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The Apple Adobe Feud



John Gruber of Daring Fireball found the nugget in the developer’s terms of service and that added to Steve Jobs’ resounding no about any change in his feelings about Flash on his mobile devices has started a fire storm and is threatening to turn into a Hatfields vs McCoy’s like feud, if it hasn’t already.

The TOS extends what’s been their before to a point where developers aren’t allowed to use unapproved tools to recompile software based on Flash to run on the Apple devices. That sound you hear is not only screaming from Adobe, but the same from developers who were hoping this was their in.

The bottom line is Jobs doesn’t want Flash because it mucks with his vision. Other companies are attempting to use this as a selling point (Look, Ma, our device does Flash) and Adobe is hoping that will help its cause. I think Jobs has shifted his tactics from an end run around Adobe to a full on assault. No more sniping from the edges, he has essentially sucked tons of time and development dollars away from Adobe and others’ bottom lines.

In the end, I think Jobs will win this one. Everything evolves and there are always losers as that evolution takes place. No one commands attention at the moment the way Apple does and that capital is enough to move mountains and affect thinking. If excluding Flash makes it possible to build processors that allow for performance + excellent battery life by using other technologies than the market will indeed drift that way. Face it, if you can have a device that runs all day, stays cool to the touch, and offers outstanding performance wouldn’t you choose that over an alternative that doesn’t? I’m guessing most consumers who couldn’t care less about whether ads are delivered or games are played via Flash or HTML5 will choose the former.

On some level Adobe is no different than old media and Apple has the same hold over Adobe as it does over all of these content providers desperately hoping Apple provides them salvation. Sure they can play on Apple’s platform, but they have to do it Apple’s way.



  1. Paul Harrigan

    04/09/2010 at 7:51 am

    IMO, Adobe continues the pattern of so many big tech companies of not giving a d… about customers for Flash or Acrobat, ignoring security until dragged kicking and screaming and considering customers’ machines to be their own. I, for one, will be pleased to see the market move on.

  2. Doctor_Roe

    04/09/2010 at 10:20 am

    Standards are tough to overcome. That’s why there are so many of them!

    Flash has served us in the web design / programming field for so long that, to think of another player is not even considered. It’s a part of the media presentation that normally is taken as fact – *want animation? create a flash ..* and move on. I usually don’t even have to consider the platform as much as the browser itself. Now things are going to be different ….

  3. Mickey Segal

    04/09/2010 at 12:29 pm

    I don’t buy the argument that Apple excludes Flash and Java because of battery life concerns. It seems more like Apple is trying to stop challenges to its control over writing programs.

    The ban on using Flash to Objective C cross compilers makes Apple’s thinking quite clear.

  4. Warner Crocker

    04/09/2010 at 1:33 pm

    You may be correct, Mickey, but there’s no denying that Flash chews cycles on the processor.

    • Gordon Watts

      04/09/2010 at 4:38 pm

      I have to disagree with you Warner – which feels a bit odd. So, first, we don’t really know what Apple wants to do here – and I suspect that will come out in short while… but this restriction to “only our tools” is really awful. 20 years or more of language research – not on the iPhone! If they are worried about cycles that is fine – do something like “if user ins’t ineracting with x,y, then it should use less than 5% of cpu” – use uniform standards. This restriction is awful. Say someone could develop a new super-eff framework – well, Apple’s terms disallow it. If it is CPU they are worried about, then write the terms to make sure that the apps are efficient!

      I agree that Apple will win this one – there really isn’t a way to do an end run. But this really boxes in developers, and, frankly, really stifles innovation on the platform.

      This feels like the move of a market leader to protect their investment. I have no problem with that, but this is a defensive move, not a “look, we have this new feature that makes this so much better so you’ll buy this” move. Basically, by being a bully.

      • Gordon

        04/09/2010 at 7:05 pm

        This post says it much better than I could ever have said it:

        I’m very curious to see if this survives the 4.0 beta cycle for the SDK… just seems so… out there.

      • Warner Crocker

        04/10/2010 at 7:16 am


        I don’t think we disagree as much as you think. I agree with your view on Apple’s “only our tools” positioning by and large and would prefer it were different. That said, though I don’t know what’s really behind Apple’s reasoning, I think trying to push things forward is a good goal, even it means some things get left behind. Sooner or later things will change and rightly or wrongly it appears Apple has decided to force some of those changes and is taking what Jobs sees as principled stands. Admittedly this is to protect Apple’s interests and its control, but where this entire space is today can best be classified as in its infancy, not matter how advanced it seems, and that’s always a messy state.

