Apple in antitrust crosshairs? If so, Jobs' Flash rant makes more sense

Apple in antitrust crosshairs? If so, Jobs' Flash rant makes more sense

Summary: The Feds are reportedly poking around on Apple's requirement that software developers only use its---or neutral---programming tools. Perhaps Steve Jobs' Thoughts on Flash missive was geared toward regulators.

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The Feds are reportedly poking around on Apple's requirement that software developers only use its---or neutral---programming tools.

The New York Post reports that the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are pondering an antitrust inquiry into Apple's Section 3.3.1 in its iPhone 4.0 software developer kit license agreement.

Here's the section, which is largely viewed as the no Adobe Flash allowed part:

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

Now the Feds may just poke around on the section and decide not to pursue an antitrust complaint. These inquiries are started to find out if there needs to be an antitrust suit. However, it's possible that either the DOJ or FTC will pursue something.

Although the Post's track record isn't exactly perfect---the paper is citing on unnamed source---an antitrust move does add up. Ever since Apple CEO Steve Jobs penned his Thoughts on Flash missive, which panned Adobe's software, noted a bevy of problems like stability and security and outlined why the iPhone and iPad don't support Flash, there has been a nagging question in my mind. That question can be summed up in one word: Why?

Why would Jobs post his Flash thoughts? Were developers whining about section 3.3.1? Was Adobe winning a PR offensive by saying Apple wasn't open? Could Adobe show damages? Why does Jobs have to make the case against Flash now?

Assuming the Post is correct, then Jobs' Flash rant makes a lot more sense. Jobs' blog post about Flash was really geared to regulators. His Flash rant outlines the reason Adobe's software is limited---a few of those points are hard to argue---and lays out Apple's rationale for section 3.3.1. In other words, Jobs is laying out the case for the Feds.

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Topics: Apple, Enterprise Software, Security, Software, Software Development, IT Employment

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  • Hardly a rant

    Jobs' explanation is not a rant, his language is quite
    reasonable. You may not agree with his point of view, but his
    arguments are quite strong. Three in particular are solid:

    1. The pervasive use of rollovers in Flash applets means they'll
    need to be rewritten to support touch devices, it's not simply a
    matter of putting Flash support into phones.

    2. Decoding Flash encoded video is very expensive in resource
    and battery terms, much better to use plain H.264

    3. Flash creates a layer between the OS and user that Apple
    would rather not allow another proprietary company to control.
    MS is able to screw PC OEMs because they depend on Windows
    to show their hardware's qualities. Apple doesn't want users to
    be dependent on Adobe implementing new features that might
    have been available in the OS for some time.

    These are very good arguments, well supported by the fact that
    not one smartphone currently has Flash support. Perhaps Jobs'
    words will prompt Microsoft to expedite Flash on its mobile
    platform, but I suspect not - MS likely has exactly the same
    misgivings as Apple.

    Adobe promised in February 2009 that Flash would be in most
    smartphones by early this year[1]. Apparently it will be in
    Android 2.2 in June[2], and maybe Windows Phone 7 by the end
    of the year[3].

    I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens, but I
    suspect it will be restricted to advertisements and banners for
    some time.

    1. http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13970_7-10164745-78.html
    2. http://thesmartphonehub.com/smartphone-hub/it?s-
    official-adobe-flash-support-will-be-built-into-android-2-2/
    3. http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2010/02/25/adobe-flash-
    10-1-holds-out-for-windows-phone-7-6-5-devices-can-
    haz-upgrade-to-wp7/

    --
    FF
    Fred Fredrickson
    • Excuse you?

      [i]"These are very good arguments, well supported by the fact that
      not one smartphone currently has Flash support."[/i]

      The Droid Incredible currently supports Flash Lite 4 AND all Android 2.x devices have the ability to install the Skyfire browser which will play flash based videos. Then as you said, in June we should see Android 2.2 with Flash 10.1.
      JT82
      • Yes, Excuse...

        "HTC Droid Incredible does support Adobe Flash Player, but unfortunately
        it uses Flash Lite 4.0 rather than the newer Flash Player 10.1! The Flash
        Player lite is buggy, and only displays some Flash, not all. HTC has not
        announced whether or not HTC or Adobe plan on releasing a Flash Player
        10.1 plugin for the HTC Droid Incredible."

