Adobe smacks back Apple over iPad, again

There’s a ton of chatter on Techmeme today regarding iPad and Flash and HTML 5. Again. In particular don’t miss posts from ReadWriteWeb regarding Flash vs. HTML 5 speed and PC World’s comparison of HP’s new Slate vs. the iPad and how the focus will be on Flash.

Yesterday I sat down with top execs from Adobe’s Flash team. I filmed two videos:

1. A video demo of a variety of things Adobe announced at the Mobile World Congress, including a new Flash player for Android and Palm Pre (I played with it yesterday, very nice).
2. A response to Apple about Flash’s appropriateness for including on iPhone and iPad.

Why won’t the iPad have Adobe Flash technology? Anup Murarka director of technology strategy and partner development for the Adobe Flash platform and Aaron Filner, group product manager of Flash platform, focusing on AIR, answer some of the reasons why Steve Jobs doesn’t put Adobe Flash onto the iPad in one of the videos I filmed yesterday when I visited Adobe’s offices in San Francisco. Things like:

1. It will chew up battery.
2. It will crash or be buggy.
3. It doesn’t work with touch interfaces.
4. It won’t perform well enough.

They take on each of these complaints about Adobe Flash and explain what has changed with the Flash 10.1 player.

My thoughts? I’m buying an iPad anyway (we’re even having a party at the Palo Alto store all night on the evening of April 2nd) and I have iPhones. My life would be better if Flash shipped on iPad, but it doesn’t look like that will happen. So, developers are going to be forced to build two versions of their web pages if they care about reaching me as a customer and one of those versions will need to have no Flash or Silverlight (Apple is also resisting including Microsoft’s Silverlight platform).

But Adobe is doing a pretty good job of keeping Flash developers’ skills relevant. You can build apps for iPhones or iPads in Flash and compile them using some new tools that Adobe has been showing off and will ship before July. Even Adobe’s own Photoshop app on the iPhone was built in Flash and compiled using these new tools. That’s a compelling story.

I have to admit, though, that I will be checking out other competitive devices from Google and others. I already have a Droid, which will use the new Flash 10.1 player just fine and I expect I’ll check out the new HP tablet and, especially, ones that will come with the Google Chrome OS later this year. Those, I expect, will support Flash and that could be a big deal in future device decisions.

How about you? Will you decide not to buy Apple products just because they won’t run Flash in Web pages?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

93 thoughts on “Adobe smacks back Apple over iPad, again

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  2. First it was Apple vs. Microsoft. Then it was Netscape vs. Microsoft. Now it is Apple vs. Adobe.

    Looks like Microsoft is losing relevance today.

  3. “Apple might have an ulterior motive in disallowing Flash and Java, in that it forces apps to go via their App Store and approval process – but they don't make any money out of that in itself: if you would otherwise have put your app on the Web for anyone to access, you can put it in the App Store at the same price, giving Apple a cut of $0 – they're just left to pick up your bandwidth tab!”

    Not true. People forget that it's entirely possible to build iPhone apps that are entirely web based and don't go through the App Store at all. As a matter of fact, when the iPhone was first released, that was the only way for third parties to write apps for the device:

    http://www.apple.com/webapps/

  4. Except that Apple basically breaks even on the AppStore which exists to drive sales of the iPhone, iPod Touch and (soon) iPad.

    Apple (Jobs) doesn't like the idea of not being able to control code running on these devices. I'm sure Apple would love to tie up Macs as well but that horse left the barn decades ago.

    It's interesting that Microsoft is essentially following Apple's lead in requiring all apps for the Windows Phone 7 Series to be accessed via a filtered AppStore. Microsoft is also pushing Silverlight over Flash and hasn't said that Flash will be supported on the WP7S devices.

  5. It's still a rant. You presume that your strategy would yield a better financial performance for Apple, but you fail to explain why Apple's current strategy puts them in the top-5 of all US manufacturers. On the flip side, computer manufacturers that are taking the strategy you recommend are faring far more poorly. It's rather silly to second-guess a company when they are head and shoulders ahead of everyone else in their industry.

    I do condemn Adobe for having cookies in Flash. Adobe has done nothing to warn the public of that risk to their privacy — the general public thinks that managing cookie capabilities in their browser is sufficient. But Flash doesn't play by those rules. And, as far as I can tell, Adobe is doing nothing to fix this problem.

