Is Steve Jobs lying about Flash not working on iPhone?

RUMOR ALERT — I have not substantiated this with anyone at either Adobe or Apple, so might turn out to be totally false:

Today I got a note from someone I know who works closely with Adobe and Apple. He saw my “Apple stabs Adobe in the Back” post and wanted to give me some details about what’s going on between Adobe and Apple. He says that he’s seen Flash running on an iPhone in a lab and that it’s been running for quite a while and that it’s not a technical issue that caused Steve Jobs to go public about not putting Adobe’s Flash on the iPhone. He wrote “Geez – my Chumby with half the CPU horsepower can run Flash8/AS2.”

So, what’s the reason, according to my source?

Adobe is playing hardball with Apple over their PDF renderer. “Adobe wants Apple to use the Adobe PDF renderer.” His thesis? Steve Jobs is playing hard to get to get Adobe to give up this demand.

Again, I have no idea if this is true or not. But tomorrow’s SDK announcement with Apple is going to be very interesting to listen to.

161 thoughts on “Is Steve Jobs lying about Flash not working on iPhone?

  1. One: Who gives a shit whether or not Flash runs on the goddamned iPhone. Seriously. Who cares? It’s just another “thing” like bluetooth headsets voice dialing or user-replaceable battery that look great on paper but you would never use.

    Two: People, buy devices as they exist today. It’s fine to want to see them improve, but seriously, if you need shitty Flash Lite then get something else.

    Three: If you think desktop Flash is coming to the iPhone or any phone, then I would submit to you that you have basically no understanding of web technologies, modern desktop computers, or mobile devices. So STFU.

    Four: Robert, you basically called Jobs a liar in the title of your post. You are super classy.

  2. One: Who gives a shit whether or not Flash runs on the goddamned iPhone. Seriously. Who cares? It’s just another “thing” like bluetooth headsets voice dialing or user-replaceable battery that look great on paper but you would never use.

    Two: People, buy devices as they exist today. It’s fine to want to see them improve, but seriously, if you need shitty Flash Lite then get something else.

    Three: If you think desktop Flash is coming to the iPhone or any phone, then I would submit to you that you have basically no understanding of web technologies, modern desktop computers, or mobile devices. So STFU.

    Four: Robert, you basically called Jobs a liar in the title of your post. You are super classy.

  3. I find Flash to be a CPU hog on my laptop. I’m not missing having it drag down the performance and battery life on my iPhone.

  4. I find Flash to be a CPU hog on my laptop. I’m not missing having it drag down the performance and battery life on my iPhone.

  5. Apple hasn’t said that Flash CAN’T work on the iPhone,they’ve said that performance is or would be lousy. They either know this because it’s on the iPhone in the lab and it sucks, or it’s conjecture based on what they know about Flash and iPhone hardware. Either way they know what they are talking about and I don’t see they’re lying about anything. David Jacobs seems to be an immature little ‘tard. Make your own phone and put flash on it. The iPhone is how Apple wants it to be. If you don’t want a phone like that, get another phone.

  6. Apple hasn’t said that Flash CAN’T work on the iPhone,they’ve said that performance is or would be lousy. They either know this because it’s on the iPhone in the lab and it sucks, or it’s conjecture based on what they know about Flash and iPhone hardware. Either way they know what they are talking about and I don’t see they’re lying about anything. David Jacobs seems to be an immature little ‘tard. Make your own phone and put flash on it. The iPhone is how Apple wants it to be. If you don’t want a phone like that, get another phone.

  7. “Thus is the real downside with Apple retaining so much control over the iPhone.”

    You conveniently decide to ignore the real upside to Apple retaining so much control over the iPhone: Its the best thing out there right now, at least for me. If flash is so important to you, I’m sure you can find a phone that runs it. Then lets hear you talk about downsides :p

  8. “Thus is the real downside with Apple retaining so much control over the iPhone.”

