly legally liable when those insults cross the legal line into libel.
If it sounds unbelievable that a sixteen billion dollar company like Adobe could be operating in that manner, keep in mind that the official head of Adobe’s public relations efforts just equated Steve Jobs to Josef Stalin in an on the record email exchange with a technology journalist. With Adobe, it’s clear that we’re dealing with a company that here in 2010 at least, simply has no concept of how to deal with the public.
For reference, Mr. Dowell’s blog on adobe.com is here; Mr. Dowdell’s Twitter account in which he identifies himself as being an Adobe spokesman is here; confirmation that Russell Brady is in fact Adobe’s PR Director is all over adobe.com; copy of his email response, with contact information redacted, below:
Adobe may have a problem on its hands beyond the fact that public opinion is turning against its Flash technology faster than you can say “FarmVille iPad app.” John Dowdell, who identifies himself as an Adobe employee and blogs on adobe.com has taken to using his Twitter account @jdowdell to publicly attack journalists who don’t have positive things to say about his company’s Flash technology. After the publication MacDailyNews criticized ESPN.com for using Flash, Dowdell publicly referred to the MacDailyNews writer as a “twerp” and “dumb” in the same sentence. In fact we here at Beatweek were only made aware of it after Mr. Dowdell also subsequently publicly lashed out at us after we referred to Adobe’s Flash as being ancient (Mr Dowdell also publicly insinuated that Beatweek has some kind of hidden monetary or compensational relationship with Apple, which for the record, we do not). While we’ve been called far worse and we fully respect the right of individuals to calls us by whatever ugly names they wish via their own Twitter accounts, we find it disturbing that Adobe’s obsession with propping up Flash has now extended to its employees publicly attacking journalists. It’s not immediately clear whether the Twitter account is considered an Adobe account or whether employee was speaking on behalf of Adobe, as his Twitter account does link to his blog at adobe.com but uses the employee’s own name for a Twitter username.
Again, we’re not looking to get the specific employee in trouble. But that Adobe’s employees would sink to such depths as Flash continues to circle the bowl is endemic of Adobe’s seeming disturbing desire to bet the entire company on Flash as somehow being the future.
Just in case the employee removes the tweet and then claims it never existed, here you go:
The FTC will investigate Apple to see whether its upcoming launch of an advertising network and its refusal to allow the ancient Flash technology onto its devices represent a violation of the law. In an investigation that should take two to three minutes, the federal government is bound to embarrass itself one way or the other once it quickly realizes that Flash is as outdated as the floppy drive and Google, not Apple, dominates the online advertising market. In fact, Google’s recent complaints about Apple’s entry into the advertising market may have helped spur the FTC investigation, according to the WSJ. If so, it may represent the first time that a company with a full monopoly over a market has managed to convince the government to preemptively investigate a competitor for no reason at all while it still had zero percent of that market. The development is even more bizarre when one considers that Google CEO Eric Schmidt was on Apple’s board of directors at the time Apple was secretly developing products like the iPhone, which Google has subsequently directly copycatted; it’s not clear why Apple hasn’t taken any retaliatory legal action against Schmidt beyond forcing him off the board; perhaps these new developments will spur Apple into pursuing that long overdue course of action.
Accordingly, Adobe’s anti-competitive complaints about Apple not allowing Flash development on the iPhone or iPad are ironic in that Adobe acquired Flash as a throw-in in the deal to acquire its biggest competitor Macromedia specifically to no longer have to face competition from the latter’s Dreamweaver software, which was dominating the corresponding Adobe product. Moreover, the FTC investigation misses the fact that Flash is more than a decade old and is already in the process of being replaced by new industry standards developed by a consortium of companies; even rival Microsoft has publicly intimated that they see Flash as being in the rear view mirror.
Finally, with its actions today makes it clear that the FTC fails to understand the difference between corporations that are aggressive in their desire to advance the state of consumer technologies for the benefit of consumers, and corporations that are merely ruthless in their desire to eliminate any competitor which might be gaining on them. If the FTC’s role is indeed to protect the interests of consumers, then today’s action by the agency represents both a waste of its time and a waste of your money; in fact the FTC is harming consumers by forcing Apple to stop and deal with this nonsense, taking its focus away from the innovation that the company has demonstrably delivered for consumers time and again over the past decade.