        So it does not at present support flash. Like what he said.
        jgpmolloy
        • Bottom line is....

          no matter how you slice it, there IS flash support in the Android eco-system whereas Lord Jobs has cast it out to exile forever. Sure right now its very limited, may even be "buggy" (though there are no reports of such on the Droid Incredible that I have seen). We can argue sementics all day but at the end of the day you can view SOME flash content on an Incredible whereas you wont on an iDont, er iPhone.
          JT82
          • Flash Lite is not Flash

            If Flash Lite meant anything, Adobe wouldn't be going nuts trying to
            finally, after years of empty promises, finish Flash 10.1.

            So, no, your precious Droid doesn't have Flash on it until Flash 10.1 is
            released and you install it, assuming it is compatible with you
            phone/OS.

            Flash, thank goodness is already dead anyway. I spent some time
            surfing blogs with lots of embedded video yesterday and all of the
            videos, from sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Daily Motion, etc. played
            beautifully in full screen mode on the iPad. No fans, no egg frying heat,
            no battery drain. Welcome to HTML5.
            Ted T.
          • the problem is...

            a light buggy flash is precisely what jobs is trying to keep off the phone.
            A broken watch although right twice a day is still broken.
            jgpmolloy
          • ... and the question is...

            IF Adobe had gotten Flash 10.1 out the door in time, and IF it worked smoothly on the iPad without sucking the batteries dry and/or roasting the CPU, would Apple have released the iPad with Flash support?

            We'll never know. Might be fun to ask Jobs, but my money is on something like "I'm not going to answer hyopthetical questions about situations that never occurred."

            In any event, Adobe being late to the party gave Apple plenty of reasons, and/or excuses, to omit Flash from the first-generation iPad.

            Adobe is just too slow, or maybe Flash is just too damned hairy, to keep up with Apple's relentless product development. If I were H-P, I'd be worried about the first-generation Slate having to face off against a second-generation iPad (running OS4, no less.)
            jpdemers@...
      • Even on pads

        how is Flash working out for JooJoo?
        Partners in Grime
    • Jobs is BSing

      ?<i>1. The pervasive use of rollovers in Flash
      applets means they'll need to be rewritten to
      support touch devices, it's not simply a matter
      of putting Flash support into phones.</i>?

      Really? A lot of Flash applets do not use
      rollover effects. Some of those that do work
      perfectly fine even if they cannot sense the
      rollover. And yes, some Flash applets do rely
      on a mouse being hovered. <b>But so do many
      websites</b> based on CSS and Jobs? beloved
      HTML. You don?t even need JavaScript to create
      a dependency on mouse hovering. So Jobs?
      position is really a strawman: The issue is
      most of the <i>web</i> is designed with mouse
      hovering in mind. This is orthogonal to Flash.

      ?<i>2. Decoding Flash encoded video is very
      expensive in resource and battery terms, much
      better to use plain H.264</i>?

      Again, strawman argument. Flash video is also
      based on H.264. If Safari is using hardware
      acceleration to decode the video stream it may
      be lighter on cpu/battery <i>right now</i>. But
      this is a <u>minor technical issue</u> which
      BTW is solved with Flash 10.1. Banning Flash
      based on this argument is clearly the result of
      desperately looking for a reason. All Jobs had
      to do was to call Adobe and ask when they would
      be ready to take advantage of hardware support.

      ?<i>3. Flash creates a layer between the OS and
      user that Apple would rather not allow another
      proprietary company to control. MS is able to
      screw PC OEMs because they depend on Windows to
      show their hardware's qualities. Apple doesn't
      want users to be dependent on Adobe
      implementing new features that might have been
      available in the OS for some time.</i>?

      <b>Nobody</b> forces developers to use Flash.
      The argument that this creates a ?layer? is ?
      again ? simply not true. If it benefits
      developers they will use it. If they cannot
      create the applications they want using Flash
      they will use something else. If Jobs are so
      concerned about the <b>quality</b> of apps,
      Apple could just set standard requirements for
      apps. Hell, the current (arbitrary) approval
      process could easily be used to reject sub-
      standard apps.

      ----

      Jobs does not have a point whatsoever. The
      banning of Flash <b>and other cross platform
      techs</b> is so obviously a business decision
      designed to protect the app store from
      competition.
      honeymonster
      • True, but...

        "Nobody forces developers to use Flash."

        This may be true - unfortunately, USERS get no choice but to use whatever crap the developers foist on them. As a user I say good riddance to Flash. As a proponent of open standards I say good riddance to flash.
        dmclean@...
        • Do you NOT see the supreme irony in your post?

          BAHAHAHAHAHA!