    My solution is to use Flash as little as possible. I have it blocked in browsers. Since servers are starting to provide alternatives to Flash video, I have very little use for it. I advise others to block Flash for three reasons: avoid annoying advertisements, block privacy leaks, and minimize exposure to Adobe-targeted malware.

    Have you read that Symantec report about Adobe risks? Adobe is the #2 target for malware writers; it may soon be the #1 target. Do you agree that's a good reason to minimize exposure to Adobe products? What is Adobe doing to address this?

  6. Sorry, Christopher. I have no idea what your point is. Those working at college campuses and coworking facilities are indeed the future small businesses and enterprises. Those are the right people to be aiming for with your computers.

    Are you concerned about Symantec's predictions of increasing security threats from Adobe products: “Malware Writers Love Adobe, Microsoft Products” ( http://www.mcafee.com/us/local_content/white_pa… )?

    Are you concerned of the use of Flash cookies to track customers (from Steve Gibson's “Security Now!” podcast (transcript at http://www.grc.com/sn/sn-209.htm ). According to the Berkeley study, more than half of the top Internet sites are now using flash cookies to track their users.

    What is Adobe doing to address that? Do they even think it's a problem?

    These two things concern me immensely. They make me want to minimize my use of both Flash and Reader. Are you concerned, Christopher?

  7. “College campuses, coffee shops, or co-working facilities”…that says it all right there. Small Business, Homes, Enterprise…that's all a misguided priority, right? ;)

  8. Increased markets a misguided priority? Wow, you best take College Econ again. Even your “capitalization” cop-out could benefit from a 30% increase, yes?

    Flash cookies bad? Ok, yes. But doesn't mean you have to nuke Flash itself. What of all the (annoying) Farmville Facebookers? Letmee guess, a misguided priority, one huge market, just write off. And funny, Flash works great on my GPU-accelerated Windows 7 box.

    Hipster college-kiddies, on an educational discount freebase high, doesn't translate into Fortune 500 Enterprise adoption, maybe some crash and burn start-ups, yes..

    Tech support? So? You pay for it in terms of high initial purchase prices. It's not free. And commodity-market products always have lower levels of support, this is not news. Plus, AppleCare is not the utopia you make it out to be, been there, done that.

    But this debate is eternal, and my point was really tech-independent, I hate blind fanboys of any stripe, my issue was with the business practices.

  9. Apple might have an ulterior motive in disallowing Flash and Java, in that it forces apps to go via their App Store and approval process – but they don't make any money out of that in itself: if you would otherwise have put your app on the Web for anyone to access, you can put it in the App Store at the same price, giving Apple a cut of $0 – they're just left to pick up your bandwidth tab!

    Ulterior motive or not, I'm delighted to see such a big deterrent to more companies putting up a junk Flash site instead of an actual web site. Yes, Flash can be useful for sIFR and as a crude workaround for the feeble vector graphics support in certain browsers – but it's almost exclusively used as a lazy alternative to doing things properly in HTML or to create extremely badly-written games quickly. I don't know where the blame lies in Adobe's refusal or inability to use the proper Mac API for hardware accelerated video playback – but that doesn't excuse the absurd CPU load from simple tile-based games, wasting more than half the CPU time on a Core 2 Duo for a game no more complex than we used to play on m68k and 286 systems 20 years ago!

    I've used Creative Suite pretty heavily, producing websites and thousand page commercial publications, but still my heart sinks any time I have to load an Adobe application, knowing it will slow my system to a crawl until I can finally shut it down again. It's not as bad as MS Office, but getting close – some sort of vendetta between Apple and Adobe, each trying to make the other's products look bad?

  10. I go for the sites that have multitasking netbooks with flash support. There is far better products then the iPad on the market already. No way I am going to recode all flash content for a few iPad users. Polls here (netherlands) show that only the hardcore Apple fans will buy the iPad. For example the iTablet by X2 runs Flash, has a webcam, supports multiple operating systems, provides 250GB of storage and USB ports, multitasking, 1.3megapixels, g3 gsm, hdmi etc They are planning to change the name since they also find the iPad so dissappointed they dont want to be associated with it anymore. source: geek.com

    1. So they called it the iTablet to ride on Apple’s coat tails? And this is the sort of company you promote? Pathetic.

      You don’t have to recode Flash content, we just won’t visit your sites. There’s only 100million mobile safari users out there that use the internet constantly.

