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Jobs’ Flash Attack Puts iPad Credibility on the Line



Gawker is reporting that Steve Jobs told the Wall St. Journal that it would be “trivial” for them to replace Flash on its websites and replace it with H.264 for video. I’m not a programmer so I can’t comment on the triviality of the job, but I can comment on the ongoing war that Jobs is waging against Adobe’s Flash.

Depending on who you pay attention to Flash has its detractors and its adherents. Jobs is making it plain that he doesn’t want to Flash on his iPhone, his iPod Touch, or his iPad. From the sound of things he’s exerting pressure on publications who are very much looking to his iPad as a device with savior-like possibilities. Perhaps its hyperbole or perhaps not but Jobs claims Flash would reduce the iPad’s battery life from a reported, but not confirmed, 10 hours to 1.5 hours. In the midst of all of this Adobe is denying reports from some quarters that it is sabotaging HTML 5 advances. The whole thing sounds like a big old mess.

The fun of following this will be to watch how many content publishers follow Jobs’ lead and how many don’t. Other Tablet OEMs are already beginning to tout that their devices will support Flash, so there’s a potential opening there once the verdict on the iPad starts to become clearer in about 5 to 6 weeks or so. The iPad’s long term success isn’t guaranteed, nor is the Tablet form factor’s, so I’m guessing there’s some waiting and seeing going on. From what I know, we’d all be better off with HTML 5 in the long run but that means some oxes are going to get gored and I’m guessing the bloodletting (or money losing) when that occurs is going to make what we’re seeing today look, well, er… um… trivial.



  1. GoodThings2Life

    02/18/2010 at 8:29 pm

    First of all, I hate Adobe on a nearly equal level as I hate Apple, and Flash is probably the only technology I can think of worse than Acrobat (at least, in terms of software).

    That said, Jobs is a freaking lunatic. The world is not going to convert to HTML5 just because he says so, and it’s not going to do so overnight. Flash isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Silverlight, so it’s high time they suck it up and cope.

    As for the battery life claim, that shows one of two things is true… either Jobs is lying to discredit and trash talk Adobe, or he’s lying about the 10+ hours of battery life. Video is video, and you’re not going to convince me that a CPU and graphics processor is going to magically work less hard with one H.264 over another… at least not at that level.

    • Noah

      02/19/2010 at 9:24 am

      Raw H.264 can be, and is hardware-accelerated on iPhone OS devices.

      Because you cannot get direct access to hardware in the APIs, any video decoding that Flash does would have to be done on the processor only, losing any hardware acceleration the phone or tablet provides.

      So yes. H.264 will WAY outperform any video decoding a third-party app can do.

      • Noah

        02/19/2010 at 9:29 am

        P.S. Anyone who does H.264 in Flash instead of sending it raw is doing something else to it — adding ads inline, doing live metrics on viewing habits, preventing portability, trying new streaming techniques, etc. — all things that have unknown performance (hw and network) and experience hits on the end-user. On both points, Apple has a vested interest on keeping that siht under control.

      • smh

        02/19/2010 at 12:01 pm

        I don’t see what hardware acc. h.264 has anything to do with the claim that flash will reduce the to 1.5 hour.

      • Ken Jackson

        02/19/2010 at 12:14 pm

        So because the iPhone doesn’t allow third parties to do hw accelerated video, this is Adobe’s fault? The iPhone has great UI, but it is a complete cluster*!?# with respect to technology.

      • DMan

        02/23/2010 at 2:44 am

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but the latest version of Flash supports GPU acceleration – but on the windows platform only: your first clue as to why Jobs slams it.

        I have a strong suspicion that a significant portion of the criticism comes from Mac fanboys. The same ones who dissed Intel processors until their god Jobs told them it was now the best thing since sliced bread. Forgetting of course, that Jobs, not that long before, had said ‘PowerPC is faster that Intel. Period.”

        The criticisms of Flash are either disingenuous or misinformed imo. Well written Flash applications do not eat CPU cycles. Only badly written ones do – same as any other programming language. I can crash your browser with ASP, PHP, you name it. And they can’t even do vector animation.

