Apple stabs Adobe in the back

On a week when Microsoft landed a big deal to put Silverlight on Nokia phones, Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, tells Adobe that there won’t be Flash on the iPhone.

This is a real bummer for Adobe and many users and developers, because most of the world’s casual games are written for Flash. Just go over to game site Kongregate. Or, look at the world’s video like that on YouTube (or any other video site like the Qik one that I use on my cell phone). Almost all of it is done in Flash. Now developers at those sites will need to find some other method to get those games and videos onto the iPhone.

This is a HUGE opening for Microsoft to take momentum and mind share away from Flash/Flex/AIR with its Silverlight set of technologies (which, based on my Twitter conversations, is winning developers over at a pretty good pace).

So, what is Steve thinking? He probably didn’t want to hand control of developers to another company, but Apple might also have had concerns about battery life or it just might not have been able to make Flash work well on the iPhone. I can’t believe that Apple couldn’t find a way to make these things work, though. Flash isn’t that heavyweight, it might have taken some committment on behalf of Apple to rewrite Flash to work and it sounds like Apple wants to go the way of SVG (it has long been rumored to be working on SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics, which is an open W3C standard) for the iPhone).

The inside story has yet to be told on this one. Not that Adobe is in a place to retaliate by only doing something like future versions of Photoshop or Illustrator on Windows or Linux (which would hurt Apple, but would hurt Adobe itself in its real war with Microsoft) but Adobe has got to be smarting from this decision this morning. After all it was Adobe that helped solidify the Macintosh’s role in the world with its desktop publishing, fonts, and Postscript technologies.

Does this put a death blow onto the Flash/Flex/AIR teams? No, but it certainly does cripple their chances against Microsoft’s Silverlight. I’ll be at Microsoft’s Mix conference later today to report on that angle.

UPDATE: Microsoft’s keynote this morning at its sold-out Mix conference will be webcast live, Neowin is reporting. I’m hearing there’s some news coming there, and also later in the afternoon.

207 thoughts on “Apple stabs Adobe in the back

  1. Robert

    I love the access you get to people. And it is enjoyable to play ‘strategy consultant’ over a beer.

    However, “stab in the back” is awfully strong and not very well backed up. There is a detailed history between the two to appreciate, and even the relatively little I know of it suggests that “stab in the back” isn’t a realistic representation of the situation. These companies make commercial decisions and these is another of those.

    Your son would be much more impressed with your knowledge about matters Apple if you supplemented your reading with RoughlyDrafted – which has written content that is, overall, very compelling. And highly educational.

    And daring fireball is good too.

    Both have addressed the Flash on iPhone issue. Far better than you. If you’re going to comment so strongly, do some research and provide some links to external commenters with developed opinions. We read them as well as you.

    Your main value is access, shown over an accessible medium, meaning I can watch and appreciate in Australia things that used not be possible. Thanks for contributing these things.

    I’ve been using an iPhone in Australia for months now, and I cannot say that the absence of Flash has bothered for me for a minute. Personally, I don’t even like waiting for Flash over a fast land connection to a Mac Pro.

    Finally, it seems Steve has outlined what would be required to operate Flash on the iPhone. The missing product. A ‘maybe’ to Flash on the iPhone.

    Why not go and speak to Adobe about why they won’t make an intermediate program that your users suggest would be necessary since no Dual Core Desktop / Flash Lite would work?

    I guess the commercial return wouldn’t be in Adobe’s interest.

    So, again, tell me in more detail about the stabbing in the back. How, why, etc. in a way that would stand up to scrutiny by RoughlyDrafted.

    Again, thanks for playing your role in bringing access of the tech world to monitors all over the world.

  2. Robert

    I love the access you get to people. And it is enjoyable to play ‘strategy consultant’ over a beer.

    However, “stab in the back” is awfully strong and not very well backed up. There is a detailed history between the two to appreciate, and even the relatively little I know of it suggests that “stab in the back” isn’t a realistic representation of the situation. These companies make commercial decisions and these is another of those.

    Your son would be much more impressed with your knowledge about matters Apple if you supplemented your reading with RoughlyDrafted – which has written content that is, overall, very compelling. And highly educational.

    And daring fireball is good too.

    Both have addressed the Flash on iPhone issue. Far better than you. If you’re going to comment so strongly, do some research and provide some links to external commenters with developed opinions. We read them as well as you.