        I used to argue more vociferously against Apple’s approach to its control issues and its lock in, but after finally reaching a point about 2 years ago when I started using Apple’s products I can see the benefits of that approach in comparison to the partner approach Microsoft uses and Google is now using with Android. Yes, that leads to a rich ecosystem, but the sprawling nature of that ecosystem also has its drawbacks, especially in the mobile space. I don’t and never have bought Apple’s “it just works” marketing mantra, all of these things are just too complicated to put out that kind of propaganda, especially in early generations when things are beta hardware. But Apple’s control does offer, in my experience, at least an avenue to approach that bluster.

        • Gordon Watts

          04/12/2010 at 11:26 pm

          Hi Warner,
          Actually, I have no problem with their quality control goals. I would prefer to see them done in a more tech neutral way – your app must look like this, it must perform this well, must never use the CPU for longer than X, etc.

          This feels like being a bully. Their behavior reminds me of the Microsoft of old – not competing on their merits, but just trying to protect their investment. Nothing wrong with that, and they don’t have a monopoly yet (and I don’t even know if anti-trust law would apply here even if they did). Still, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          After talking with several others I realized there is a personal aspect to me being upset. I program as a hobby (I do some of it in my day job as well). I do it as a hobby because I like writing to new things and devices and using new programming languages, etc. This license agreement from Apple really, from my POV, takes the fun out of programming. Ugh, programming languages older than 20 years. No one really ever uses the results of my coding, so this doesn’t matter from a market point-of-view, and lord knows if it did, there is enough $$ in Apple’s platforms that others would rush in to fill the gap.

          As for what will happen to the competition as a result of this. I have no idea, you can predict a few things (like where the open source developers will go). But I agree, I doubt this will harm the platform very much.

          I’m *really* curious to see what happens over the next 10 years in my field. I’m in physics and for people of my age (low 40’s) the split is about 30% linux, 50% mac, and 20% windows (the older you get, the more people use Windows, younger Linux, but as you get older in my field the GUI becomes more important). The reason to go to Mac was that it was open and not an evil empire like Microsoft. Hearing the creator of C++ really go after Apple for being closed in a workshop was an eye opener. I am curious to see if these sorts of moves by Apple changes the outlook.

          I’m looking forward to watching your iPad review. I’m a huge tablet PC fan (I’ve been writing and using Onenote now ever since it first came out, I’ve been using Tablet PC’s for something like 6 years; I’ve got over 5 gigs in my onenote notebooks now, hardly a day goes by I don’t use the pen). When it comes to pen-like computing I find your judgements almost always in line with mine. Keep up the good work!

  5. Jeff Jackson

    04/09/2010 at 2:02 pm

    Maybe Adobe just withdraw all their Mac products and announce they are a windows only shop from now on. Long ago they started recommending windows over mac for photoshop and friends. How popular would Macs be without CS?

    • Mike aka C-141xlr

      04/09/2010 at 3:11 pm

      A nuclear attack on some of their own territory? Yes, that would severely hurt Apple as artists and other content creators live and die by the Photoshop/Illustrator/Apple combo. How much would that hurt themselves? Do they have the power of Google to say “were out of Apple Kool-Aid Land”?

      I for one would probably not stop laughing for at least a good year.

    • Bryce

      04/10/2010 at 12:02 am

      Perhaps that will happen? No more Photoshop for Apple.
      How hard could a competitive product be to make in the present? I mean, Photoshop was pretty impressive stuff 15 years ago. But now?
      Having dealt with Adobe over a copy of Photoshop that stopped working because of the company’s heavy handed security methods and being too old for them to support, I’m more than ready to never spend another dime on Adobe products.
      So no more Photoshop for Apple, likely would bring about the first real challenger to image editing. Hell, it could even be user friendly…

  6. Chris Hickie

    04/09/2010 at 3:45 pm

    This seems more like Tesla vs Edison for this type of high tech, modern day feud.

  7. Virtuous

    04/11/2010 at 4:15 am

    Adobe is the unnecessary middleman. Go Apple!

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