Apple and Adobe Flash controversy
The Apple and Adobe Flash controversy is ongoing between Apple Inc. and Adobe Systems over Adobe Flash technology, and specifically the Adobe Flash Player and its use on Apple iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad.
"Thoughts on Flash"
On April 29, 2010, Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Apple Inc., published an open letter called "Thoughts on Flash" explaining why Apple would not allow Flash on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. He cited the rapid energy consumption, poor performance on mobile devices, abysmal security, lack of touch support, and desire to avoid "a third party layer of software coming between the platform and the developer". He touched on the idea of Flash being "open", claiming that "By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system". Jobs tried to dismiss the idea that Apple customers are missing out by being sold devices without Flash compatibility. He quoted a number of statistics and concluded with "Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content."
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (September 2013)|
The letter drew immediate and harsh criticism, with Steve Jobs being accused of hypocrisy or of deliberately misleading. Jobs' assertion that Flash is not open, or closed and proprietary, attracted a great deal of attention with references to open source projects that take advantage of Adobe making the Flash specification open for developers to build on.
Some members of the industry claimed that Steve Jobs rejected Flash on the iPhone for business reasons, rather than the technical reasons he mentions in his letter:
|“||Allowing Flash—which is a development platform of its own—would just be too dangerous for Apple, a company that enjoys exerting total dominance over its hardware and the software that runs on it. Flash has evolved from being a mere animation player into a multimedia platform capable of running applications of its own. That means Flash would open a new door for application developers to get their software onto the iPhone: Just code them in Flash and put them on a web page. In so doing, Flash would divert business from the App Store, as well as enable publishers to distribute music, videos and movies that could compete with the iTunes Store.||”|
— "Why Apple Won’t Allow Adobe Flash on iPhone," Wired Magazine, (2008)
|“||This is not about technology. The criticisms from Apple about Flash can also be applied to many other systems that Apple has not directly opposed. Therefore Apple's stance appears driven by their business need to protect the iPhone platform against the threat of a cross-platform competitor.||”|
— Ray Valdes, V.P. of Gartner Research – "Why Adobe Flash on mobile isn't dead" (2010)
|“||"[Apple is] very, very keen to keep control of the end-to-end experience and therefore having a separate runtime in the form of Adobe is a problem, One could argue it could be detrimental to Apple's business model because there's a lot of Adobe games – or games that are delivered in Flash – which are free and therefore that would detract from people downloading [paid gaming content] from the App Store."||”|
— Ben Wood, Director at CCS Insight
Some neutral parties agreed with Jobs but highlighted the hypocrisy in his reasoning:
|“||Jobs has hit the nail on the head when describing the problems with Adobe, but not until after smashing his own thumb. Every criticism he makes of Adobe's proprietary approach applies equally to Apple.||”|
— John Sullivan, Free Software Foundation
Retrospectives following Adobe's withdrawal from mobile have tended to agree with Jobs on Flash's suitability for mobile devices:
|“||It turns out Jobs was right. When Flash finally did ship on Android devices, it didn’t provide users with the full web, as was promised. Android users who wished to watch videos on Hulu through the Flash browser, for instance, were met with a message saying that the content wasn’t available on the mobile web. Same thing for users who tried to access most premium video sites on Google TV, which also supported Flash. More importantly, even when those videos or interactive Flash elements did appear on Android devices, they were often wonky or didn’t perform well, even on high-powered phones.||”|
— Ryan Lawler, Tech Crunch
|“||[D]espite Adobe’s multiple attempts to breathe life into Flash on other mobile devices — namely, Android and BlackBerry OS, two of Apple’s main competitors — the company hasn’t delivered. In Wired.com’s testing of multiple Flash-compatible devices, choppiness and browser crashes were common.
“Adobe can’t do it because Flash is a resource hog,” said Icaza. “It’s a battery drain, and it’s unreliable on mobile web browsers.”
— Mike Isaac, Wired
|“||Though Flash was held up as a selling point—and a differentiating point—for Android and other devices positioned against Apple's notorious anti-Flash crusade in iOS, Adobe was never really able to smooth over performance, battery, and security issues.||”|
— Kyle Wagner, Gizmodo
|“||Adobe's Flash Surrender Proves Steve Jobs And Apple Were Right All Along With HTML5 ... After a big fight with Jobs, Adobe is now on board to start developing tools using HTML5, the technology Jobs championed.||”|
— Nigam Arora, Forbes, 9 Nov. 2011
Separate from the now-abandoned development of Flash Player for mobile browsers, Adobe also developed (and continues to support) Adobe AIR, including the "Packager for iOS," which bundles the Flash runtime into a fully native iOS application. This allowed Flash developers to distribute any Flash application via the iTunes App Store as a standalone app.
With the release of iOS 4.0 SDK, Apple changed its terms of service to prohibit programs that are originally written in non-Apple approved languages from being used on the iPhone. This was criticized for being anti-competitive by disallowing use of Adobe Flash and other programs on the iPhone. The New York Times quoted an Adobe employee alleging the policy to be anti-competitive. On May 3, 2010, Ars Technica and The New York Post reported that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) are deciding which agency will launch an antitrust investigation into the matter.