    Your main value is access, shown over an accessible medium, meaning I can watch and appreciate in Australia things that used not be possible. Thanks for contributing these things.

    I’ve been using an iPhone in Australia for months now, and I cannot say that the absence of Flash has bothered for me for a minute. Personally, I don’t even like waiting for Flash over a fast land connection to a Mac Pro.

    Finally, it seems Steve has outlined what would be required to operate Flash on the iPhone. The missing product. A ‘maybe’ to Flash on the iPhone.

    Why not go and speak to Adobe about why they won’t make an intermediate program that your users suggest would be necessary since no Dual Core Desktop / Flash Lite would work?

    I guess the commercial return wouldn’t be in Adobe’s interest.

    So, again, tell me in more detail about the stabbing in the back. How, why, etc. in a way that would stand up to scrutiny by RoughlyDrafted.

    Again, thanks for playing your role in bringing access of the tech world to monitors all over the world.

  3. You’re forgetting several key points:
    1. Apple helped Adobe rise from obscurity, not the other way around, when Apple used PS in it’s first LaserPrinters.
    2. As others have said, Adobe has plenty of history screwing Apple, starting with Premiere and continuing with their foot-dragging conversions of Photoshop and with one of their main execs recommending PCs over Mac a few years ago.
    3. Flash is by no means a standard on mobile computing, so why should Apple help it become one?
    4. Do you really think Apple has sold even one less iPhone because it’s lack of Flash support?

  4. You’re forgetting several key points:
    1. Apple helped Adobe rise from obscurity, not the other way around, when Apple used PS in it’s first LaserPrinters.
    2. As others have said, Adobe has plenty of history screwing Apple, starting with Premiere and continuing with their foot-dragging conversions of Photoshop and with one of their main execs recommending PCs over Mac a few years ago.
    3. Flash is by no means a standard on mobile computing, so why should Apple help it become one?
    4. Do you really think Apple has sold even one less iPhone because it’s lack of Flash support?

  5. This is the first of many big wins for MSFT now that Stephen Elop is in place. I think he will use what he knows about Adobe/Macromedia against them very effectively. He is a very shrewd operator.

  6. This is the first of many big wins for MSFT now that Stephen Elop is in place. I think he will use what he knows about Adobe/Macromedia against them very effectively. He is a very shrewd operator.

  7. Lets face it, Adobe have been screwing over Apple for a long time now, clearly putting more effort into developing their core products for Windows. Adobes refusal to release an Intel version when Apple made the difficult switch from PowerPC to Intel was a big “FU, we don’t need you anymore” to Apple.

    Adobe’s arrogance means they are now fighting on four fronts: against Microsoft, Apple, against the proponents of a web based on open standards (hello Google), and against the upcoming competition of web-based alternatives for their desktop apps. Oh, and the Linux/open source community isn’t to happy about their attitude either.

    Adobe is going down. It’s just a matter of time.

  8. Lets face it, Adobe have been screwing over Apple for a long time now, clearly putting more effort into developing their core products for Windows. Adobes refusal to release an Intel version when Apple made the difficult switch from PowerPC to Intel was a big “FU, we don’t need you anymore” to Apple.

    Adobe’s arrogance means they are now fighting on four fronts: against Microsoft, Apple, against the proponents of a web based on open standards (hello Google), and against the upcoming competition of web-based alternatives for their desktop apps. Oh, and the Linux/open source community isn’t to happy about their attitude either.

    Adobe is going down. It’s just a matter of time.

  9. Tom,

    Exactly. That’s how all the fancy WM6 interfaces work. I don’t know why everyone thinks a mobile phone chip can’t run flash. It clearly can, and does. Flash’s omission has much more to do with the future plans of Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe’s mobile (and desktop) application platforms.

    A new turf war in the mobile space is obvious and imminent. Google’s made their strategy clear. Apple hasn’t (is that a big surprise to anyone?).

  10. Tom,

    Exactly. That’s how all the fancy WM6 interfaces work. I don’t know why everyone thinks a mobile phone chip can’t run flash. It clearly can, and does. Flash’s omission has much more to do with the future plans of Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe’s mobile (and desktop) application platforms.

    A new turf war in the mobile space is obvious and imminent. Google’s made their strategy clear. Apple hasn’t (is that a big surprise to anyone?).