        The absurdity of the criticisms are exposed when one considers that as soon as you have a tech that does all the same stuff as Flash can, you’re going to have the exact same issue.

        Check out jQuery/MooTools/JavaScript libray of your choice and HTML5 prototypes that try to be as fancy as Flash. I looked at one site demo-ing these. Looking at my CPU usage monitor while they were running just as much of a performance hit.

        You’re in for an unpleasant surprise if you think you can do vector-based runtime animation and NOT eat cpu cycles in ANY technology.

        Don’t forget vector animation is far smaller in size than quicktime or WM because it’s resolution independent. Do away with that, and let’s see how your mobile networks cope with a massively increased bandwidth demand.

  2. Wilhelm Reuch

    02/19/2010 at 4:26 am

    It is certainly not a good thing when it now turns out that the supposedly open web is unusable unless you are blessed with a closed proprietary Adobe product.

    So we have a situation where Adobe is in control of who gets to publish what. And which device will succeed or not.

    If the web is to be taken seriously this dependency on Flash must end. End quickly. Anyone should be able to build a device that surfs the web without the blessing of Adobe Inc.

    As for the iPad and battery time it is probably true. Apple has built-in hardware support for decoding H.264 (its already in the iphone) which is *much* more efficient than doing it with software. But the Flash runtime is its own closed platform and uses its own software codecs.

    This is another reason the web shold be based on open standards. So each device maker can create and innovate his own optimizations for rendering web pages.

    The present situration where Adobe has a strangehold on everyone (and is filibustering the HTML5 process at the same time) is a disgrace

  3. chris hickie

    02/19/2010 at 4:34 am

    This will be one of those immovable object meets the irresistable force battles, with us stuck in the middle.

    • Augustus

      02/19/2010 at 10:24 am

      I am not against Apple. I picked Apple as an investment in 1997 when they were 6 months from bankruptcy. One of the main reasons was Steve Jobs.

      However, the iPad is a disaster even without flash. They are just adding to their troubles.

      – Netbooks are far better alternative at the price point.
      – Windows 7 is a vastly improved OS (from Vista) that can run every application out there. Which is BTW a few million times more than the 140,000 apps available in the App Store.

      Sorry, Apple. Can’t back you on this one.


  4. Steve802

    02/19/2010 at 6:11 am

    Whether or not Flash is a good technology (my iBook g4 doesn’t like it), it’s seldom been put to good use. Not having Flash on my iPhone or my iPod Touch has been one of the blessings of those devices …

    The WSJ is, sadly, one of the sites that makes particularly poor use of Flash … maybe the presentation there was less about Flash than web, news, and media design.

  5. saad

    02/19/2010 at 8:26 am

    Steve’s claims are bogus, he wants to keep control on what runs on his devices. If flash was available on the ipad or iphone, developers would not have to deal with Apple’s approval process –

  6. Mike Cane

    02/19/2010 at 8:56 am

    Adobe has no supporters among everyday people.

    Flash is cloggy and slows down sites.

    Adobe Reader is a frikkin hog and PDFs are a royal PITA (try Google Books PDFs!).

    And Adobe Digital Editions — one of the backbones of eBooks — a godawful piece of software in and of itself.

    Steve Jobs is correct in wanting to keep Adobe’s crapware off his iProducts.

    Let’s see how soon all the people with Flash on Android devices start complaining about it.

  7. Sandeep Koorse

    02/19/2010 at 9:57 am

    Want proof that flash is an atrocity? Surf to a flash site with an Atom based netbook. While netbooks can do so many things well, flash is a slideshow that wreaks havoc on the CPU. It is poorly coded. Sites are using it with no consideration for their customers.

  8. Ric

    02/19/2010 at 11:01 am

    I would have Jobs back on this if it was for a right reason, not about greed and he wasnt already a closed system El Diablo! But he is the devil and his practices and attitudes with regard to his little corner of the universe is an unmitigated step back that will be viewed by history as the business model aberration it unquestionably is.