      Good luck with the business, kid

  11. It's a rant because it's a misguided priority. Apple is the #5 company by market capitalization in the US. That's tops for computer manufacturers. Their stock price has never been higher. Their margins are the envy of the personal computer industry. IBM is #9 in the list. HP is #20. And Dell is way off the bottom of the charts.

    Apple's tech support is the envy of the industry: http://www.macrumors.com/2010/03/11/apple-domin… . Apple scored 86%; the next-highest competitor scored 63%. Dell clocked in at 55%.

    If you look at computer usage on college campuses, coffee shops, or co-working facilities, you'll see a far higher percentage. When those entrepreneurs start their own companies, they use Apple computers. They will avoid components on their corporate webpages that won't work on all their Apple web browsers. Flash will be a legacy web component for those new companies.

    I'd like you to spell out reasons why you think PM doesn't fit your personal needs. But your observation is missing the big point: the tasks that many people need to do is well-met by PM and other lean (and far less expensive software). For years, there were few other solutions. Now, there are many.

    Are you concerned about Symantec's predictions of increasing security threats from Adobe products: “Malware Writers Love Adobe, Microsoft Products” ( http://www.mcafee.com/us/local_content/white_pa… )?

    Are you concerned of the use of Flash cookies to track customers? Look at this extended quote from Steve Gibson's “Security Now!” podcast (transcript at http://www.grc.com/sn/sn-209.htm ):

    “And then my final bit of news comes from some researchers at UC Berkeley, who discovered from poking around that more than half of the Internet's top websites are now using Flash cookies to track users and store information about them, but that only four of those sites mention their use of Flash cookies in their privacy policies. And just to refresh our users' memories, our listeners' memories, traditional cookies are browser cookies. And probably everybody knows about them. There's a UI that's very available and visible on browsers that allows you to manage your cookies, to delete them, to turn them into session cookies so that they're not persistent, to allow some sites to keep cookies and others not to and so forth.”

    “Flash cookies are Adobe/Macromedia's own completely separate channel which allows data to be stored, surprisingly large amount of data actually per website, much more so than cookies, in a channel which is completely separate from your browser. So it will be something that GRC will be addressing. I've got a lot of research that's in the process of getting itself ready to come online, just needs more documentation about browser cookies for educating people. And it has been pointed out to me a year ago, more than a year ago, that Flash cookies are on the rise.”

    “Well, here we are now, more than half of the Internet sites are using Flash cookies. The only reason they would be doing that is that they're no longer happy with the tracking they're getting from regular cookies. And what that means is, since still all browsers default to having cookies enabled, since that was part of the original specification for the web was that a server can give a browser client a cookie, which it will then return in order to identify itself. Well, users don't want to be tracked, so they're turning their browser cookies off. But websites are not accepting their choice not to be tracked. They're saying, well, we're going to track you anyway. Even though you've disabled your browser cookies, we're going to be even more sneaky because our website requires Flash, and everybody pretty much has Flash who's on the 'Net now. So where possible, we're going to give you an even stickier cookie through the Flash mechanism in order to hold onto you. Which, you know, doesn't seem right, but that's what's going on. More than half of the Internet's top sites.”

    More than half! What is Adobe doing to address that? Do they even think it's a problem?

  12. Regarding Flash, it is not only used for video. I make small animations that illustrate mechanical systems. what happens if Flash goes away? No more animations. These things are tiny (under 20kb). When I hear people talk about killing Flash, I don't see any alternative for making said animations. I hope people realize Flash is not just “video”. Used in an “efficient” manner most folks should have no trouble with Flash.

  13. It’s not the tool, Flash, that sucks, it’s a huge percentage of Flash designers that do not put themselves in the place of the user, or in some cases, the people ordering the site who think moving text in menus etc is cute or modern. I guess the book “Skip Intro” didn’t sell enough copies.
    Flash has most of what you need for usability, but it has been a resource hog in the past. If they get over that, then if designers can harness their creativity and to go for usable and memorable designs, we’ll all be happy.