  11. Adobe has been in bed with M$ for years getting bribes to screw flash development for linux, so fuck them!

  12. Adobe has been in bed with M$ for years getting bribes to screw flash development for linux, so fuck them!

  13. For the last few commenters, there are plenty of cell. phones that run Flash Lite just fine with processors slower than the iPhone.

  14. For the last few commenters, there are plenty of cell. phones that run Flash Lite just fine with processors slower than the iPhone.

  15. Robert:

    Please explain this.

    When I hit play on a video on kyte.tv, Safari goes from 2% CPU usage to over 60% CPU usage. This is on a dual-core Xeon!

    When I play a video on qik.com, Safari goes to 24% CPU usage.

    How in the hell is the processor on the iPhone supposed to provide any sort of comparable performance?

    If people want their videos to show up on the iPhone, _upload_ _to_ _Youtube_.

  16. Robert:

    Please explain this.

    When I hit play on a video on kyte.tv, Safari goes from 2% CPU usage to over 60% CPU usage. This is on a dual-core Xeon!

    When I play a video on qik.com, Safari goes to 24% CPU usage.

    How in the hell is the processor on the iPhone supposed to provide any sort of comparable performance?

    If people want their videos to show up on the iPhone, _upload_ _to_ _Youtube_.

  17. Processor speed defines PC world, Network bandwidth defines web world.

    Battery life defines mobile world. hence platform (flash/silver) doesn’t matter. We need innovation in battery life. Tech people love rich services (video) in mobile devices, but not so many end users. “Phone means talk”

    Videos in iPhone = Vista in PC.

  18. Processor speed defines PC world, Network bandwidth defines web world.

    Battery life defines mobile world. hence platform (flash/silver) doesn’t matter. We need innovation in battery life. Tech people love rich services (video) in mobile devices, but not so many end users. “Phone means talk”

    Videos in iPhone = Vista in PC.

  19. Geez Robert, did you even read the article you referenced? It didn’t say Apple would not support Adobe Flash at all. It merely stated that the current Flash Player was not suitable for the iPhone and I would have to agree. The existing player is overly processor intensive and meant more for a laptop as Jobs indicates. If Adobe would get their act together and make a better mobile version of their Flash Player, then I would not have a doubt Apple would adopt it.

    Next time, please read things a little closer before crying wolf!

  20. Geez Robert, did you even read the article you referenced? It didn’t say Apple would not support Adobe Flash at all. It merely stated that the current Flash Player was not suitable for the iPhone and I would have to agree. The existing player is overly processor intensive and meant more for a laptop as Jobs indicates. If Adobe would get their act together and make a better mobile version of their Flash Player, then I would not have a doubt Apple would adopt it.

    Next time, please read things a little closer before crying wolf!

  21. Robert,

    All of the developers I talk to say it’s a platform battle – Quicktime being Apple’s contender. Flash or Silverlight would allow Adobe or Microsoft to wedge into the iPhone platform outside of Steve’s tightly-controlled environment. We’ll find out when the SDK is released soon how Steve plans to compete with these technologies.

    The example I’ve always heard was YouTube – i.e.: YouTube good; Flash bad – What to do? Convince Google to create an iPhone-only YouTube by converting all of YouTube’s content over to H.264 mp4.

    It’s strictly platform this time. This is where Jobs lost control 30 years ago, and I think he doesn’t want to repeat the same grave mistake. Godspeed, Steve.

  22. Robert,

    All of the developers I talk to say it’s a platform battle – Quicktime being Apple’s contender. Flash or Silverlight would allow Adobe or Microsoft to wedge into the iPhone platform outside of Steve’s tightly-controlled environment. We’ll find out when the SDK is released soon how Steve plans to compete with these technologies.

    The example I’ve always heard was YouTube – i.e.: YouTube good; Flash bad – What to do? Convince Google to create an iPhone-only YouTube by converting all of YouTube’s content over to H.264 mp4.

    It’s strictly platform this time. This is where Jobs lost control 30 years ago, and I think he doesn’t want to repeat the same grave mistake. Godspeed, Steve.

  23. Robert, how about if we had an N95-class or WinMo phone with an Iphone-like touch screen interface and carrier supported visual voicemail? Its only a matter of time before iPhone competitors get technological parity in features and we see that happening.

