Murphy's Law: Adobe Flash's Fightin' Words



It's been nearly a week since I last reported about Apple's reluctance to allow its users access to the Flash platform. Apple--and Steve Jobs himself-- has reportedly claimed that the instability of Flash was the driving factor behind Apple's ripping of this app straight off of its mobile devices (including the brand-new iPad) in favor of an HTML5-based solution for interactive content.

Although Adobe seemed to be letting Jobs' alleged tirade against Flash earlier this week go unanswered, ‘twas not meant to be. Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch has since responded in the company's official "Executive Perspectives" blog. I'm not much of a betting man (nightmares of CES losses haunt me to this day), but perhaps you are: Just which way do you think Lynch points the finger of blame for Flash's absence on--quote unquote--"a recent magical device."

Here we go again!

Everyone Loves Flash

For what it's worth, Lynch does correctly address the big watershed moment that Flash adoption currently faces. This almost seems like an contradiction in itself--if Lynch is to be believed, Flash currently runs on 98 percent of connected computers and powers the whiz-bang content of more than 85 percent of the Web's top sites. Obviously, Flash is big.

Keep in mind, however, that these statistics are primarily concerned with computers accessing the Web. Call them what you will, but devices like the iPad and the iPhone don't fit this description. Unlike a computer, you can't exactly go installing new frameworks and architectures on a closed device like the iPhone. Depending on the manufacturer and/or the limits of the underlying technology, you simply don't have the kind of support to freely download and install executables to expand your core functionality. These closed products aren't thumbing their nose at the open-source world. It's just how they're built.

To Adobe, it's not up to them to create a more open framework--that already exists by virtue of Flash's extraordinarily wide audience. Flash is the standard for video. Nobody's arguing about Flash, yet everyone seems to be split into camps supporting either the Ogg Theora or H.264 formats of HTML5. This still isn't sufficient of enough cause to kill either format in favor of the other. Lynch sees a concurrent future for both Flash and HTML5, provided other companies do their part to make the Web an "open environment," as he phrases it.

"We have shown that Flash technology is starting to work on these devices today by enabling standalone applications for the iPhone to be built on Flash. In fact, some of these apps are already available in the Apple App Store such as FickleBlox and Chroma Circuit. This same solution will work on the iPad as well. We are ready to enable Flash in the browser on these devices if and when Apple chooses to allow that for its users, but to date we have not had the required cooperation from Apple to make this happen."

Them's fightin' words.

Steve Jobs Does Not Love Flash

Will Steve Jobs ultimately care? No. Will Apple let an allegedly buggy application ruin the performance of its devices, when the very marketing behind said devices relates to their impressive usability? No. Will Flash open up its player for anyone to fork at will? No--nor can they, given that they can't openly distribute the codices the player uses.

Is there a solution? Well... no. In fact, many believe that this is the dying argument, the last puff of exhaust hanging in the air after the HTML5 van has sped off into the sunset. If the Flash player is truly as convoluted and buggy as Apple claims, why would the company want to step back and reinvent the wheel if it can instead pave the way forward with a truly open framework for content delivery?

Flash might exist throughout the future of the Web, but I don't forsee a future where Apple and Adobe go prancing around 1 Infinite Loop hand-in-hand. But when it comes to other devices--especially the true "computers" I talked about earlier--Flash has gained enough of a head start to keep it as the prevailing protocol for years to come. And if the company was to opt to phase out the closed Flash player out in favor of an HTML5/Javascript solution ... well, that'd be a real zinger indeed.

David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!

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