Thursday, April 29, 2010

Steve Job's Thoughts on Flash

Posted by Hidayat Hidayat at 7:33 AM
Today, Steve Jobs posted an open letter titled Thoughts on Flash, in which he lays out the reasons why Apple doesn't want Flash on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. It's Steve, so there's a little bit of RDF, but it's actually refreshingly straightforward and rational. It seems to be striking an almost conciliatory tone towards Adobe and certainly takes a far more mature tone than Adobe has taken toward Apple in their public grousing since the new SDK agreement came out.

Steve ends the letter by encouraging Adobe to do what I (and many others) have suggested they do, which is create tools for generating HTML5 content. There are some tentative first-steps towards that in Flash CS5 from what I understand, but the time for Adobe to strike and take ownership of HTML5 content creation is now, not two or three years from now when CS6 ships. If Adobe can get a kick-ass content creation tools that outputs open standards-compliant interactive content out the door, they'll have an instant runaway success on their hands. It's a market with huge potential and Adobe could own the space if they were to make smart decisions.

Willingness to foresee and change corporate strategy is vital to long-term success. Have you ever read the history of Reuters? Reuters started as a carrier pigeon company. When the telegraph came on the scene, they certainly could have whined and complained and even insisted that their customers continue using carrier pigeons, but they were smart enough to realize pigeons were an outdated technology that couldn't compete with the telegraph. Instead, they invested heavily in telegraph technology. As communication technology continued to change over the last 150 years, Reuters saw the changes coming, accepted them, embraced them and, as a result, they are still around today, bigger and stronger than ever.

Adobe needs to accept and embrace the fact that Flash has been supplanted by better technologies, especially when it comes to mobile and embedded devices. It doesn't mean they need to abandon Flash (though I wouldn't mind if they did), but they need to realize that it's moribund due to the fact that the embedded market has a very different dynamic and makeup than the desktop world did back in the late nineties when Flash was born. A single-vendor proprietary solution is untenable when you have as many different viable operating systems and hardware manufacturers as we do in the mobile space.

It's truly sad that Adobe is unable to see or embrace where the mobile web is going and continues to insist on trying to control where it does go. Adobe's failure to accept these things is preventing their developer customers from reaching one of the most profitable and desirable mobile markets. In fact, their decisions thus far have, in reality, prevented those customers from effectively reaching any mobile market yet. Despite several years of promises that ubiquitous mobile Flash was just around the corner, it hasn't happened yet. In the meantime, nearly ubiquitous adoption of HTML5 on smartphones has occurred. It's supported, out of the box, by every major platform except Windows Mobile, and Windows Mobile has dwindled down to single-percentage market share.


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