    The next gen Iphone will eventually have video and GPS (perhaps an add on). These will be in “Just one more thing like announcements” and we will all go “OOOh!” And then Jobs will say we heard your feedback, you wanted Flash so here it is.. Flash.. for the Iphone, new improved and better than ever. I guess the video part will come with some neat easy to use video blogging service with .mac
    The only thing preventing Apple from adding flash support is a lack of competition, not a lack of demand. And yes Apple and carriers will lose revenue on “Games” and “Content” they may want to sell.

    Robert said
    “I carry both a Nokia N95 (several of them, in fact) and an iPhone. I use the iPhone to make and receive calls, look at my voice mail, and for things like stocks, maps, and using the Web browser.

    The Nokia? For creating videos and for GPS, since those are two things the iPhone doesn’t do.”

  24. Robert, how about if we had an N95-class or WinMo phone with an Iphone-like touch screen interface and carrier supported visual voicemail? Its only a matter of time before iPhone competitors get technological parity in features and we see that happening.

    The next gen Iphone will eventually have video and GPS (perhaps an add on). These will be in “Just one more thing like announcements” and we will all go “OOOh!” And then Jobs will say we heard your feedback, you wanted Flash so here it is.. Flash.. for the Iphone, new improved and better than ever. I guess the video part will come with some neat easy to use video blogging service with .mac
    The only thing preventing Apple from adding flash support is a lack of competition, not a lack of demand. And yes Apple and carriers will lose revenue on “Games” and “Content” they may want to sell.

    Robert said
    “I carry both a Nokia N95 (several of them, in fact) and an iPhone. I use the iPhone to make and receive calls, look at my voice mail, and for things like stocks, maps, and using the Web browser.

    The Nokia? For creating videos and for GPS, since those are two things the iPhone doesn’t do.”

  25. >>>The inside story has yet to be told on this one.

    You used to work for MS. After MS dropped WMV support for the Mac, did you expect APPLE to write its own WMV player?

    It’s the same thing here.

    And Adobe has a solid history of this too: the PalmOS PDF Viewer disaster, no Flash for PalmOS. *Sony* had to create a Flash player for CLIEs because Adobe wouldn’t.

    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/03/05/adobe-get-off-your-fat/

    Once the “iSDK” is released, Adobe will have no excuse.

  26. Let’s not jump the gun, here. I think there is a logical reason, and I do not think it is to spite them, and I doubt that they will instead port Siliverlight instead. And why would Adobe “retaliate” by not releasing Photoshop or Illustrator for Mac? Those are probably it’s two biggest products. How is Apple obligated to support Flash for the iPhone or else Adobe retaliates? I luv ya, but you need to calm down or admit to blowing this up just for page views.

  27. Let’s not jump the gun, here. I think there is a logical reason, and I do not think it is to spite them, and I doubt that they will instead port Siliverlight instead. And why would Adobe “retaliate” by not releasing Photoshop or Illustrator for Mac? Those are probably it’s two biggest products. How is Apple obligated to support Flash for the iPhone or else Adobe retaliates? I luv ya, but you need to calm down or admit to blowing this up just for page views.

  28. >>>The inside story has yet to be told on this one.

    You used to work for MS. After MS dropped WMV support for the Mac, did you expect APPLE to write its own WMV player?

    It’s the same thing here.

    And Adobe has a solid history of this too: the PalmOS PDF Viewer disaster, no Flash for PalmOS. *Sony* had to create a Flash player for CLIEs because Adobe wouldn’t.

    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/03/05/adobe-get-off-your-fat/

    Once the “iSDK” is released, Adobe will have no excuse.

  29. Hey Robert,

    The iPhone already supports Canvas, the HTML5 spec to do vector graphics.

    I’m certainly not claiming it’s a replacement for Flash (it’s not), but I’m not sure why they’d be working on SVG really hard if they already support Canvas. It’s a standard, I think Firefox and Opera support, it, etc etc.

  30. Hey Robert,

    The iPhone already supports Canvas, the HTML5 spec to do vector graphics.

    I’m certainly not claiming it’s a replacement for Flash (it’s not), but I’m not sure why they’d be working on SVG really hard if they already support Canvas. It’s a standard, I think Firefox and Opera support, it, etc etc.

