woensdag 9 maart 2011

Apple versus Adobe: The Battle over Flash

I wrote this text months ago but never found the time to finish it…

If Flash dies, it’s due to Apple.

A conversation in the Apple boardroom:

“Hey Steve, did you notice that Flash could undermine our business proposition?”

“Of course I do. I was just wondering how to get rid of Flash without causing too much fuss.”

“We could tell the world it drains your battery.”

“Ok, Let’s take off from that.”

I can imagine this conversation took place. However, it doesn’t matter and there’s not even a memo leaked which could confirm this. Fact is that flash is banned from the iPhone, iPod and iPad, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. By now I read more than a couple of hours about the subject and have to admit that as far as I can see, I agree with Apple. Here’s why.

To start simple. Flash isn’t designed from scratch to be used on a mobile platform or by touch screen. It looks like Adobe didn’t see the mobile change coming, I also have to admit I didn’t see it coming too. Browsing on smart phones or general on mobile devices was a pain until two years ago. I guess Adobe thought that mobile devices wouldn’t be used for browsing and kept on their primary target platform; Microsoft Windows. The problem with flash and touch devices is that a touch doesn’t have a hover over function. With a mouse you can hover over things and this is one of Flash its strengths. Can this be overcome with touch devices? Probably, but it would mean that developers should be more aware of touch devices, and almost all existing flash is not designed for touch devices. Good web designers also have a strategy for people who don’t want flash on their browser. A website can detect if flash is available, and if not, it switches to non-flash HTML. It’s also hard to deny that flash doesn’t run easily on mobile devices. Only most recent Android versions allow flash to run (more or less properly). Even on my laptop it happens quiet frequently that my CPU is seriously working, just because I see some flash on a webpage. So Apple’s choice to ban Flash is defendable.

I read a lot of bad press about people accusing Apple of its walled garden and apparently closed eco-system. But consider this: What will happen anytime soon with android apps? They will contain malware. Apple’s walled garden isn’t bad for almost all end users. And hey, every company would like to do what Apples does, but only few get away with it.

The mobile war has just started, and this is just one of the battles. I find it very interesting to see all these powers at work. Sadly we will never hear all details about how internal conversations about this subject took place.