Meanwhile, the government allows other technology industries to run amok unchecked, including the thoroughly out of control cellular carrier industry, to the universal detriment of the public.
Adobe has reported the discovery of a “critical” security flaw in its Flash software, just weeks after Apple CEO Steve Jobs explained that Flash’s lack of security was one of several reasons he didn’t want the aging technology on Apple’s iPad or iPhone devices in any capacity. The latest Flash security flaw could allow a hacker to take over a user’s entire computer simply by exploiting its Flash installation, according to CNET. While these kinds of attacks generally only take place within the imaginations of the internet’s most paranoid users, the timing of the flaw’s discovery must certainly be leaving Adobe feeling like it has egg on its face. Meanwhile, Apple’s Jobs won’t even bother having to say “I told you so” – although with his next scheduled public presentation scheduled to take place in a mere forty-eight hours, he just might do so anyway.
FarmVille only exists as a free game because both Zynga, who makes the game, and Facebook who hosts it, make money when users are playing the game. But a dispute between the two parties over who gets to sell the optional pay-for credits which allow users to skip ahead in gameplay could see a parting of ways in which FarmVille becomes removed from Facebook and instead exists on its own website. Such a move would likely harm both parties greatly, as Facebook members whose ties to FarmVille are more Facebook-related than FarmVille-related would likely give the game up altogether, while the game’s more fervent participants would follow it to the new site and would slash their time on Facebook in the process. The move would effectively put a huge dent in the popularity of what at this point is the single most popular Flash-based entity on the internet – which could be a boon for iPad sales.
While Apple sold more than a million iPads in its first month and is now literally selling every iPad it can manufacture to the point that customers are now backordering the device, the segment of potential iPad users addicted to games like FarmVille have likely held off on buying the device until FarmVille and similar games move to a more modern technology than lazy outdated Flash. But while the group isn’t nearly as large as Flash own Adobe wishes it was, FarmVille’s separation from Facebook would mean two things: first, it would cause a significant downshift in browser-based FarmVille gameplay for the reasons stated above, and it would also likely give rise to App Store based versions of the game. The dropoff in gameplay would necessitate that Zynga find new ways to reach users, and the removal of Facebook from the equation would eliminate any reason for Zynga to keep FarmVille tied to a web browser. The in-game purchases within FarmVille are seemingly a perfect fit for the in-app purchases that Apple already allows for within App Store apps, meaning that the whole thing could work out nicely for everyone involved – except for Facebook which would lose a revenue source and a ton of pageviews, and Adobe, which would see one more nail hammered into Flash’s coffin.
Flash has apparently become the rock against which Adobe is intent on breaking itself, as the company is now gearing up to put an ever-increasing number of chips down on the outdated technology even as public sentiment has turned away from it. After Apple CEO Steve Jobs effectively ended the debate with his “Thoughts on Flash” letter some observers might have expected Adobe to cut its losses with Flash, which it only acquired incidentally when it bought out Macromedia to get its hands on Dreamweaver, in favor of putting its focus back on the tenable components of its Creative Suite such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. But instead the company is not only firing off an open letter of its own (fair enough, although claiming that Adobe is a leader in “open” markets is a flat out lie) but also launching an online advertising campaign which will only serve to sink more of Adobe’s resources into a battle which everyone not running Adobe has known for some time that the company can’t win. Furthermore, the advertising campaign is based on the same flat-out lie in which the company purports its proprietary Flash technology as instead somehow being some kind of open source standard.
The language of the online campaign, which aims to paint rival Apple as being “closed,” is a sentiment about Apple that no one but geeks considers to be the case; consumers have flocked to Apple’s ecosystems over the past decade due to the coherence of the experience without worrying about any arguments about “open vs closed” which have only ever existed in theory. Thus the campaign appears aimed not at the mainstream but instead at the geek developers who are still using Flash because it’s what they’ve been using since they were in the eighth grade. Either that or Adobe is just as confused about how the mainstream views technology as those bubble-bound geeks are.
