On Apple, Adobe and Flash

I’ve been interested today to try and catch up on the whole Apple / Adobe debate regarding Flash, specifically Steve Jobs’ open letter and the WSJ interview with Shantanu Narayen. Let me first get my opinions out the way: people who know me will know that I’m an Apple geek, but I’m also a Web Developer with lots of experience using Adobe products, Flash in particular. For a long while, I really disliked developing in Flash, until I discovered the MC Tween library (now Tweener), which finally let me develop in Flash the way I wanted to. But until this week, when Flash Player 10.1 Gala came out, my experience with Flash in-browser was, as it is for many Mac users (and still is for some), frustrating at best.

With the capabilities of fantastic JavaScript libraries such as Raphael, jQuery, MooTools and the like, not to mention the superb frameworks like Cappuccino, and the enhancements that are being realised through HTML5 and CSS3, I can’t help but think that Flash has had its time. I can’t help but think that for the majority of applications, Flash isn’t really an option anymore. Once there’s (hopefully) a widespread, standard adoption of the HTML5 and CSS3 specifications, it should be significantly easier to develop websites with the same aesthetic flair as Flash sites in these languages – let alone a lot more accessible.

I, personally, don’t miss Flash when I’m using my iPhone. If/when I get an iPad, I can’t imagine I’ll miss it all that much on there either.

Maybe it’s time for Flash to step down. What I would absolutely love to see is an application that has the same power as the Flash IDE with regards to creating animations, adding functionality etc, but that outputs in standards compliant HTML/CSS with a JavaScript library. Adobe are probably a bit too stubborn to admit defeat and produce this product, but something like this could be really awesome.

Jobs vs Narayen

Back to the debate. Is it just me, or are there some mixed messages going on here? Jobs talks a lot about Flash being a closed system, and that Apple are supporting the open community by placing the emphasis on HTML5 and H.264. Narayen then counters that by saying that the iPhone is a closed system, and that they are supporting an open system by creating authoring tools with single-click deployment to a wide number of platforms.

They’re all good points, and all correct. Although the specification for Flash is open (apparently, I didn’t actually know that it was until I heard it from Narayen today), it is still controlled mainly by Adobe since they have the monopoly on the actual Flash player. Jobs 1 – Narayen 0. The iPhone is very similar, in that the code and frameworks are available for everyone to use, but the actual platform is controlled by a single entity. Jobs 1 – Narayen 1. Apple are indeed supporting the open community, I think HTML5 and H.264 are definitely the right way forward, particularly on mobile devices like the iPhone. Jobs 2 – Narayen 1. Adobe are indeed working to create authoring tools with single-click deployment to the web on a large number of devices. Jobs 2 – Narayen 2.

Looks like a tie, right?

Thing is, I can’t help but think that Adobe are fighting a pretty pointless fight with their “single-click cross platform deployment” – what’s wrong with HTML? As far as I’m aware, every mobile device with any market share supports HTML, along with every computer connected to the internet. That seems pretty cross platform to me.

I’m completely with Jobs on this one. Yes, I am an Apple geek, and people will say “well, of course you’re going to side with Apple”, but I really think Adobe are barking up the wrong tree here. Flash is all but dead, Adobe should move on.

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