Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

Summary: Hey Adobe: Apple and Microsoft say you have reliability and security problems with Flash Player. A whole lot of my readers say the same thing. As do I. So, uh, when do you plan to address that elephant in the room?

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Here's some advice, Adobe. The first step on the road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

Yes, I know you'd rather frame your fight with Apple as a high-minded crusade for freedom, but your customers think differently. When I hear fellow PC users talk about Flash these days, I hear the exact same frustration and exasperation I heard during Vista's first year on the market. That is not the kind of word of mouth you want.

And make no mistake about it, those concerns are real. Was Steve Jobs exaggerating when he called Flash the biggest source of crashes on the Mac? Maybe a little, but I bet he has some pretty grim statistics to back that statement up. And Microsoft is reinforcing that same message, albeit more politely and with masterful understatement. Here's what IE boss Dean Hachamovitch had to say two weeks ago:

Flash does have some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance. We work closely with engineers at Adobe, sharing information about the issues we know of in ongoing technical discussions.

"Some issues"? Yeah, that's one way of putting it. My own experience fits right in. I discovered yesterday that Internet Explorer crashes on my wife's PC once or twice a day. The Windows 7 Reliability Monitor says Adobe's Flash Player is to blame (yes, it's up-to-date), and it offers a step-by-step solution: Uninstall the Flash Player, reboot, and reinstall Flash. (The Microsoft prescription is, in fact, the exact same set of steps I recommended right here back in January.)

I did exactly that, and guess what? Today, at 7:42AM, another Flash crash. At the same time on the same PC, TweetDeck, an app that runs on the Adobe Air platform, had stopped responding. The crash report fingered that same Flash ActiveX control version as the cause.

Update: Via Twitter, Adobe's John Dowdell questions my report on the TweetDeck crash. I got one small detail wrong. It was FlashUtil10e.exe, not the Active X control, Flash10e.ocx. Both versions were the same, 10.0.45.2. Here's the crash report from Windows:

Oh, and just a little while ago the latest Adobe Reader update failed on another PC, with this not-so-helpful message: "Update failed. Cannot install this update. Please run Adobe Reader Repair. Error:1500."

So pardon me if I feel cranky about your software right now, Adobe.

Look, Apple and Microsoft say you have reliability and security problems with Flash Player. A whole lot of my readers say the same thing. And so do I. We're all sort of waiting for you to acknowledge that the number of times people have a negative experience with Flash is too high. Until you address that elephant in the room, no one is really interested in hearing much more about openness and freedom. (Well, except for the FTC and the DOJ, but that's a different issue completely.)

And then there's security. According to Microsoft's most recent Security Intelligence Report, published earlier this week, a Flash Player exploit was the most commonly exploited browser vulnerability in the first half of last year. The list of security updates for Flash Player is depressingly long. So, how are you planning to convince us that you've gotten serious about security?

I talked to an Adobe spokesperson earlier this week and heard all about the big improvements coming in Flash Player 10.1. Product Manager Tom Nguyen told me, "We're looking after the interests of our end users and customers," and ticked off a list of improvements that are on the way: support for more mobile devices and more operating systems, better performance, improvements in power usage (and thus improved battery life), support for hardware-accelerated H.264 video. Those are all big, important features.

What I didn't hear was a promise and a plan to deliver a more reliable, more secure product. Should we expect Flash 10.1 to crash less and be more resistant to attacks than Flash 10 or Flash 9? Why? What have you learned about how to stop customers from having a crappy experience and how are you applying those lessons? "Well," I was told, "there's an improved installer."

Not the answer I was hoping for.

Microsoft responded to the mess that was Vista by bringing in a new boss, Steven Sinofsky, who changed the internal culture on the Windows team quickly and decisively. He also brought in a lot of engineering discipline and an unprecedented level of communication about the Windows 7 development process via detailed, sometimes epic posts on the E7 Blog.

Adobe has profound issues of quality and negative perception to deal with, just as Microsoft did with Vista. But in Flash they also have a product that is going to be severely challenged by HTML5 and Silverlight and probably some other products and technologies we don't even know about right now. I'm certain Flash will still be around in five years and probably in 10 years. But it will be much less important than it is today.

The big question for Adobe is whether they can shut down the complaints about Flash by delivering a product that "just works." Oh, and at the same time stake out a future for a Web running on HTML5. Good luck with that.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple, Windows

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  • Huh? Don't you mean the new XP?

