Thoughts on Adobe …A Parody of Mr. Jobs

bad design, blogging, Browsers, consumerism, Firefox, Flash, IE, iPhone, Marketing, Microsoft, Safari, standards, Uncategorized, web development, Windows

This is a direct parody of Steve Jobs letter about Flash.It is intended to be thought provoking, insightful, and inciting.

Being a Macintosh SE, iPhone, iPad, PowerMac, PowerBook, home built PC, Windows using web, Flash, print developer that has working in the training development, corporate marketing, and software development industries for too long… I couldn’t read Steve’s letter without calling BS. Read this with an open mind and consider the end user, not the corporations. I want Flash, my kids want Flash, why because some developer’s do amazing work on this platform and we should have access to it. Content is king. Enjoy…

Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe’s founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new proprietary, Mac only, Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the company for many years, hoping to keep them from helping Microsoft take our Design and Publishing customers from considering Windows as a viable platform.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 I abandoned them, and Adobe was able to expand into the corporate market with their products, and deliver all their software to our Microsoft Windows competitors. Today the two companies still work together to serve their joint creative customers – Mac users buy around half of Adobe’s Creative Suite products – but beyond that there are few joint interests because we can’t control what Adobe produces, or who their target customer is.

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to monopolize our App Store – but in reality it is a complete monopoly on all our products, and has been for a almost all Apple’s existence. Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash content is freely available on the internet, and both Apple and Windows developers can choose to develop on this platform, but in fact my truth is far more insidious. Let me explain.

First, there’s “Open” (notice it’s in quotes, because we are secretly injecting proprietary content into these standards).

Apple’s products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Apple, and Apple has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available and able to run on any computer OS on the market (even Linux) , and the creative output from these products has created an ecosystem adopted worldwide, both free and commercial. Because Apple is the only producer of the hardware, operating system, development platform, and distribution system for their products, controlled entirely by Apple and available only from Apple for use on their hardware. By every definition, Apple is a closed system. Apple controls what content their customers’ can consume; no flash, no un-Apple-approved apps, forcing developers to add proprietary tags to their web sites to properly display their content on Apple controlled products, requiring developers to register with Apple to even have access to the information to develop their content for Apple’s products.

Apple only  produces proprietary products. The operating system for the Macintosh, iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open, and sprinkled with Apple proprietary tags like those in legacy browsers. Rather than use Flash, an industry standard development and publishing format, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript – all open standards that are not supported by the largest user base in the world: Internet Explorer users. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with embedded batteries, proprietary cables and conectors, and support for only one transfer software iTunes, we chose to avoid all available industry standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is a completely open but marginally supported, or implemented standard, because the largest internet user group in the world cannot consume it, which makes Apple very happy to an opportunity to pull users away from Microsoft.

Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web browser used in all our products. WebKit has been widely adopted. Google uses it for Android’s browser, Palm uses it, Nokia uses it, and RIM (Blackberry) has announced they will use it too. Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft’s uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has seeded the browser market with a rendering engine that restricts developers ability to customize their pages, because Apple has specific opinions about how forms should render, as well as giving us hooks into a larger population of browsers. And the world needs open standards, and products like this.

Second, there’s the “full web”.

Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video, 90% of kids social/gaming sites, 50%  of educational software, 90% of corporate training materials, etc… on the web and corporate intranets is in Flash. What we’re not saying is that some of this video is being re-produced in order to cater to our ever growing market share in another format, H.264 (a non-opensource format), and now it’s viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads. YouTube developed a Apple approved app, to deliver their estimated 40% of the web’s video, to bundle on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever. Add to this video from Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic, and many, many others all developing apps in our closed system in order to maintain market share in this ever changing market. iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video, but they are missing out on games, training, music sites, creative content, and entertainment developed and delivered in this long standing industry format that we can’t control.

Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free, and Apple makes money off ever single one of them even if no one buys/downloads them. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world and we love all the cash.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

Symantec recently highlighted that the internet has the worst security records in the history of computing. Almost any site can inject your pc with viruses, Trojans, worms and rootkits. It’s only a matter of time before HTML5 and CSS3 are exploited too. In fact Apple has been delivering Quicktime for years and it’s a fantastic medium for redirecting users to viral sites with embedded URL bookmarks. It’s only a matter of time before Apple products have enough markat share for hackers to start developing targeted attacks against our consumers. We also know first hand that Macs crash, they have been crashed by too many inits, too many installed fonts, poorly programmed applications, websites, and drivers. Heck they are computers after all, and I can’t name one computer that doesn’t crash, except for one that isn’t plugged in. We have been working with Adobe to help our computers run Flash better, but our system issues  have persisted for several years now. We just can’t figure out how to sandbox content in our browser to prevent it from crashing our systems. We don’t want to expose the un-reliability and in-security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash.