The controversy over Apple's changes to section 3.3.1 of the iPhone SDK license agreement erupted after John Gruber's April 8, 2010 Daring Fireball blog post entitled, New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone. Strong opposition to Apple's licensing changes spread quickly with bloggers and others. Others were quick to note that the language used in the agreement also banned other developer tools including MonoTouch, Lua, Unity3D, and many others.
The original iPhone OS 3 section 3.3.1 reads:
- 3.3.1 Applications may only use Published APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any unpublished or private APIs.
The revised iPhone OS 4 section 3.3.1 reads:
Steve Jobs posted his reaction entitled "Thoughts on Flash", but did not directly address any third party development tools other than Adobe's Flash platform.
In April 2010, Apple modified its iOS developer agreement to limit the development of iOS apps to the use of a small set of Apple-approved programming languages and tools. Adobe's iOS packager was seen as the target of these new rules. However, because the new rules were broadly written, and did not cite Adobe's iOS Packager specifically, they also potentially restricted the development of many popular iOS games and applications created using other non-approved application frameworks, such as MonoTouch (also known as C# Mono - cross-platform - iOS, Android, .NET), Unity3D, and Lua.
In September 2010, after having "listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart", Apple removed the restrictions on third-party tools, languages and frameworks, removing uncertainty from developers who used these third-party tools, and again allowing the deployment of Flash applications on iOS using Adobe's iOS Packager.
On November 8, 2011, Adobe announced that it was ceasing development of the Flash Player "plugin" for browsers on mobile devices, in an effort to shift its focus on using the ActionScript programming language and Adobe AIR to develop fully functional native apps for mobile. Quoted from Adobe's press release: "Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores."
- Apple - Press Info - Apple Leadership - Steve Jobs at the Wayback Machine (archived July 19, 2011)
- Jobs, Steve (April 29, 2010). "Thoughts on Flash". Apple.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
- Jobs Lies in Thoughts on Flash, Blixt Systems
- Decoding Steve Jobs’ Dressing Down Of Flash, TechCrunch
- Steve Jobs Is Lying About Flash, Business Insider
- List of open source projects built for Adobe Flash, OSFlash Wiki
- Richmond, Shane. (April 30, 2010) Adobe hits back at Apple's 'smokescreen' – Telegraph Blogs. Blogs.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved on March 11, 2011.
- Why Apple Won’t Allow Adobe Flash on iPhone | Gadget Lab. Wired.com. Retrieved on March 11, 2011.
- Why Adobe Flash on mobile isn't dead – despite what Apple's Steve Jobs says, Silicon.com
- Why Adobe Flash on mobile isn't dead, page 2, Silicon.com
- Pot, meet kettle: a response to Steve Jobs’ letter on Flash
- Steve Would Be Proud: How Apple Won The War Against Flash
- Adobe Had It Coming: The Long, Slow Goodbye of Mobile Flash
- Report: Adobe Is Finally Pulling the Plug on Mobile Flash (Updated)
- Adobe's Flash Surrender Proves Steve Jobs And Apple Were Right All Along With HTML5
- Adobe Systems' SEC filing alleging expected loss of ability to compete in the market because of Apple's position on Flash on the iPhone and iPad, Form 10q, March 5, 2010.
- Brimelow, Lee (April 9, 2010), Apple Slaps Developers In The Face, TheFlashBlog
- Williams, Hank (April 8, 2010), Steve Jobs Has Just Gone Mad, Why does everything suck?
- Schonfeld, Erick (April 9, 2010), Is Steve Jobs Ignoring History, Or Trying To Rewrite It?, TechCrunch
- Worthham, Jenna (April 12, 2010), "Apple Places New Limits on App Developers", The New York Times
- Cheng, Jacqui (May 3, 2010), Apple iPhone OS compiler policy may lead to antitrust probe, Ars Technica
- Kosman, Josh (May 3, 2010), "An antitrust app", The New York Post
- New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of Adobe’s Flash-to-iPhone Compiler. 8 April 2010.
- Original iPhone OS 3 Developer Program License Agreement
- Chen, Brian X. (April 8, 2010). "Adobe Apps: Easier to Pass Through the 'i' of a Needle?". Gadget Lab (Wired). Retrieved September 1, 2011.
- Gruber, John (April 8, 2010). "New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of Adobe's Flash-to-iPhone Compiler". Daring Fireball (John Gruber). Retrieved September 1, 2011.
- "Technology News: iOS: Apple Eases iOS Dev Clampdown as Android Gains Ground". Technewsworld.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
- Sorrel, Charlie (September 9, 2010). "Apple Eases App Development Rules, Adobe Surges". Gadget Lab (Wired). Retrieved January 6, 2011.
- Flash to Focus on PC Browsing and Mobile Apps