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Who exactly was Steve Jobs talking to in his 'open letter' on Adobe?

When Steve Jobs late last week posted an open letter about Flash and Apple's relationship with Adobe there were questions on its impetus and its audience. Jobs' Thoughts on Flash letter said it was to the consumers, but some of the language, much of it, was aimed at a different constituency.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

When Steve Jobs late last week posted an open letter about Flash and Apple's relationship with Adobe there were questions on its impetus and its audience. Jobs' Thoughts on Flash letter said it was to the consumers, but some of the language, much of it, was aimed at a different constituency.

Then on Tuesday, reports surfaced of a Department of Justice antitrust inquiry — started by complaints from Adobe Systems. According to my colleague Larry Dignan at Between the Lines,  the memo's audience became clear: regulators.

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.

However, I offer a different audience: Apple developers.

There are many questions in the developer community right now and Apple's apparent changes in development requirements was just one.

The letter came right on the heels of the announcement of Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June here in San Francisco.  Last year, the announcement was made in March. But after Apple pulled out of the Macworld Expo in January, there were questions whether Apple would hold its developer conference this year and the silence was worrying to the community.

As I've pointed out in the past, many of the developers coming to this year's conference and who are now working on iPad/iPhone/iPod apps have little history with Apple. They are new to the company and to the platform, unlike longtime Mac developers, some of whom had worked on classic Mac OS products "back in the days."

These developers bring a different culture to the Mac coder community. They have no experience with the terrible years of the 1990s, when Apple was under constant attack in the market, when it sought operating system and developer strategies, and when it was declared dead several times. They have a different notion of loyalty.

Check Out: Signs of iPhone growing pains at Apple's WWDC?

Instead, these new developers to the Apple platform and Xcode toolset, may consider Apple a bully about rejecting the Flash cross-compiler in Adobe's Flash Professional CS5. Perhaps they have even bought into a bit of the mythology of Apple as the counterculture company, recalling the 1984 Mac launch commercial. I found John Stewart's editorial of last week foolish, where he told Apple to join him on Camera 3 and told Steve Jobs to play nice. This was the "Appholes" bit.

Perhaps this is why Jobs started off the letter with a history lesson for developers about the two companies.

The two companies worked closely together to pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times. Since that golden era, the companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their Acrobat products.

"Growing apart" is a kind way to put it. I can recall talking to a source at Adobe in the mid-90s, a director level manager, who told me about a high level meeting he attended. Adobe executives were furious about Apple's flailing OS and developer strategies. One vice president was reported to have said that if he had anything to say about it, Adobe would never write to an Apple API again.

With Adobe's content products using a self-contained imaging engine and interapplication events handler, scripting mechanism, well as its cross-platform strategy based on a runtime content platform, it appears that this anti-Apple vision came to pass.

Jobs closes the letter by talking to developers directly.

Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.

At the moment, customers are buying Apple's technology and providing developers with a compelling case for an Apple business. My colleague Jason O'Grady worries that developers will leave the platform because of the lack of a Flash runtime for iPhone/iPad and the rejection of Adobe's cross-compiler tools. I really don't think so.

The programmers I've spoken with are picking two mobile platforms to write to: Android and Apple. It doesn't matter about the tools. Listen, when Apple can sell 1 million iPads in a short month, it has customers who want to buy products. And Apple customers, unlike many Windows customers, really buy lots of software and peripherals.

On the end-user front, this will all pass in the next 4 or 5 months. Hints have gone around the Web for more than a year that Adobe would have a Flash solution for the iPhone.

This past week, we see that it must have been clear for quite a while that Adobe never would have a solution. So content providers, site owners and online brands have been slow to bite the bullet and fix their sites and content. If they want to present their brands to all mobile clients, not just some of them, and especially to the 70 percent of the smartphone market that can't see their Flash content, they will have to do some work. They just haven't wanted to do the work and pay for the work that needed to be done a year ago.

Finally, I agree with Jobs about the questionable quality of some cross-compiled apps. I beta test a number of apps, native and cross-compiled and there's no comparison as to the level of user experience between them: the Mac-centric app is superior. For Mac users, and iPhone and iPad users, quality is a central value.

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