  14. A web directory or link directory is a directory on the World Wide Web. It specializes in linking to other web sites and categorizing those links.[1]
    A web directory ex: http://www.microsoftcompany.com is not a search engine and does not display lists of web pages based on keywords; instead, it lists web sites by category and subcategory. Most web directory entries are also not found by web crawlers but by humans.[1] The categorization is usually based on the whole web site rather than one page or a set of keywords, and sites are often limited to inclusion in only a few categories. Web directories often allow site owners to directly submit their site for inclusion, and have editors review submissions for fitness.
    RSS directories are similar to web directories, but contain collections of RSS feeds, instead of links to web sites.
    Scope of listing
    Most of the directories are very general in scope and list websites across a wide range of categories, regions and languages. But there are also some niche directories which focus on restricted regions, single languages, or specialist sectors. One type of niche directory with a large number of sites in existence, is the shopping directory for example. Shopping directories specialize in the listing of retail e-commerce sites.
    Examples of well known, general, web directories are Yahoo! Directory and the Open Directory Project (ODP). ODP is significant due to its extensive categorization and large number of listings and its free availability for use by other directories and search engines.[2]
    However, a debate over the quality of directories and databases still continues, as search engines use ODP’s content without real integration, and some experiment using clustering. There have been many attempts to make directory development easier, such as using automated submission of related links by script, or any number of available PHP portals and programs. Recently, social software techniques have spawned new efforts of categorization, with Amazon.com adding tagging to their product pages.
    Directories have various features in listing, often depend upon the price paid for inclusion:
    Some web directory have : 23$ featured link or 12 $ regular link for life time ex:http://www.microsoftcompany.com
    Free submission – there is no charge for the review and listing of the site
    Reciprocal link – a link back to the directory must be added somewhere on the submitted site in order to get listed in the directory
    Paid submission – a one-time or recurring fee is charged for reviewing/listing the submitted link
    No follow – there is a rel=”nofollow” attribute associated with the link, meaning search engines will give no weight to the link.
    Featured listing – the link is given a premium position in a category (or multiple categories) or other sections of the directory, such as the homepage. Sometimes called sponsored listing.
    Bid for position – where sites are ordered based on bids
    Affiliate links – where the directory earns commission for referred customers from the listed websites

  15. “the first thing I do on a fresh install of any OS is to get a browser (Chrome or Firefox)”. Something you (most likely) won't be able to do on the iPad. As far as I know, there is no way to install and use other browsers than the preinstalled Safari on the iPhone/iPad platform.

    One thing people seem to forget is that it is not only Flash that is not allowed on the iPhone/iPad. The same goes for all browser add-ons (like Unity or Silverlight), Java is not supported, and there is no choice in web browser.

  16. The 40% “rant” was market-share numbering, now standing at just shy of 10%, Computerworld's analysis has PCs at 88.7 percent, if Apple went OEM, they might get some sort of economy of scale, as stands now, Macbook prices hover near used car prices, so if they flipped, they'd grab lower margins but bigger overall volume take, and deeper penetration into markets which increases demand for other software product offerings. I don't see what is so hard to understand about that. And if they stopped being AT&T only, and went carrier independent too, slew of people would go iPhone, me for one. 10% with high margins is a niche.

    You are dreaming if you think Pixelmator can replace Photoshop, maybe for your needs, certainly not for mine. And anyone recall what video on the web was like before Flash? Yeah, broken spyware-city Real Playerisms, Windows Media Not-So-Player and horrid Quicktime wait-pulls. Not really taking a stand per Flash, but if problems, you handle these things professionally without resorting to name-calling temper-tantrum rants, like Apple is so prone to do.

  17. Flash is no longer the most appropriate technology for putting video and simple animation on the web. The open web is good enough.

    Once the world stops using Flash for video playback, the cases where one would be bummed to not have flash on an iPad-like device decrease to nearly zero.

    When I disable Flash, my laptop battery life often doubles.

  18. So earlier versions of the educational games and tutorials you like cannot be ported by Adobe's tools? I'll take that on face value. I have a hard time understanding how the failure of Adobe's porting tools to work with those legacy applications should be viewed as a ding on Apple.

    If there's a market for porting legacy apps to the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, it will be done.

    I find that keeping flash/reader up-to-date more difficult than anything else on the Mac. I have to actively go to the Adobe site to check versions, and I usually do that after I've heard of problems. Am I missing something? Is there some way to automate that checking?

  19. Flash conversion tools? I think you misunderstand the type of content I'm talking about. Its not apps its educational games and tutorials. I'm pretty familiar with Flash as we develop flex applications. And the subset of stuff that the adobe tools will convert doesn't cover a lot of the flash games I'm referring to. Certainly not the stuff that was authored in Flash3 and has just been upgraded ever since.