Either way, Adobe’s efforts to keep developers in the Flash fold are unlikely to succeed, as developers are now flocking to Apple’s App Store which is increasingly being viewed as the software distribution model of the future. And while Adobe’s balance sheet suggests that a misguided banner ad campaign won’t bankrupt the company’s budget, Adobe’s continued insistence on looking looking outdated and foolish in public over Flash has already taken its toll on the company’s reputation and (fairly or not) begun to paint all of the company’s other products as being outdated as well.
While the results can be gamed just as easily as anything else, a quick look at Google’s search suggestions can give you some idea of how the public feels about a particular topic. Often the results are mixed; type in the name of any famous politician followed by the word “is” and you’ll get an immediate glimpse of the divided opinions out there. But with all the hubbub this past month about Flash, the aging development platform that Apple doesn’t want dragging down its platform, while geeks come out of the woodwork to claim their worship of Flash as part of their continued anti-Apple meltdowns, it seemed a good time to take a gather at what the general public really thinks of Flash. Nothing scientific, just a gather mind you, by typing “flash is” into the Google search bar just to see what the search engine would offer up in terms of possible suggestions. Let’s just say there’s a wee bit more of a public consensus when it comes to Flash than when it comes to politicians:
So while Google (the company) hasn’t made any statements about what it thinks of the future prospects for the late nineties software, Google (the search engine) paints a pretty clear picture: Flash is dead, slow, dying, choppy, on its way out, buggy, cilantro…
Wait a minute, cilantro? Okay, so you can credit the good folks at MacBreak Weekly for that last one. But aside from that one comical popular suggestion, the rest of the above list makes it fairly clear where the public stands on the issue. So even as Adobe finds support from the geekdom for its continued push for
Geocities Flash to stick around a bit longer, the general public sure seems to disagree.
There’s no way of knowing for now whether it’s legitimately true information or just a sore loser at Adobe trying to stir up trouble, but nonetheless there’s a source out there claiming that the Department of Justice is about to open an antitrust investigation into Apple’s refusal to allow
crap Flash onto the iPhone/iPad platform or into the App Store. If you’ll forgive the histrionics, this is quite possibly the stupidest bit of nonsense I’ve ever heard, and it had sure better not be true. Antitrust investigations into technology corporations are always dicey because you’re trusting that the government is going to be able to sufficiently understand the technology involved such that they’ll be able to make a competent judgment – and if indeed the DOJ is probing into the Flash situation, then it would strongly suggest right off the bat that there’s no competence involved in the matter.
The DOJ has gotten it right in the past, such as the late nineties probe into Microsoft’s sabotaging of its own operating system to make it nearly impossible to install Netscape Navigator on a Windows computer, which it found to be an abuse of Microsoft’s Windows monopoly. And while the DOJ’s guilty verdict was inexplicably never accompanied by any action against Microsoft, at least they got it right in spirit. In contrast, however, Apple’s refusal to allow apps developed in Adobe’s Flash environment (which are substandard by definition) into Apple’s App Store is fair game in several obvious ways. First of all, where’s the monopoly? Despite its popularity, the iPhone still has a relatively small percentage of the cellphone market. And the iPad has existed for a month. But more importantly, Apple has done nothing to prevent Adobe from being able to get apps into the App Store. In fact, the existence of several apps from Adobe itself, including the free mobile Photoshop app, is plain-as-day proof that Apple isn’t out to get Adobe or to ban it from the App Store; the company just doesn’t want apps on its platform that are being held back by weak outdated developer tools. For Adobe to complain about the matter at all is as ridiculous as a hard drive maker whining that their product isn’t included in each iPhone because it’s not as small and light as solid state memory. And for Adobe to go running to the government, if indeed that’s the case, is beyond asinine.
Antitrust laws play a key role in protecting us from the amorality of massive corporations when that amorality serves to harm consumers, But Apple is to be applauded for taking a stand in protecting its userbase from getting saddled with the twentieth century crap known as Flash, even though allowing such crap apps to be included would resulting in Apple making a little more revenue in the short term. In fact, seeing as how the App Store is platform in which tens of thousands of different developers actively participate, Adobe (or the DOJ) referring to it as “anticompetitive” is every bit as asinine as those geeks who inexplicably refer to the App Store as somehow being a “closed” platform.