          It DOESN'T really matter WHAT technology a developer uses - open or proprietary! You're STILL stuck with whatever they've 'foisted' on YOU.

          [b]As a user I say good riddance to Flash. As a proponent of open standards I say good riddance to flash. [/b]

          You say you support 'open standards' and yet, we're talking about the iP/P/P here - which is THE most proprietary platforms. Ever.

          Gotta love them double standards...
          Wolfie2K3
          • Do you NOT see the supreme ignornace in your post?

            Open Standards has nothing to do with platforms being open or closed. They are both different.

            Flash is trying to be part of the Web standards and its closed proprietary.

            iPhone is closed [i]Platform[/i] & its something totally different then the Web Open Standards.

            Compare Apples with Apples.
            NaderBelaid
      • Not really BSing

        >>> Jobs does not have a point whatsoever. The
        banning of Flash and other cross platform
        techs is so obviously a business decision
        designed to protect the app store from
        competition. >>>

        Certainly it's a business decision, what isn't, and not just about the App Store but future Apple products.

        Why should Apple (or any company) be reliant on a 3rd party to control it's own product development?

        As per Abobe (products) and OS X, Mac users have often had to wait for features found in similar Windows Adobe apps or not have them at all. Why should Apple be held back and have to wait for Adobe to get it's butt in gear if Apple wants to introduce a product or feature but is reliant on Adobe?

        Why be prevented or stifled from introducing a "new/innovative" feature that sets your product apart from competitors because you have to rely on Adobe's cross-platform strategy or creating for the lowest common denominator amongst platforms?

        (one of Job's Flash points... "It is not Adobe's goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple's platforms.")

        Apple wants to control it's own destiny (product development) and not have to rely on Adobe's timeline or agenda or "laziness" (write once and "fudge it" to work cross-platform).

        One reason Apple is often ahead of the competition and creates something better and "different".
        MacCanuck
      • However...

        "Again, strawman argument. Flash video is also based on H.264. If Safari
        is using hardware acceleration to decode the video stream it may be
        lighter on cpu/battery right now."

        If you wrap H264 in Flash you don't access the hardware acceleration. So
        not a strawman argument at all.
        jgpmolloy
        • Oh yes, Flash 10.1 will feature hw acceleration

          So this is nothing but a lame excuse for
          artificially using the iPhone market share to
          fence off competition.
          honeymonster
          • HW acceleration = RESOURCE HOG

            Guess what? Unless you have a dedicated chip for Flash, hardware acceleration means using more CPU cycles than before.

            In other words it will still be a resource hog.
            wackoae
    • But wait ...

      You said ...

      "These are very good arguments, well supported by the fact that
      not one smartphone currently has Flash support."

      This may be true but the reality is that Apple is trying to sell the iPad not as a smartphone replacement but as a netbook replacement. What it is is an over-sized iPod Touch.

      If it cannot do everything that a notebook can do, it cannot replace a road warrior's notebook/netbook. It doesn't support voice so it doesn't even replace the iPhone.

      Jobs cannot have it both ways. Either it is a tool or it is a toy. If it is a tool, it needs to do <i><b>everything</b></i> the tool it is intended to replace does. Otherwise, it is a toy - just the the iPod Touch, but bigger.
      M Wagner
      • Yet more misinformation

        "It doesn't support voice so it doesn't even replace the iPhone."
        The iPad most certainly does support voice -- Skype works on it just
        fine. It of course is not intended to replace your cell phone due it its
        size.

        But anyone whose actually used both a NetBook and iPad can tell you
        the iPad does way more than a NetBook, and Flash isn't missed one bit -
        - it works fine with every major video site except Hulu and they are
        hard at work on an iPad app. If you have used ABC or Netflix on the
        iPad you'll know there is much to look forward to. As it stands the main
        thing not having Flash on it does is act like a bonus ad blocker.
        Ted T.
        • Point Is...

          That if you can't go to sites developed in Flash, of which there are many, you can't call this a tool...

          Apple IS antitrust...they control hardware, software, and now content. Apple is the EXACT OPPOSITE of "open".

          I would think that people who rant about open standards would realize this and see that Jobs is a hypocrite that only seeks to control everything. Good business model for a company, not very good for consumers.
          bowened
          • 7% market share warrants antitrust?

            To be labeled "antitrust" and have a case against you succeed, you have to have control over a large portion of the market share and show the ability to block entrance into that market. Think IE on the desktop of MS Windows and not allowing any other browser to work on it. You're barking up the wrong tree.
            sunergeos