    So I think its unlikely this stuff will be ported to the iPhone platform, not unless there's going to be much broader support in the next release than there is in the current public beta.

    I've run all the flex (flash) apps we have developed internally and externally on my macbook for months and though I've had the odd crash its usually my lousy actionscript not anything inherent in the flex (flash) itself as far as I can tell. The production versions seem to be perfectly happy on the macbook but we don't do 3D or video or audio or any clever chat type stuff. Its just boring data presentation stuff but it pays my mortgage and keeps the suits happy.

    The parental controls limit my sons web browsing to cbeebies and educationcity. So no flash ads. And no navigating to anything inappropriate. Take a look at the content and you'll see how unlikely it is this is going to be ported.

    And yes I do keep my systems up to date. I also run legacy images for regression testing and am well aware of the holes in adobes stuff.

    Flash isn't being implemented on the iPad as it provides a platform for distributing applications outside the appstore. And thats a fair thing for Apple to do as it wants to control the distribution channel. It just means I'm going to end up buying some crappy PC if I want a touch based device for my boy.

    The fact our flex/flash apps don't run on the iPhone is also helping pay my bills as I've started writing iPhone versions of some of them. Hence the reason I have a mac at all. And an utter pain in the ass it is too.

    I've gotta stop putting actionscript in my objective C and vice versa :-)

  20. Actually, you “draw a line in the sand” if you are obsessive about the user experience. If you don't want to work with a company that obsessive, nobody is forcing you to buy Apple products.

    The user experience with Flash has been substandard on the Mac. Flash apps do things on website that are totally counterproductive to browsing. Flash stashes cookies that are not subject to the same rules as standard web cookies, and most users are unaware of those monitors of their activities. Flash sucks CPU cycles, as do all Adobe products on the Mac.

    Have you heard about McAfee's 2010 threat predictions: that Adobe will eclipse Microsoft as the primary target of security holes: http://www.mcafee.com/us/local_content/white_pa

    The best improvement I made in the last year to my browsing experience was *shutting off* Flash applications with the flash-blocking software. If I want to launch a flash program, I click on it. I no longer have stupid animations and video spam spew out of my computer. Websites that depend on flash advertisements are shut out of my machine.

    Those blockers are the real threat to Adobe Flash, not Apple. Heaven help Adobe as the general public learns they can have all that spam just disappear from their computer.

    Adobe is losing market share to the Mac-only specialized apps. Pixelmator is all I need for my graphic manipulations. It's far easier to learn from scratch, does things that Photoshop can't do, and comes in at $59. I wouldn't want to use Photoshop even if it were price-competetive.

    I have no idea what your 40% rant is about. Apple is the #5 company by market capitalization in the US. Their stock price has never been higher. Their margins are the envy of the personal computer industry. Analysts estimate they sold 50,000 iPads in 2 hours today.

    Apple is executing in this economy like very few companies in the world. Claiming their strategy is not working just doesn't make sense.

  21. You don't ever “draw lines in the sand”, unless you want to become a professional litigant company — licensing, accommodation, compromise or, if drastically needed, stall tactics, until your vision of the market develops (a lesson Microsoft and IBM well learnt in developing their patent portfolios).

    Photoshop alternatives? So? Even if magnitudes better, no one will switch, not with the infrastructure and plug-in base, you might as ship out to some off-world colony for all that it matters. Besides with all the CS5 patchmatching gee-whiz demos, will be harder than ever to wean offa Photoshop, notgoingtohappen.

    Of course, if Apple played nicer with OEMs, Developers and Carriers and stopped being so temper-tantrum political, they'd command at least 40% and upwards of the market. Heck, they could do that overnight just by advertising on Limbaugh, but they wouldn't see past the politics, and the cult wouldn't let them. But it would work.

  22. None of us know of the negotiations between the companies. Performance of Flash is hardly the sole issue with it and other Adobe software. Perhaps Apple asked them to clean up their act years ago, and Jobs is only now finally drawing a line in the sand.

    The lock of Adobe's core products is slipping. There are many programs that do much of the functionality of Photoshop — with a far smaller footprint, faster code, and far less money.

  23. You still didn't explain why Flash must have a separate facility for stuffing cookies onto my computer. Such cookies have different controls than cookie controls for the rest of the browser and only a tiny fraction of consumers even know that they are there.

    These are not the actions of a company on the side of the consumer.

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