    Is it just that it has a bad reputation? That it crashes? That's it's not built securely? The description fits XP much better than Vista.
    larry@...
    • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

      @larry@... And what world are YOU living in? Dude, Vista was a steaming pile of crap that should never have been released even as a beta version much less a finished product! It was incredibly slow, buggy as hell, and simply sucked. I bought an HP laptop with Vista preinstalled (Athlon X2 processors, 2GB ram) and it was even slower than my old Omnibook Pro running XP... When I ripped that crapware off of my laptop and installed XP my laptop flew! No crashes, no stalls, no bottlenecks, no bugs... I was able to actually do something. And I gave Vista 2 months before I did that. I even decided to reinstall it after it was supposedly fixed with a service pack - yeah, it was fixed all right... fixed to be updated with Windows 7 which BTW blows the hell out of Vista and is better IMHO than XP so this isn't me just parroting the bad reviews - I WROTE some of the bad reviews of Vista, all from my personal experience.
      athynz
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz IMO Vista's issues centered largely around performance and memory footprint, not security and stability. It was a workable OS if you had the memory for it, and it was plenty more secure than XP.

        . . . and it was totally necessary to have it - because Windows 7 is built on it. If it weren't for Vista, you wouldn't have Windows 7.

        This is just the way software development works sometimes. Even with a large company like Microsoft, there's gonna be some lemons.
        CobraA1
      • Sorry, I don't buy it.

        @athynz

        So, you bought a crappy consumer grade laptop loaded with crapware, and it was all Vista's fault that you had trouble with it. I would hazard that it was probably your only experience with Vista as well. Never mind that for the vast majority of us Vista ran exceptionally well, easily outperforming XP in every way possible, as quantified and verified by numerous independent tests on identical hardware. Never mind that Windows 7 that you so rave about is basically just Vista with a few minor UI tweaks. Never mind that there are still millions of us happily running Vista who see no compelling reason to upgrade to 7. Take it from someone who actually supports PCs and end users for a living. Vista was the best Microsoft OS since 2K, while 7 is probably the best since 95.
        itpro_z
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz I bought an HP tablet with vista and have had not issues at all, including both OneNote tablet work and Visual Studio development work. Maybe it's not the OS that had the issue...
        happyharry_z
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz Vista was still more secure than Xp was. That's his point. CobraA1 put it succinctly.

        And isn't MS calling Flash insecure a bit like the pot calling the kettle black? I'm just saying...
        Kiltedbear
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz
        I never had issues with Vista, I bought in May of 2007 and it always worked fine. After SP2 I don't think Win 7 is noticeably faster although I prefer the UI.
        Windows XP was a great OS (after SP2) but it tends to be pretty insecure it would seem.
        tech_walker
      • Vista - No problems

        @athynz - sorry to hear you had problems. My experience was EXACTLY the reverse. Not a single (significant) problem. And I bought a Vista notebook (Dell) within a month or two of its release. For me 7 is only a marginal improvement!<br><br>But I do have trouble with keeping Flash up to date - it is the most frequent problem reported by Secunia. But Flash never crashes my system, fortunately.
        jonc2011
      • vista sp2

        @athynz vista sp2 was very reliable and in certain benchmark tests it has even out performed xp and windows7. xp is dead technology as is vhs player. with new technology and software the os has to exploit newer hardware and is optimized to run such platform as not the old hardware.
        RonDsz
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz
        Everybody is complaining so much about Vista.
        I don't know ...
        Comparing to XP, Vista I have (Home Premium 64) WAS! less reliable.
        However it was not such a horror as some described.
        Death screen happened once ... after attempt to install upgrade.
        There were other minor problems.
        Now, after last service pack, Vista acts like a fully grown and mature OS.
        It works so well, I pushed purchase of Win7 until ... sometime in the future:)

        I must say, Vista requires powerful system to work on, I have it on Q4 Intel (2.3x4) with 8GB of RAM.
        jp7691@...
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @itpro_z The laptop is not crappy - like I said it flew when I installed XP on it and it flies now with Windows 7... and NO hardware changes were made. And I removed all of the preloaded crapware when I first got it and booted it up, so that was not the issue either. So given the constant of the hardware, and given the issues I had with Vista on several different PCs by 3 different manufacturers - none of which I had with XP or 7 on that laptop, my daughter's laptop, and my desktop I have to conclude that Vista sucked out loud. And given that there have been many other complaints about Vista my experience is not as unique as you are trying to paint it. And you say that 7 is Vista with a few UI tweaks - sorry dude I'm NOT buying that at all. And your conclusion about my experience with Vista is wrong. I support 6 PCs at my job - in addition to my other duties - and they are running Vista and I still have the same issues with those as I did with my personal ones... but I have built the case to have those upgraded to Win 7 so there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel - and my demonstrating the ease of use and lack of issues with my personal "crappy consumer grade laptop" played a huge part in that.<br><br>Getting back on topic, yeah Flash IS the new Vista. Complete with misguided people supporting it despite it's apparent flaws.
        athynz
      • @athynz, I'm with ya

        My whole attitude towards M$ changed after Vista's release...