    You conveniently decide to ignore the real upside to Apple retaining so much control over the iPhone: Its the best thing out there right now, at least for me. If flash is so important to you, I’m sure you can find a phone that runs it. Then lets hear you talk about downsides :p

  9. Why is everyone forgetting that Apple needs to control the User Experience. Rich flash applications are too close for comfort for Jobs. If Apple loses control of the UI, then they’ll lose differentiation from their competitors.

  10. I’d LOVE for my half-assed guess to be proven wrong and shown an iPhone happily running Flash. The argument that the iPhone “plays H.264 just fine” so it must be able to run Flash isn’t that compelling, because I thought iPhone/iPod teardowns reveal chips that have hardware support specifically for H.264 decoding. (IIRC they’ve got support for H.264 encoding as well, not that Apple has implemented that.)

    I don’t know why Adobe would insist on using their PDF renderer. On a stock Mac, the Preview app (written by Apple) loads PDFs instantly: Boom. Install Acrobat and load a PDF, and it’s more like, Tick… tick… tick… tick… tick…

    (splash screen)

    …tick… tick… tick… tick… tick… tick…

    (checks watch)

    …tick… tick… tick… tick… tick… tick…

    (checks calendar)

    …tick… tick… tick… tick… tick… Boom.

    (apologies to The Hives)

    On top of that it seems like every other day, there are holes in Adobe’s PDF renderer you can drive a truck through. So why would Adobe insist upon Apple using something that’s demonstrably slower and buggier? Wouldn’t beating up Steve Jobs to take his lunch money be a lot easier?

  11. I’d LOVE for my half-assed guess to be proven wrong and shown an iPhone happily running Flash. The argument that the iPhone “plays H.264 just fine” so it must be able to run Flash isn’t that compelling, because I thought iPhone/iPod teardowns reveal chips that have hardware support specifically for H.264 decoding. (IIRC they’ve got support for H.264 encoding as well, not that Apple has implemented that.)

    I don’t know why Adobe would insist on using their PDF renderer. On a stock Mac, the Preview app (written by Apple) loads PDFs instantly: Boom. Install Acrobat and load a PDF, and it’s more like, Tick… tick… tick… tick… tick…

    (splash screen)

    …tick… tick… tick… tick… tick… tick…

    (checks watch)

    …tick… tick… tick… tick… tick… tick…

    (checks calendar)

    …tick… tick… tick… tick… tick… Boom.

    (apologies to The Hives)

    On top of that it seems like every other day, there are holes in Adobe’s PDF renderer you can drive a truck through. So why would Adobe insist upon Apple using something that’s demonstrably slower and buggier? Wouldn’t beating up Steve Jobs to take his lunch money be a lot easier?

  12. Why is everyone forgetting that Apple needs to control the User Experience. Rich flash applications are too close for comfort for Jobs. If Apple loses control of the UI, then they’ll lose differentiation from their competitors.

  13. Flash just needs to go away like the floppy disk! If you had to program that poop, and had to deal with its limitations, then you’d get rid of it too!

    Adobe makes tons of money selling lic. so software that is like from the 80′s or something. It’s really lame. I think Adobe needs to quit relying on old stuff and start innovation again so that they can move things forward.

    Flash is really backward – I realize there is some pain, but move to AJAX and real plugins like QuickTime for high-end video work. It’s gotta happen!

  14. Flash just needs to go away like the floppy disk! If you had to program that poop, and had to deal with its limitations, then you’d get rid of it too!

    Adobe makes tons of money selling lic. so software that is like from the 80′s or something. It’s really lame. I think Adobe needs to quit relying on old stuff and start innovation again so that they can move things forward.

    Flash is really backward – I realize there is some pain, but move to AJAX and real plugins like QuickTime for high-end video work. It’s gotta happen!

  15. When Apple is referring to the iphone as one device taking advantage of a “wireless platform” and Adobe is also referring to Flash as a platform, it is easy to see where the conflict lies. If Apple lets Flash on the iPhone it has the potential to undercut the OS as a platform.