  31. Have done extensive Flash gui programming since about 2000. Macromedia and Adobe really need to make a decision about Flash. It is still very unproductive and a programming environment. That has not changed much since 2000. Actionscript has gotten a few needed features, but still lacks many. IDE is buggy — we refuse to use the current version. They have done a great job with video — think that has been the big new feature set for each Flash release for quite some time. But quite honestly, the runtime is cumbersome, the programmer productivity is just not there. Maybe Adobe should split the development team into one focused on gui/programming, and one on video. The runtime needs significant architectural rework. Likely Silverlight is going to be much better re: runtime architectures. Silverlight Expression Builder has some really good features for programming a gui that Flash sorely needs. But, you have to commit to C# and IronPython. Jobs is 100% right. Flash is a memory and processing intensive beast. Adobe has done little or nothing to address that — seemingly to increase the bloat. If only Silverlight supported more opensource like CPython as well as IronPython. Oh well.

  32. Have done extensive Flash gui programming since about 2000. Macromedia and Adobe really need to make a decision about Flash. It is still very unproductive and a programming environment. That has not changed much since 2000. Actionscript has gotten a few needed features, but still lacks many. IDE is buggy — we refuse to use the current version. They have done a great job with video — think that has been the big new feature set for each Flash release for quite some time. But quite honestly, the runtime is cumbersome, the programmer productivity is just not there. Maybe Adobe should split the development team into one focused on gui/programming, and one on video. The runtime needs significant architectural rework. Likely Silverlight is going to be much better re: runtime architectures. Silverlight Expression Builder has some really good features for programming a gui that Flash sorely needs. But, you have to commit to C# and IronPython. Jobs is 100% right. Flash is a memory and processing intensive beast. Adobe has done little or nothing to address that — seemingly to increase the bloat. If only Silverlight supported more opensource like CPython as well as IronPython. Oh well.

  33. Thanks for the links to the webcast, Robert. I am viewing the 750K stream, which is pretty sweet, and I daresay I have a better view for free than if I was sitting in at the Venetian in row 892.

    It is also a reasonable time of day on the East Coast :-)

    Nice headline BTW. ;-) The more prosaic truth is that Flash is a pig, and the iPhone doesn’t have enough horsepower to run it, but it’s hard to get a snappy headline out of that. The truth also places the blame at the feet of both Adobe and Apple….

  34. Thanks for the links to the webcast, Robert. I am viewing the 750K stream, which is pretty sweet, and I daresay I have a better view for free than if I was sitting in at the Venetian in row 892.

    It is also a reasonable time of day on the East Coast :-)

    Nice headline BTW. ;-) The more prosaic truth is that Flash is a pig, and the iPhone doesn’t have enough horsepower to run it, but it’s hard to get a snappy headline out of that. The truth also places the blame at the feet of both Adobe and Apple….

  35. @Gerald – I thought Apple video (like the trailers on their web site) specifically played in Quicktime only. I could be wrong here but I remember being told by someone that RealPlayer couldn’t play those videos even though it supports H.264. Something about the .mov container

    (I just did a quick Google search and couldn’t find

    Could be wrong though so a big grain of salt there…

  36. @Gerald – I thought Apple video (like the trailers on their web site) specifically played in Quicktime only. I could be wrong here but I remember being told by someone that RealPlayer couldn’t play those videos even though it supports H.264. Something about the .mov container

    (I just did a quick Google search and couldn’t find

    Could be wrong though so a big grain of salt there…

  37. I carry both a Nokia N95 (several of them, in fact) and an iPhone. I use the iPhone to make and receive calls, look at my voice mail, and for things like stocks, maps, and using the Web browser.

    The Nokia? For creating videos and for GPS, since those are two things the iPhone doesn’t do.

  38. I carry both a Nokia N95 (several of them, in fact) and an iPhone. I use the iPhone to make and receive calls, look at my voice mail, and for things like stocks, maps, and using the Web browser.

    The Nokia? For creating videos and for GPS, since those are two things the iPhone doesn’t do.

  39. @Bob – The fact that you think that article is “research” is just kind of sad. That article is essentially Applle PR.

    The fact that the article takes pages to even get to Flash lite should prove just how Apple biased it is.

    When it does get to its point the article basically says “Apple won’t support Flash Lite because its got Cocoa which is better anyway”

    That’s like Microsoft saying it isn’t going to support Javascript because Silverlight is better anyway. Its stupid, APIs aren’t exclusive and the only people who would accept an argument otherwise is the Mac faithful.

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