Steve Jobs pens Adobe missive: 'Flash falls short'

Steve Jobs pens Adobe missive: 'Flash falls short'

Summary: Apple CEO Steve Jobs has penned an open letter explaining his company's decision to avoid using Adobe Flash on its mobile iPhone, iPod and iPad devices.


Perhaps bowing to increasing media criticism, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has penned an open letter explaining his company's decision to avoid using Adobe Flash on its mobile iPhone, iPod and iPad devices.

Jobs writes that not supporting Flash was not a business-driven choice to protect its App Store, but rather a technological one.

He outlines six reasons Apple refuses to use Flash:

  1. Openness: Flash is proprietary; web standards such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript should be open. "By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system," Jobs writes. (He admits Apple, too, has closed parts of its business.)
  2. 'Full Web' myth: Jobs says plenty of video content is available using the "more modern" H.264 format, and it's not all locked away in Flash. "IPhone, iPod and iPad users aren't missing much video," he writes.
  3. Reliability, security and performance: Jobs noted Flash for having "one of the worst security records in 2009," according to Symantec. Jobs writes that Flash "has not performed well on mobile devices."
  4. Battery life: Jobs writes, in so many words, that Flash cuts precious mobile battery life in half. "The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained," Jobs writes.
  5. Touch format: Jobs writes that, with rollovers and other features, Flash is made for a mouse-driven PC, and not Apple's touch-based interface. "Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers," he writes.
  6. Substandard development: A third-party, cross-platform layer will result in poor quality, Jobs writes. "A third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform."

Here's Jobs in his own words:

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

Jobs' letter is remarkable not for its argument, which has been elaborated on before by Apple and pundits alike, but in its very existence. It's highly unusual for the chief executive to respond to criticism in such a public and permanent way.

My take: Jobs has perfectly valid points, and expectedly skips over similar arguments those critical of Apple might make.

(Exhibit A: The fact that Apple mobile products can't play Flash games. "There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world," he writes. That's the same argument Adobe has for keeping web video proprietary, only now popularity has tipped in Apple's favor.)

Still, it's a wonder that Jobs couldn't work this out behind the scenes, and that the clamor was so great that he felt compelled to write a public letter on the subject.

Surely the average mainstream consumer Apple user cares little about this B2B problem. So why publish this?

Are Apple's sales really taking a hit from flash-ready Android devices? If not, why bother addressing the issue?

Who is this letter actually for?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Apple

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • adobe ceo

    yes, discussing all this so openly is highly unusual for adobe and apple.
    maybe jobs had to answer after adobe ceo Shantanu Narayen so openly
    criticized apple for being "closed and proprietary" on reuters after their
    conference call two weeks ago. and don't forget Lee Brimelow famous
    "screw you, apple" blog entry.
    banned from zdnet again and again
    • iApple is a closed dictatorship that falls short

      Openness: iPhone is proprietary; multi touch
      and program development should be open. ?By
      almost any definition, iPhone is a closed

      ?Full Web? myth: ?IPhone, iPod and iPad users
      are missing all Flash web video content.

      Reliability, security and performance: iPhones
      / iPads are noted for having ?one of the worst
      networks connectivity records since 2007 and
      blaming ATT for it. 3G connectivity has not
      performed well on Apple devices.

      Battery life: with out multitasking, all
      devices perform well. Iphone doesnt have
      multitasking yet.

      Touch format: here the iPhone is great!

      All Apple users follow what one man dictates...
      Steve Jobs.

      Apple has been playing catch up with Android
      since the 3GS.
      • Don't blame your tool, or it's maker.

        Apple produces tools. You're free to decide if the tool is right for you. There is
        plenty of competition so there's no dictatorship.

        Flash isn't the only proprietary plugin required for various web content. In fact
        there are things that can't be viewed in any windows browser (requiring Mac or
        Linux or even exotic OS'es)

        If flash content is something you have to have, than you are not Apple's target
        • I disagree

          First the iphone simply has the best touch screen - my ONLY reason for owning one
          I have to put up with the paraphanalia that apple force on me - like not being able to copy content direct to the phone and by pass their annoying synchronisation model - I am not sayint that syncing isnt right for some but others want to use the iphone hardware without having to use itunes - that is about openness and freedom of choice (one of the arguments jobs uses)
          If apple felt that security was a big issue then why not work with adobe to find security that works and the choice about battery life is again about user choice.
          Free games and apps and functionality on some websites that a user needs are the critical issues
          why doesnt Jobs look for solutions rather than objections - he could pay some money to adobe to produce an iphone friendly version!
          • Hammers aren't for screws.

            If it DOES work as designed, but doesn't work for you, it's still a good tool.
            I can empathize with you, but those who make the kind of tool you're looking
            for are out there. Try the nexus one.
          • re: Hammers aren't for screws.

            But apples are for screwballs...

            If you are in the business of building fences, a hammer is NOT a good tool. It may be adequate, and may work, but to get the job done with any efficiency you need a nail gun. Due to Apple's closed system, the iPhone can never be a nailgun, it will always be a hammer. A good solid tool, if you need to smash something on occasion... but not if you need to get any real work done.
          • Amen

            And iProducts make good paper weights too!
        • WRONG!

          Tools produce Apples!
        • So, what is Apple's target audience?

          Isn't it supposed that the iPad is for everyone that wants to surf the web and enjoy media?