    I hate to say it this way .. but youre a criminal joke SJ for marrying such a gorgeous hardware platform to such a crap delivery system. My ultimate contempt is reflected in the fact that I consider your shite business model to be worse than even the telecom carriers greed and dysfunction. Apple has risen and lets hope like many other broke business models in this failing country of ours it falls as hard as it can!

  9. evilbillcosby

    02/19/2010 at 12:38 pm

    you add NOTHING to the ongoing story

    and your written style is overly wordy

    I’ll never come back here again

  10. Rodfather

    02/19/2010 at 1:35 pm

    I’m sure a lot of people will be upset they won’t be able to run FarmVille and tinychat.

  11. Chad Essley

    02/19/2010 at 8:29 pm

    The idea that HTML5 will somehow replace flash is not only propaganda, but a totally laughable idea. The real issue here is Steve and Apple not wanting to lose market share of it’s walled garden Itunes store to free flash games, video and content.

    My problem with Apple at this point, is that they’re flat out telling huge lies to it’s userbase! Such misleading and outright lies such as: “Netbooks aren’t better at anything!”, flash being buggy, Adobe being “lazy”, or not ready for the Iphone.. etc. The same way Apple told everyone that power pc chips were faster and superior, when they were developing an intel os all along! Boy I would have been angry if I had invested in apple ppc apps at that time!

    It’s easy to label something as “causing most of the crashes” and “buggy”, when it would slightly dim and carve into your giant wall of glowing iphone apps / content that’s being sold through Apple’s online store, once users are allowed to view free content.

    While not open source, Flash content can be cheaply and easily created using a robust and frankly incredible and flexible WYSIWYG rich editor that can do anything from complex database integration, scripting.. drawing and animation! With the number of web designers and programmers using it, it’s ease, and huge saturation..(90% of all web browsers) Flash simply won’t be defeated in the next decade! (Unless the above miraculously comes into being for a rich HTML5 editor.)

    That isn’t happening! Wake up and smell the coffee people. Steve J and Co are flat out liars, and they will deserve the loss of business and respect they receive, when people wake up to the facts, realizing that the walled garden they’re in.. stinks!

  12. aamp

    02/21/2010 at 4:29 pm

    I agree with @Mike Cane AND @Chad Essley:

    Apple have a walled garden and they’ll do what they can to protect their income.

    Adobe plug-ins are a PITA!!

    BUT, I think Jobs is just getting back at Adobe for treating the Mac platform/customers as second class citizens. Adobe don’t support Macs very well so Job won’t support Adobe. Simple.

    As @Sandeep Koorse said above, try running Flash on a netbook or an older laptop and you’ll see the problem. Apart from being one of the easiest ways of allowing hackers onto your PC, Flash/Shockwave/PDFViewer are all sloppy products that badly written and a huge waste of computing resource.

    If you don’t want to be in Jobs’ walled garden then don’t buy the iPad. I for one won’t be buying it because Apple have locked it down so much that they won’t even include an SD Card or USB port on the thing. They make a lot of money from third party iAccessories and they’re getting gready. If you’re not happy with this situation then support Android, Symbian, WinMo, WebOS or whatever. That’s consumerism.

    Remember, the iPod didn’t support the MP3 format originally but Apple had to add it. Maybe in the 3rd generation of iPod, but it still had to add support before it got the mass adoption that the iPod brand is known for these days. I hope the iPad doesn’t sell. Then they’ll have to make it more consumer friendly and less locked down…

  13. _mark

    02/26/2010 at 1:32 pm

    @Mike Cane what planet are you from? Everyone uses flash! The only people complaining about it are apple users (and you guys all use it too).. and apple users make up 15% of all internet traffic, so WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

    Get real man.

  14. _mark

    02/26/2010 at 2:03 pm

    All you people complaining about Flash not running, quit living in the past and update your machines to Flash 10.1 . Enjoy the Internet and Flash! Quit whining because frankly to the rest of us, all you Apple Fanboys are looking like a bunch of sore losers at this point! Get over it!

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