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices because traditionally the browsers on phones have sucked. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, but the only decent browser that could support Flash is ours so we’ve hobbled Adobe for a few years now. We love having all this control. Adobe shipped Flash on phones in 2006, and have continually improved their product since then delivering flash content world over to dozens of devices. We don’t think we can ever get our smartphone to support this technology that the Japanese have been supporting and shipping for around 4 years, we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath when we kept stumbling to deliver a reliable platform to deliver developer’s content. We know how it will performs on our competitors. Heck if we put Flash in then we’d have to add Java support too, and we have to carefully roll out our own proprietary Virtual Machine on Macs just to support this technology, what kind of havoc would the wreak on our iThingies.

Fourth, there’s battery life.

To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much power. Many of the chips used in modern mobile devices contain a decoder called H.264an industry standard that is used in every Blu-ray DVD player and has been adopted by Apple, Google (YouTube), Vimeo, Netflix and many other companies, because it has such a huge market base.

Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. 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. What we’re not saying, but it’s obvious, this new hardware decoder is better than the software decoder and now that Flash, and our products have this compatability we’re running out of excuses fro supporting Flash.

When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all, effectively cutting out any enhancements in interactivity that Flash offers. They just play the video stream in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome without any interactivity, or dynamic content that users can contribute to, heck any web 2.0 support at all in the video delivery. That’s ok  for Apple because on iPhones, iPods and iPads we can wrap marketing messages, and interactivity in our proprietary apps effectively cutting out the rest of the market because corporations need to advertise and monetize.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers just like the rest of the internet, because touch devices didn’t exist in any quantity to support. For example, most websites rely on “rollovers”, which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface can’t support rollovers so every interaction on websites has to be rewritten to support touch . Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to update their Flash websites, why wouldn’t they want to start over from scratch? Ironically, our mobile devices are forcing JavaScript libraries to rewrite whole portions of their code to make it small enough to fit into the small cache on mobile products, as well as stripping out all the mouse events we can’t support.

Even if iPhones, iPods and iPads ran Flash, it would not solve the problem that most Flash websites need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices.

Sixth, the most important reason.

Besides the fact that the Flash development platform is monetized and proprietary, just like everything Apples sells, has major technical drawbacks for our hardware and software, and doesn’t support touch based devices yet, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash software engines to play video and  our inability to support non-Apple interactive content from websites, but Adobe has also provided developers a means to deliver Flash apps that run on our mobile devices.

We know from painful experience that without tight control over all third party software, and hardware products, letting someone else have access to our platform, the ultimate result is our products look shoddy, buggy and over priced. We like to distribute sub-standard apps, like iFart, iBurp, and iVomit, without the hindrance of not profiting on the delivery and development process. If developers grow dependent are allowed to use third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features, and we can’t control the development process. This would cut off one of our revenue streams, and might illuminate any inadiquacies our development tools have, they the third party tools don’t have like the ability to deliver to multiple platforms simultaneously. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party illuminating our platform’s shortcomings by opening our development platform to non-Apple developers.

This becomes even worse if the third party is supplying a cross platform development tool. The third party would not add touch features to mouse driven versions, supporting enhancements from one platform because they are un-available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features, ours. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where we can’t block developers from using our competitors innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our platforms.

Flash is a cross platform development tool. 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, allowing their developers to make the most out of their development costs. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms, because Apple has such a small market share in the desktop arena. Why would they spend development dollars to support a minority share of the delivery market. Why not aim to meet the needs of the largest customer market in the world. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X. We’re glad they finally bit the bullet and pour millions of dollars into supporting 5% of the market.

Our motivation is simple – we want to provide a tightly controlled environment available only to our developers, and we want them to stop standing on the shoulders of other platforms to create the best apps the world has ever seen, because we can’t make any money if they do. We want to continually enhance the platform preventing developers to continually re-write more of their code, pay additional royalties, providing a formidable revenue stream for Apple. We win – we sell more devices because we control the best apps, developers reach a more Apple centric audience and customer base, and users are continually upgrading their hardware support the latest batch of proprietary  selection of Apple controlled apps not available on any other platform.

Conclusions.

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 iApple era is about proprietary devices, touch interfaces and Apple web standards – all areas where we don’t want Flash.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that the market is trying a new delivery mechanism to monetize their content, whereas Flash was the old method to watch video or consume any kind of rich interactive web content. And the 200,000 fart apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create crappy paid for applications, including games.

New open standards being created regardless of the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on all devices, and platforms, forcing us to inject our proprietary tags and standards into the world wide web. Hopefully Adobe will not focus more on creating great HTML5, and multi-platform tools  for the future, and continue wasting time criticizing Apple for trying to control it’s ever growing market share.

Steve Jobs Joel Cory
May, 2010

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