    They are just looking down the road. Apple does not want to see everyone using AIR apps that run on your phone, and your computer and your Apple TV, and you never see the OS (and it doesn’t matter what hardware you are running). One can understand why pretty easily.

  16. When Apple is referring to the iphone as one device taking advantage of a “wireless platform” and Adobe is also referring to Flash as a platform, it is easy to see where the conflict lies. If Apple lets Flash on the iPhone it has the potential to undercut the OS as a platform.

    They are just looking down the road. Apple does not want to see everyone using AIR apps that run on your phone, and your computer and your Apple TV, and you never see the OS (and it doesn’t matter what hardware you are running). One can understand why pretty easily.

  17. Great attention grabbing headline, pointless post.

    Apple had Windows running on a Mac how far back? How much earlier than the switch to Intel chips made it more REALISTIC to run Windows on a Mac?

    As others of have said, Jobs didn’t say it couldn’t be done. What he said was: “it performs too slowly on the iPhone”. Considering how poorly Flash performs on my desktop Mac, a point Robert that you seem to be ignoring completely, I sure as hell don’t want it on my iPhone.

  18. Great attention grabbing headline, pointless post.

    Apple had Windows running on a Mac how far back? How much earlier than the switch to Intel chips made it more REALISTIC to run Windows on a Mac?

    As others of have said, Jobs didn’t say it couldn’t be done. What he said was: “it performs too slowly on the iPhone”. Considering how poorly Flash performs on my desktop Mac, a point Robert that you seem to be ignoring completely, I sure as hell don’t want it on my iPhone.

  19. Most of you commenting that “no way Flash won’t run on the iPhone!” (including the author), are just completely clued out as to the facts. If you do a few minutes of research, you will see that what Jobs’ said is absolutely true and there are severe technical and performance limitations to running Flash on the iPhone pretty much exactly as he said. Regardless of the political stuff that may be happening, Jobs is not lying when he says that is the reason.

    To those supporting the “Apple should (or is) buy(ing) Adobe” theory, you couldn’t be more wrong. Apple, like any well managed company doesn’t buy out other companies unless they have something of value.

    Adobe is far over-rated right now in terms of value. None of Adobe’s apps are well-coded or well-designed and the code is all *carbon* code, which is virtually useless on a modern Mac. Adobe is in the process of, (and anyone who buys it would also be doing this), throwing out all of the code behind all of their products for the Mac and re-writing them as Cocoa apps. If you have to re-write all the apps from scratch, what’s the value in buying the company?

    Controlling the PDF standard is pretty much the only thing of value in the company and it’s unlikely that Apple would pay the necessary millions just for that.

  20. Most of you commenting that “no way Flash won’t run on the iPhone!” (including the author), are just completely clued out as to the facts. If you do a few minutes of research, you will see that what Jobs’ said is absolutely true and there are severe technical and performance limitations to running Flash on the iPhone pretty much exactly as he said. Regardless of the political stuff that may be happening, Jobs is not lying when he says that is the reason.

    To those supporting the “Apple should (or is) buy(ing) Adobe” theory, you couldn’t be more wrong. Apple, like any well managed company doesn’t buy out other companies unless they have something of value.

    Adobe is far over-rated right now in terms of value. None of Adobe’s apps are well-coded or well-designed and the code is all *carbon* code, which is virtually useless on a modern Mac. Adobe is in the process of, (and anyone who buys it would also be doing this), throwing out all of the code behind all of their products for the Mac and re-writing them as Cocoa apps. If you have to re-write all the apps from scratch, what’s the value in buying the company?

    Controlling the PDF standard is pretty much the only thing of value in the company and it’s unlikely that Apple would pay the necessary millions just for that.

  21. “Adobe is probably very high on the Jobs shit list.”