In a one month span, Adobe has gone from a respectable maker of professional tools who had no relevance to consumers one way or the other, to a laughingstock that thinks Flash has a future, to now being (if the DOJ nonsense really is true) an insipid pain in the ass intent on harming consumers by taking every ridiculous step possible to try to foist twentieth century garbage on us. Last week I predicted that Flash would become the rock that Adobe would break itself against, and some thought I was overreacting. Now that the idiots have apparently gone running to the government in an attempt to get Flash legally forced upon us, it’s looking more like Adobe’s days of relevance are numbered. Certainly the company’s sanity is gone already.
We’ve made other outdated technology disappear simply by not engaging in it. We walked away from Geocities years ago, and sure enough, it went by the wayside. More recently we began walking away from MySpace in favor of more modern options, and sure enough, critical mass is flowing away from the old abandoned amusement park by the day. We’re increasingly casting junky flip-phones aside in favor of smartphones like the iPhone, and no one can stop us. And PC users who’ve grown tired of their platform are free to switch over to the Mac any time they wish. So why is that we, the computing public, despite all knowing that Flash is outdated junk leftover from that Geocities era, can’t do anything to get rid of it?
The answer lies in the fact that we don’t control the web; we only think we do. Decisions about what the world’s internet users get to see when they sit down in front of their computers each morning are made by a startlingly small number of developers and webmasters and publishers – and many of them could care less about the quality of the user experience so long as the hits keep coming. Lest we be hypocritical here, while none of our actual content comes in the form of absurdly outdated Flash content, when a misguided advertiser absolutely insists on running a Flash ad, it’s not exactly easy to say no (although we have finally drawn the line on that matter). Nor is it easy for non-technical publishers to say no to their own entrenched developers when those developers insist on clinging to outdated tools that they happen to feel personally comfortable with instead of giving the audience something more palatable to consume.
And yet we, as the internet using public, generally fail to even try to do anything about it. While we might stop visiting a website that’s too embarrassingly laden with Flash, we’re unlikely to inform the webmaster of why we’ve stopped visiting. When fun free games like Farmville surface and they’re only available in a crap format like Flash, we dive in and play the game anyway, despite the awful looking graphics, despite the glitches, despite the overwhelming amount of processing power that gets gobbled up by it – even though the animation, which looks like a third grader drew it, feels like it shouldn’t be processor intensive at all.
But while Apple has done us the favor of forcing Flash off the iPad and iPhone platforms so that their respective development environments can be forced into the present, that doesn’t change the fact that the ancient technology is still holding back both the Mac and Windows computing platforms. And as long as we continue to allow Flash to be shoved at us on our computers without complaint, that won’t change nearly as quickly as it should. While an outright boycott of websites that use Flash might be too much to ask of the internet using public, a much easier strategy involves simply embarrassing webmasters into being afraid to use the technology for fear of looking like buffoons in front of their bosses. And so even as yet another disconnected geek tech publication has declared today in a headline that we should “Stop bashing Flash,” we’re encouraging you to do just the opposite: Keep bashing Flash. Bash it long, bash it hard, bash it proud. Write into webmasters and tell them to get that crap off their site. Keep talking about how lame Flash is any time it comes up in conversation; you never know what kind of influence you might have on the person who brought up the topic, particularly if that person turns out to be a webmaster or to have influence over one. Maybe even Adobe will see the light and cease betting its future on a hand it can’t win.
The more you bash Flash, the sooner it’ll be replaced by something modern, and the sooner you won’t have to put up with seeing it or using it.
Adobe’s inexplicable decision to push forward with this aging Flash platform it acquired almost by accident when it bought out Macromedia to get its hands on Dreamweaver, along with Apple’s typically hard-nosed response to any company attempting to inject second rate crap onto one of its own platforms, have combined to create a rather loud dust-up between two technology companies which a generation ago were on the same page – literally. If Apple’s then-new Macintosh platform and Adobe’s then-new digital document creation software hadn’t found each other when they did, the desktop publishing revolution might not have happened. So to see the two companies taking public pot shots at each other, even at a time when roughly half of Adobe’s revenue comes from sales of its Mac software products, is fairly startling, particularly when one considers that Apple’s current Adobe-dissing boss in 2010 is the same Adobe-lobing boss the company had back in 1984. The difference, of course, lies in the fact that a generation ago Adobe was looking to get ahead-of-its-time software onto a burgeoning new Apple platform, while at present the software that Adobe is attempting to get onto yet another burgeoning new Apple platform just happens to be software that Steve Jobs thinks should have died a generation ago.