          What is this that if my small niece wants to play with the Flash Winnie Poo app in Disney, or I want to listen to the podcast of my favourite radio station makes me NOT Apple's intended target audience?
          Roque Mocan
          • Relax! ...Over 90% of All Devices Sold Will Still Support FLASH! ;)

            Just commit yourself to being among the
            majority of the Web Users and don't support
            iHitler Jobs, Evil World Domination Control
            Scheme. Which is like Hitler tried to do to the
            World with his Nazism!

            Just leave all the iNazis to play with
            themselves in the dark evil shadows of their
            fearless leader! .....a with their closed....
            ahumm iRegime's private little toys! ;)
          • Funny thing is.....

            15 years ago you'd have said 3%.

            A few years ago you'd have said 5%.

            Now you're saying 10%

            Who know what the number will look like in another few years at this

            Still even a a full 10% share of the market and with it's margins Apple
            will do very well indeed.

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
          • ....

            [i]Still even a a full 10% share of the market and with it's margins Apple will do very well indeed.[/i]

            So are you saying it's better to own Apple stock than their products?
          • I do own some Apple stock and a few Apple products.

            I'm happy with the performance of both. Hard to say which I would
            choose if I could only get one. I suspect I'd go for the products..
            .They have a great re-sale value so even as an investment they ain't
            half bad and to my way of thinking they work very well. I know there
            are differences of opinion vesa ve the whole "flexibility" argument but
            I see a benefit in a controlled system at least to a degree. It's like a
            custom hand made chair vs a factory made one. A certain mind set
            will not see any extra value in the custom chair after all wood is well
            wood and a chair is a chair. I happen to disagree but I can not say
            others are wrong for buying the other chair now can I?

            Pagan jim
            James Quinn
          • i2fun... Get help dude..

            I'm counting 20 posts of drivel about iHitler
            and iNazis, and some of the dumbest rants I
            have ever read...

            So who are you employed by??? Adobe??? MS???
            Did Apple punt your porn app from the app

            Your inferiority complex is the biggest I have
            ever seen... Back in High School, were you
            voted most likely to end up naked on a roof
            with a deer rifle???

            You seriously look like a raving lunatic...

            Take a break from the computer... go get some
            fresh air... lay off the coffee... drink a
            couple beers... chill...
          • Luv Peeps Like YOU! lol

            It would be nice if you could actually say
            something, resembling an intelligent response.....
            but hey? We all can't sit around anonymously
            sparring with a can of worms for brains, like so
            many of you dedicated iPwned iNazis!

            Walmart Law: "Talk about a car being blue in a
            Walmart parking lot and you'll immediately have
            everyone that has one, with their ears pricked in
            your direction. Mention Hitler and every Apple
            skinhead will be in your face wanting to discuss
            their iDol! .... c'est la m?me arogance!

            "Je vous emmerde"

            Sorry... but I haven't the time to LIVE on a Blog
            in ignorance of the World outside around me,
            iPwned by a iDictator. GET A LIFE!
        • Jobs Hyperbole Arguments are BOGUS! lol ;)


          NO DICTATORSHIP? haha... is that why he's lying
          about every point he brings up? Just part of his
          Propaganda Spiel.... I guess! lol

          Fact: Flash vulnerabilities only relate to
          Symantec's Reporting of "Remote Code Execution"
          Vulnerabilities within Windows. Nothing to do
          with Macs, Linux or Mobile Platforms! haha

          Another bit of info he so conveniently ignores, is
          that literally all reported FLASH problems are
          related to PORN Websites. But hey.... why didn't
          he mention that and it's connection to Windows
          only? :O

          Symantec makes programs for Apple OS-X too, and
          you'd think that the Anti Porn Czar Steven Jobs
          would take advantage of that against MS Windows.

          Oh..... yeah.... he's too busy trying to climb
          back in bed with his old bosom buddy Steve Balmer!

          Steve and Steve..... what a match!!! xD ;)

          btw... wonder what porn sites those two are
          visiting in their closed private meetings....
          ahummm..ughhh... behind closed doors... ???
          :O ... OMG

          (imagines how vulgar those two would look with
          Jobs riding Balmer like a horse whipping him
          to the Post)ughhhh...
      • Everyone can follow Jobs

        No one needs to use Apple products to stop using Flash and Silverlight
        and to use open web standards like HTML5, CSS and Javascript.
        • HTML 5 isn't even final

          I'd like to see the pain in building a line-of-business application in HTML 5. Ouch. Where's the scalable code-base? Where is the databinding back-end? Where are the user-controls so i can make a header that knows of you're logged and your rights and displays accordingly? HTML 5 and CSS are just sugar. You need a code environment around it to make it productive. Give me Visual Studio bindings for HTML 5. Give me JPS controls that are HTL 5 aware.

          HTML 5 is way too new to be productive other than making pages fade in/out (some of this JQuery can do without HTML 5). When Blend or Photoshop can export media as HTML 5 snippets, maybe we'll talk. Otherwise, give me HTML 4 and Silverlight. I think Flash is still alright, but a performace killer compared to recent releases of Silverlight.
          A Gray
          • HTML5 now

            There's nothing to stop people from building HTML5 websites right now,
            and the tools will only get better faster with Jobs' cracking the chicken-
            or-egg-first dilemma.
          • Heck no

            HTML5 is not a standard. It's a collection of proposals for what might, one day, be ratified into a standard for a future version of what we currently call HTML.

            Current estimates indicate that HTML5 - the standard - will most likely not be ratified until around 2022.

            Of course, you COULD go build a raft of websites against today's proposed standards, but if you do, you'll also have to keep maintaining those websites, updating their tags, scripts, etc., to keep up with changes in the proposed standard as it progresses through the standardization process.

            Most people do not want to do that as the cost of maintenance of HTML4 websites is already high enough.