    Actually, it’s more like they’re on the “why do we care about those clowns anymore?” list.

    Steve’s not into the revenge thing. When someone tries to fuck with Apple, then Apple will just ignore them.

  22. “Adobe is probably very high on the Jobs shit list.”

    Actually, it’s more like they’re on the “why do we care about those clowns anymore?” list.

    Steve’s not into the revenge thing. When someone tries to fuck with Apple, then Apple will just ignore them.

  23. Your source is yanking your chain. Apple’s Quartz 2D library is the best PDF renderer there is, period (also the fastest). Apple’s not going to damage the Mac by adopting Adobe’s rendering code.

    Adobe wants flash on the iPhone and Apple doesn’t. Whatever games Adobe may be playing here, Apple’s not participating.

  24. Your source is yanking your chain. Apple’s Quartz 2D library is the best PDF renderer there is, period (also the fastest). Apple’s not going to damage the Mac by adopting Adobe’s rendering code.

    Adobe wants flash on the iPhone and Apple doesn’t. Whatever games Adobe may be playing here, Apple’s not participating.

  25. Yeahh Flash on the iPhone….that is like Steve Jobs next president of USA!!!
    C’mon

  26. Yeahh Flash on the iPhone….that is like Steve Jobs next president of USA!!!
    C’mon

  27. It’s pretty clear that Scoble’s source is full of crap. Here’s a link to the Chumby wiki page on developing flash widgets: http://wiki.chumby.com/mediawiki/index.php/Developing_widgets_for_chumby The page says the Chumby runs Flash Lite 3.0, not a full fledged version of flash. It goes on to list several supported and unsuported features (Stylesheets!?) and describes an implementation difference between Flash Lite and Flash Player in how the mouse pointer is detected with a touch screen.

    My point is this: if Scoble’s source knows so much about Adobe’s development of Flash I would expect him to know the difference between Flash Lite 3 and Flash Player 8. That he doesn’t makes me believe his other statements are not true.

  28. It’s pretty clear that Scoble’s source is full of crap. Here’s a link to the Chumby wiki page on developing flash widgets: http://wiki.chumby.com/mediawiki/index.php/Developing_widgets_for_chumby The page says the Chumby runs Flash Lite 3.0, not a full fledged version of flash. It goes on to list several supported and unsuported features (Stylesheets!?) and describes an implementation difference between Flash Lite and Flash Player in how the mouse pointer is detected with a touch screen.

    My point is this: if Scoble’s source knows so much about Adobe’s development of Flash I would expect him to know the difference between Flash Lite 3 and Flash Player 8. That he doesn’t makes me believe his other statements are not true.

  29. Hi Rob,

    Tiny point. When looking for FastCompany.TV clicky saw that your VP @ PodTech job is still listed on the right.

  30. Hi Rob,

    Tiny point. When looking for FastCompany.TV clicky saw that your VP @ PodTech job is still listed on the right.

  31. Me thinks there’s a lot of history behind this…
    1) Adobe probably wouldn’t exist if Jobs hadn’t picked postscript, developed the Laserwriter and created the desktop publishing industry which set up Adobe and it’s money making product line.
    2) Jobs chooses display postscript for Next and Adobe reams him on royalties.
    3) Jobs returns, wants to use display postscript with OSX but gets the big royalty treatment form Adobe, lack of support from them for native apps, lousy Flash player on Macs, etc.
    Adobe is probably very high on the Jobs shit list.

    The difference now is Apple’s flying high, Jobs doesn’t have to bend over for the traditional Adobe hump.

  32. Me thinks there’s a lot of history behind this…
    1) Adobe probably wouldn’t exist if Jobs hadn’t picked postscript, developed the Laserwriter and created the desktop publishing industry which set up Adobe and it’s money making product line.
    2) Jobs chooses display postscript for Next and Adobe reams him on royalties.
    3) Jobs returns, wants to use display postscript with OSX but gets the big royalty treatment form Adobe, lack of support from them for native apps, lousy Flash player on Macs, etc.
    Adobe is probably very high on the Jobs shit list.