I’ve been as anti-Flash as anyone over the years, and that goes back to long before Apple decided that the Adobe technology was ready for the scrap heap by declining to allow its implementation on the iPhone or iPad. In fact I distinctly recall seeing Flash in action on my computer for the first time, in what must have been a decade ago, and musing that it was an impressive cheat, but a cheat nonetheless. It was seemingly designed to get around the limitations of the day – lack of processing power, lack of bandwidth, lack of something – and I never really understood the details because I was anything but an engineer or developer (one programming class in college demonstrated that for me, and one subsequent circuitry class had me running for the hills). But Flash always seemed like a temporary cheat to my untrained eye, transitional technology of some kind, and so when Apple finally decided in 2007 that Flash was done for if the company had anything to say about it, my only response was a relieved “It’s about time.”
But that sentiment has gotten me in trouble on geek hangouts like Twitter (I’ve been using the service since back when most of its users were geeks, and so to this day much of my follower base on there consists of them) when I’ve used tweets as a means to lash out at Flash or make fun of it for being left over from the geocities era. Invariably, someone always comes flying back at me in defense of Flash, whether it’s on Twitter, or on Facebook, or in the comments section here, and while that defense of Flash is always clearly coming from a minority of the people reading what I’ve had to say about it, it’s generally been passionate defense to the opine that you’d think I’d insulted their child. And in an enlightening number of those cases, it turned that I had pretty much done just that; the person defending Flash to vigorously was in fact a Flash developer. Not an Adobe employee, mind you, and not always someone who only developed in Flash, either. But, and I wish I’d kept a better headcount over the past few months, I’ve observed that the biggest Flash defenders are almost invariably those whose income is at least partially dependent on continued Flash adoption.
I’m not saying Flash developers have been the only people to step up and defend the outdates technology. But I’ve even found that some people positioning themselves as tech journalists have also turned out to be Flash developers when they’re not doing the journalism thing (and again, I wish I’d kept documentation of this). So while you’ll have to take my word for it (or not, as the case may be), suffice it to say that the next time you hear someone defending Flash as if their life depended on it, it’s entirely possible that that might turn out to literally be the case, at least in a professional sense.
Those wondering how Adobe plans to fight back now that Apple has not only banned the company’s ancient Flash technology from the iPhone and iPad, but also publicly embarrassed Adobe this week with a public opus from Steve Jobs in which he explains paragraph by painful paragraph why Flash should never have rightly survived the geocities era, now have their answer: Adobe’s secret to revenge against Apple will come in the form of costing Apple about eight thousand iPhone sales.
That’s right, Adobe intends to cripple the entire iPhone platform, which at last count includes more than fifty million units sold, by denying iPhones to its own employees. Instead, Adobe’s team will be forced to use Google’s open source Android platform, the mobile equivalent of Linux, for their daily mobile phone usage. Is it because Adobe still plans to bankrupt itself by putting all its chips down on a Flash battle it can’t win, and therefore wants to ensure that its employees each have a phone that can run Flash – even if it’s a phone that doesn’t allow for much else to be accomplished beyond the usual geek wanking associated with the Android platform? Or are Adobe’s higher ups so pissed at Steve Jobs over his “Thoughts on Flash” that they’re now looking to throw any dagger at Apple they can, even if it includes something as non-impactfully symbolic as disallowing its own employees from having iPhones?
Frankly, with Flash being obviously done for (you’ve known that for the better part of a decade if you’ve been paying attention), the whole “why isn’t there Flash on my iPad?” story is growing a little boring. The more interesting question at this point might be more along the following: once Adobe is finished inexplicably ruining itself by betting its future on Flash, which technology company is going to end up with the company’s legitimate Creative Suite properties like Photoshop and Illustrator?