        The Vista Upgrade Advisory Tool,

        The "Vista Capable" stickers,

        the lies they wrote on the outside of their retail boxes...

        http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/get/system-requirements.aspx

        When I was posting under hasta la Vista, bah-bie, I had a lot of discussions about this

        http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12354-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=49611&messageID=929295&start=-9659

        http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12554-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=46400&messageID=862594&start=-9750

        http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12558-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=48600&messageID=907929&start=0

        http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12354-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=49611&messageID=929612&start=-9659

        http://talkback.zdnet.com/5208-12354-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=49611&messageID=930043&start=0
        ubiquitous one
      • Re: athynz

        athynz, my own experience is very different than yours. I am a network admin supporting over 300 users on my network, with over 100 each on Vista and XP, and a smaller number on 7. My own PC at the office is running Vista Business 64, while at home I have two Vista machines, one XP and one Win7 64. I support these and other machines and users full time, and have done so for 3 decades.

        I have installed XP and Vista on identical hardware. I have also wiped XP machines and installed Vista, and in every case the machine ran much better than it ever did with XP. Vista is faster, more stable, more secure, and much better at multitasking than XP. I have also wiped Vista machines and installed 7, and found a very slight improvement in performance, not the huge difference that you state.

        Have I seen Vista machines that ran poorly? Of course I have! I had one of my users bring me a laptop from home that she was ready to throw away, loudly proclaiming how crappy Vista was. When I checked it out I found an Celeron processor with 512 MB RAM. XP would have sucked on that machine. I have also had Vista machines that were sluggish out of the box, but in every case I found that the issue was crapware, not enough RAM, or performance hogging software such as Norton AV, Google Desktop, or something similar. With no more than a few minutes time cleaning up the machine or at most adding RAM I could turn the slow pig into a fine performing machine.

        So, you tell me. If I can cure the sluggishness of a Vista machine by removing Google Desktop or Norton Internet Security, is Vista at fault, or the software that bogged it down?
        itpro_z
      • Re: athynz

        athynz, my own experience is very different than yours. I am a network admin supporting over 300 users on my network, with over 100 each on Vista and XP, and a smaller number on 7. My own PC at the office is running Vista Business 64, while at home I have two Vista machines, one XP and one Win7 64. I support these and other machines and users full time, and have done so for 3 decades.

        I have installed XP and Vista on identical hardware. I have also wiped XP machines and installed Vista, and in every case the machine ran much better than it ever did with XP. Vista is faster, more stable, more secure, and much better at multitasking than XP. I have also wiped Vista machines and installed 7, and found a very slight improvement in performance, not the huge difference that you state.

        Have I seen Vista machines that ran poorly? Of course I have! I had one of my users bring me a laptop from home that she was ready to throw away, loudly proclaiming how crappy Vista was. When I checked it out I found an Celeron processor with 512 MB RAM. XP would have sucked on that machine. I have also had Vista machines that were sluggish out of the box, but in every case I found that the issue was crapware, not enough RAM, or performance hogging software such as Norton AV, Google Desktop, or something similar. With no more than a few minutes time cleaning up the machine or at most adding RAM I could turn the slow pig into a fine performing machine.

        So, athynz, you tell me. If I can cure a sluggish Vista machine by removing some other software, is Vista at fault, or companies like Google or Symantec who produce software that would slow down any computer, XP included?
        itpro_z
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz
        I agree with your post. As a 16 year technician, I've seen a lot, everyn OS including Macs.
        Crestview
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz I have to disagree. our swim team bought an HP laptop with Vista Home Premium...that was 3 or 4 years ago (can't remember). It is fine, zippy, no issues at all. Hardware vendors had a lot to do with the image of Vista. I had a home built with the correct specs and never had an issue wth Vista except one. Most people had this as well...nVidia drivers. But that was it..
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz Since this has devolvled into discussion of Vista vs XP, I have to chime in with the others, there was a lot not to like about Vista from a usability perspective, but on a decent machine it was more secure, faster and far more refined than XP. Win 7 resolves many of the usability issues and has better compatibility support for older and less sophisticated pieces of software.

        In terms of Flash, I think Adobe has not put the resources into it that is required to support a web wide mission critical platform. Hopefully they will get the message and up their game. I think that Jobs has ulterior motivations in his criticism. Microsoft is has SilverLight, so its complaints are not above suspicion either.
        jfgeschmidtt
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @athynz I gave up on Windows when XP came out and switched to Linux, then OS X. It was Vista that got me using Windows again, on a regular basis.

        Yes, it had some performance issues, before SP1, but it was still an improvement over XP.
        wright_is
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @itpro_z I'm glad you were able to get Vista to work - but your experience does not invalidate my own nor does it invalidate the experiences of others... there were just too many complaints for my issues with Vista to be an isolated problem. But with Windows 7 on my machines at home those issues are no more. And soon they will no longer be an issue at work either.
        athynz
      • RE: Sorry, Adobe: Flash is the new Vista

        @Pete "athynz" Athens
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