    The difference now is Apple’s flying high, Jobs doesn’t have to bend over for the traditional Adobe hump.

  33. Here’s my guess on Steve Jobs’ wishlist for Adobe: Use CoreAnimation, CoreGraphics, CoreAudio and CoreVideo in your OS X implementation of Flash, integrate more native OS X controls (because, let’s face it: Flash-based UIs are usually hideous, non-functional and non-standard).

  34. Here’s my guess on Steve Jobs’ wishlist for Adobe: Use CoreAnimation, CoreGraphics, CoreAudio and CoreVideo in your OS X implementation of Flash, integrate more native OS X controls (because, let’s face it: Flash-based UIs are usually hideous, non-functional and non-standard).

  35. From Matt M’s comment (22) “how slow they were to support OS X”. “Were” is the wrong verb. They still have only limited support for Leopard. My repeated inquiries regarding a release date for Adobe Acrobat Standard Edition for OS X 10.5 remain unanswered. Why? They can get $150 more for Pro if that is all they sell. It’s all about the money.

  36. From Matt M’s comment (22) “how slow they were to support OS X”. “Were” is the wrong verb. They still have only limited support for Leopard. My repeated inquiries regarding a release date for Adobe Acrobat Standard Edition for OS X 10.5 remain unanswered. Why? They can get $150 more for Pro if that is all they sell. It’s all about the money.

  37. Rendering a web page with Flash ads on a Mac eats up 70-90% of CPU. Sure, Flash is “running on an iPhone in a lab” and “it’s been running for quite a while” – Apple engineers use it to test potential problems with cpu overheating.

  38. Rendering a web page with Flash ads on a Mac eats up 70-90% of CPU. Sure, Flash is “running on an iPhone in a lab” and “it’s been running for quite a while” – Apple engineers use it to test potential problems with cpu overheating.

  39. I have a Comment from someone here who has a different POV on this issue:

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

    And the more I think about it, what good is just a Flash *player*? Don’t we need Flash to be systemwide in the iPhone so that, for example, YouTube or other FLV files play *in place*? Doesn’t that mean at the very least integration into the Safari browser?

    There’s already a method for playing FLVs on the iPhone. I suspect it’s converting:

    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/01/13/reference-flash-video-on-iphone/

    I don’t understand this Flash vs PDF issue. I don’t see what Adobe would get out of that other than milking Apple for royalties on PDF. Apple’s own Preview already handles PDFs without Adobe.

  40. I have a Comment from someone here who has a different POV on this issue:

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

    And the more I think about it, what good is just a Flash *player*? Don’t we need Flash to be systemwide in the iPhone so that, for example, YouTube or other FLV files play *in place*? Doesn’t that mean at the very least integration into the Safari browser?

    There’s already a method for playing FLVs on the iPhone. I suspect it’s converting:

    http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/01/13/reference-flash-video-on-iphone/

    I don’t understand this Flash vs PDF issue. I don’t see what Adobe would get out of that other than milking Apple for royalties on PDF. Apple’s own Preview already handles PDFs without Adobe.

  41. @David Jacobs: “Well, F you Apple, I want F’ing Flash on my F’ing iPhone.”

    Not sure why anyone wants Flash outside of porn, cartoons and Flash ads, but there’s a legitimate solution: write it. Here’s some helpful links to get you started:

    Installing the iPhone developer toolchain – http://code.google.com/p/iphone-dev/wiki/Building

    SFW File Format spec – http://the-labs.com/MacromediaFlash/SWF-Spec/SWFfileformat.html

    FLV File format spec – http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/formats/fdd/fdd000131.shtml

    Go for it! What’s that? You can’t develop it yourself and are demanding someone else do it for you? Well then, how bout you STFU and take what’s given to you.

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