It could be said that the ongoing battle between Adobe and Apple--the classic "friends turned enemies" grudge match--is like a giant digital version of an MMA fight. Or perhaps it's more appropriate to dub it a "boss battle."
Steve Jobs, Apple Overlord, has been tossing up jabs against the apparent disaster that is Adobe Flash for some time now, scattered across various quotes and interviews with the tech press. Various Adobe executive have stepped into the squared circle in an attempt to prove the sincerity (and usefulness) of Flash's existence, and it's been a relatively amusing, "you suck / no I don't / you suck / no I don't" back-and-forth.
Well, Jobs' comments finally got the best of Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, who summoned up such powerful counterarguments as follows: Flash's crashing on Apple's operating systems was something, "to do with the Apple operating system," and that Apple's iPad was, "a good first-generation device. I think you're going to see just tremendous innovation in terms of tablets."
Yep. You're going to need some ointment for that burn, Steve.
I love a good digital squabble as much as the next person, and it's kind of funny to watch the heads of huge corporations go at it in a public forum--finding the best way to nicely insult each other in a manner that doesn't open either up for the ol' friendly lawsuit. But come on.
At Maximum PC--much like any legitimate hardware-focused website or magazine--the team prides itself on the statistics-driven, repeatable tests that drive the reporting behind its reviews. It doesn't do anyone much good to hear blasé statements like, "oh, this product is super-fast" or "I don't think this product is very secure." Whether either statement is actually true or not is immaterial: To a reader, these are more opinions than straight-laced, tested facts.
There's one great way that either Apple or Adobe can really drive this simple squabble home. Does Adobe crash Apple devices to a great frequency? Okay, let's see the numbers, tested across a wide range of Apple's offered devices.
Does Flash really drain the battery life as much as Steve says? Fire up the stopwatch and start rubbing the screen--let's see what happens when Flash is tested across a number of devices and applications to see just how bad the situation may or may not be.
This won't fix the underlying issue that Flash and Apple are the oil and water of the digital world--thus preventing a multitude of consumers from accessing Flash-drive content on their handheld Apple devices of choice. However, it would be nice to see in a direct, example-driven fashion just how much of this fight has become hyperbole over realism.
And who knows; perhaps if, indeed, Jobs is wrong, a grassroots support movement in favor of Flash could curry some kind of favor from the Halls of Cupertino. But even that's wishful thinking--Apple dictates how you use its devices, not the other way around.
Were I in charge of Apple, not only would I hang out more with the Woz, but I would also wait until a critical mass of i-whatever users has voiced displeasure at the lack of Flash on my company's devices. I'd then investigate adding a slightly speedier processor (or thicker battery) to the next generation of i-whatevers and charge people an additional fee to pick up the latest iPhone 3F or iPad 3F models--for Flash support, of course.
That, or I--as Apple--could just borrow a page from the open-source manual and fork my own firmware. I'd charge consumers $50 (or whatever) for a special Flash-enabled version of the iPhone or iPad firmware that comes with no additional tech support beyond what's listed on the Web site. I'd inform consumers that they're installing the firmware at their own risk and that there will be sporadic updates--at best--to match the devices' future "normal firmware" updates. Then voila--users get Flash and Apple gets money (and the ability to wipe its hand clean of any alleged Flash issues on its devices).
Hey, I never said I was nice. Jobs, Narayen, and whomever are good at throwing down, but there's no reason why they can't think outside the box a little bit and give consumers exactly what they want--based on my interactions with Apple devotees thus far, who are more than happy to buy iterations of products and their slightly feature-enhanced models that get released a month later, I think they'd pay for it. Wouldn't you? And, if not, wouldn't you want to know who to really blame?
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.