In a surprise move, Apple announced today that the actual iPhone 4G will also cost $5,000 per unit. “We were originally planning to stick with our $99 to $299 scale,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an open letter entitled Thoughts on Pricing. “But the guys at Gizmodo went ahead and set the market price. If you don’t like paying five grand to upgrade to the new iPhone, you can blame those guys.” Jobs went on to say that the move will “teach them a lesson” about messing with Apple’s intellectual property, as everyone who has to pay the $5,000 will invariably blame Gizmodo for it, thus causing the gadget blog great distress. Jobs then put on a red bandana and inexplicably began referring to himself as “Prison Mike.”
The move comes on the same day in which Jobs released another open letter, entitled Thoughts on Flash, in which the Apple boss detailed his reasons for not wanting the Adobe technology on his platform. In unrelated news, the house of Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen was mysteriously raided today by local police.
In other news, Apple announced today that the shipping date for the iPhone 4G has been delayed due to higher than expected pre-orders for the $5,000 device.
Apple doesn’t mess around when it comes to outdated technology. We’ve seen it play out for the past twelve years, going all the way to when the company made the then-controversial move of not including a built-in floppy drive with the original iMac. Amongst geek tech pundits (and there are no non-geek tech pundits), the lack of a floppy drive was the topic of conversation leading up to the product’s launch: Would it kill the iMac’s chances right out of the gate? Was recently reinstated head honcho Steve Jobs just being an egomaniac? Did Apple have a personal agenda against companies that made floppy drives? In fact, the geek tech conversation of 1998 was the fact that the iMac didn’t have a floppy drive. Of course the whole thing seems ridiculous in hindsight; the floppy was ancient technology at the time, a format with a capacity of just over one megabyte which had been designed at a time when the largest computer files were word processing documents and even software installers were often less than a megabyte in size; the rise of digital photography and digital music in the late nineties meant that the floppy disk was already irrelevant before Apple pulled the plug. And sure enough, within a couple years floppy drives had been eradicated from most Windows PCs as well.
And yet even with the lesson learned so long ago, and repeated in various other ways during the twelve years in between, we’re now seeing the exact same thing play out here in 2010 with the iPad. All any tech pundit can seem to talk about is the lack of Flash, a software development tool which had its heyday in the geocities era, back when the biggest question of the day was whether to decorate your webpage with a Flash animation or an animated GIF, a quaint leftover remnant from when the internet was still a feeble-yet-fun toy. And yet for some reason, we’re still stuck with Flash, even years after Flash maker Macromedia ceased to exist as an independent company. Adobe swallowed Macromedia just to get its hands on Dreamweaver, which had been roundly beating Adobe’s own web design software in terms of marketshare. But instead of Adobe seeing Flash for the garage sale throw-in that it was, the company decided to bet its reputation on Flash of all things as a development tool for the future. There’s really no explanation for this – other than the notion that Adobe really doesn’t want things to change.
Thankfully, Apple once again decided to take a stand. The processor hogging, battery hogging bloatware known as Flash would have no place on the iPhone – and hardly anyone even noticed. Then, in what should have been a surprise to absolutely no one, Flash was also not supported on the iPad, and yet for some reason tech pundits decided that this was suddenly a massive issue – and by virtue of running their mouths about it nonstop, have managed to turn it into a controversy (inside the tech beltway at least). So now it’s all we hear about, when it’s currently one of the less relevant aspects of the iPad platform, and will make those who bemoaned its absence look absurdly foolish in hindsight.
But as for the staredown between the two companies, you knew someone was going to blink eventually, and you knew it was going to be Adobe, and you knew the world was going to keep spinning on its axis even after Adobe announced this week that it was killing off any hope of Flash development on the iPad or iPhone. Thank God. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available for the iPlatform, all of which run well, and none of which include even a little bit of that ancient scourge known as Flash – and now we know that none of them ever will.
So yeah, there are a few folks out there who won’t be able to play Farmville on their iPad until the developers of that particular product wake up and move to real development environment. But in the long run, the entire iPad platform – and its users – will be better off for the fact that Flash has been eradicated from the products of the future. Why Adobe insisted on clinging to a long-dead red headed stepchild for this long is anyone’s guess.