The Gentleman From Cupertino Has The Floor: Steve Jobs Explains WHY He Hates Flash…

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…and astonishingly, does so without his usual rhetoric, condescension, or the patented reality-distortion field.  You may actually find yourself switching to the Weather Channel to see if Hell really did freeze over.

In an online essay entitled "Thoughts on Flash," Jobs steps back from the rancor of the recent Apple vs. Adobe spat regarding the non-support of Flash code on iDevices — and Flash-developed apps in the App Store — and calmly, methodically states his case.  Some salient points:

  • Apple and Adobe started out as best friends; the former was a 20% investor in the latter, and it was the marriage of Apple hardware (the Laserwriter) and Adobe software (PostScript) that jump-started the whole desktop-publishing revolution.
  • Jobs makes a convincing case that, despite Abobe's claims to the contrary, Flash is not an "open" system: "Adobe‚Äôs Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc…By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system."
  • Jobs concedes that the iDevices themselves are proprietary, but the software behind them — HTML5, CSS, Javascript — is not.  In fact, Apple's own HTML5 open-source rendering engine Webkit is not only at the core of Safari, but has been adopted by Google, Nokia, Palm, and (very shortly) Blackberry for their browsers.
  • Jobs shoots down the "full web" video-support arguement, pointing out that many Flash-video sites also support the iDevice-friendly h.264 video format.  (This writer can attest to that: having a chance to play with an iPad on April 3rd, I promptly logged into YouTube and Vimeo, and was frankly blown away at the crisp video-streaming experience.)
  • Flash and battery life in portable devices is a HUGE sticking point for Jobs; while h.264 video can be efficiently decoded in hardware, Flash videos require software decoding, which means an extra drain on the battery.
  • Jobs also argues that Flash was designed for PC's with mice, resulting in a heavy reliance on rollovers to trigger popup events.  Since multitouch devices don't even know what a "rollover" is, the effort to recode Flash sites to support touch-based devices might be better spent using the aforementioned HTML5 and Jscript.

Jobs concludes that Flash was a product of the PC-era past, and simply isn't appropriate for a present — and future — defined by low-power devices with touch interfaces and open web standards.

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