Why can't Apple and Adobe just get along?

The bickering between Apple and Adobe over why Apple's iPhone and its new iPad don't run Adobe's Flash software is giving me a headache.

Apple CEO says Flash is buggy and accuses Adobe of being lazy. Kevin Lynch, Adobe's , denies that and accuses Apple of trying to control what and iPad users can do with their devices.

Jobs says Flash is on its way out. No way, says Lynch.

Enough already. You guys are beginning to remind me of my kids. Can't you find some way to get along?

It seems to me that Apple and Adobe need each other. Even if they didn't, the millions of us who own iPhones and iPod touches or who plan to buy an iPad when the new multimedia tablet hits the market need them to work things out. Because we're the ones who are going to lose out if they don't.

Adobe's Flash is a software program that plugs into a Web browser to deliver multimedia content such as games, videos and interactive advertisements. Adobe says the vast majority of top Web sites include Flash content and that 75 percent of the video on the Web is delivered using Flash.

Flash has mostly been a PC experience, because Flash players either haven't been available on smartphones or weren't powerful enough to access much of the Flash content on the Web.

Until now, the lack of Flash on the iPhone hasn't been that big of a deal. When the iPhone debuted in 2007, the browsing experience was so much better than what came before it on mobile phones that it was hard to complain that it didn't support Flash. It was great just to be able to access the Web and full HTML pages. And because other smartphones also lacked Flash support, iPhone users didn't feel they were missing something.

That's about to change. Through an initiative called the Open Screen Project, Adobe is revamping Flash to allow consumers to access by smartphone almost all multimedia content they can get on a PC. By the end of June, the company expects to have Flash version 10.1 available for a wide range of smartphones, including Palm's webOS phones, Research In Motion's BlackBerrys and devices running Android. The only major smartphone operating system missing from the list is Apple's iPhone OS.

IPhone users may not have worried much that their phones can't simultaneously run more than one application like other smartphones. But they soon may be unhappy that their phone can't access the videos and games that other phones can.

IPad owners may be even more unhappy. One thing people will want to do with Apple's new tablet device is access Web content. But if they can't watch a video on Hulu, play a game on Facebook or even look up ticket information for Cirque du Soleil, they may regret having bought an instead of a netbook for $150 less.

Apple says consumers often can download a native application that does the same thing as Flash. YouTube, for example, uses Flash to deliver its videos to PC Web browsers, but its iPhone app lets users watch those videos without Flash.

But not every Web site has created an app -- nor should they have to. And even those that have often discovered that their iPhone apps can't interact easily with their Flash-based applications on the Web.

While Apple enjoys a huge lead in applications available for the iPhone, Flash support could help its competitors level the playing field. With Flash, those devices could offer games, videos and other content not available on the iPhone.

Mind you, I'm not discounting Jobs' complaints about Flash. Adobe's Lynch himself acknowledged that Flash has typically run faster in Microsoft Windows than in Apple's Macintosh OS, from which the iPhone OS is derived. I've seen numerous comments from rank-and-file Mac users that Flash slows down their machines and makes them unstable. So it would seem that Adobe does need to improve Flash for Apple devices.

But Jobs' assertion that Apple doesn't need to support Flash because it's on the way out is premature at best. While a new version of the language used to code Web pages does include Flash-like multimedia capabilities, the standard for doing that is still being hashed out. With only a fraction of Web surfers using browsers that can translate the language's new capabilities, few Web publishers are using them yet.

So Apple needs to support Flash in the iPhone OS -- or risk losing customers to other platforms that do. And Adobe needs Apple to support Flash -- or it will risk Flash losing favor with developers and advertisers who use the technology to deliver their content and want to reach those millions of iPhone owners.

But most of all, we iPhone OS users need Apple and to work things out. Because we'll be missing out until they do.

Explore further

Adobe to offer Flash to iPhone developers

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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User comments

Feb 11, 2010
I won't buy Apple until they support Java

Feb 11, 2010
lol Java is more useless then flash...

Feb 11, 2010
I spend half my browsing time on my iPhone and never even notice anything missing. I prefer a PC to a MAC for my desktop, but I love my iPhone and Apple TV and will consider buying the iPad for 'couch surfing' and reading. I will likely wait for the second generation, just to avoid early bugs, but Flash is the last thing I am concerned about.

I don't know what all the hype is about. If everyone else is incorporating Flash into their devices, then just go buy them already and quit fussing!

Feb 12, 2010
I totally agree with Fazer. I cannot count the number of websites which I can open on my iPhone but which totally refused to open in my earlier HTC.
I am yet to come across a site which does not work at all on the Safari browser on the iPhone.
Long Live Apple!

Feb 12, 2010
Not supporting Flash has always seemed like a sound business decision by Apple, since various existing Apps & Games powered by Flash will reduce the value of their App store. Flash has a tough future ahead of it - competition from Silverlight & HTML 5 capabilities won't make things any easier.

Feb 13, 2010
Business decision or not, iPhone or not, Adobe has yet to make a version of Flash for Mac OS desktops which isn't horribly slow, doesn't leak memory like a sieve, or won't cause your browser to lock up for minutes on end.

The Mac version of flash is a very old software product (written originally by Macromedia). It's absolute crap. One of the best changes I've made to my Mac's performance was to install a plugin which allows you to turn flash off in your web browser.

To be clear, I think flash is terrific for many uses. I really like a lot of flash applications. I would be over the moon if Flash actually worked well on my Mac or on my iPhone. Adobe refuses to re-write their flash implementation though. Until that happens, flash is an inconvenience whenever I have to use it.

Feb 14, 2010
Ahhh yes ... Adobe Flash. Thats the thingy that puts annoying animated advertisng on web pages, consuming bandwidth and hanging for ages the web page delivery.

How about web page designers include an html tag that delivers a static image to replace the Flash download when it is not available? Similar to the ALT property.

In any case, as Flash delivery is scripted then a jpeg alternative should be easily implemented.

But no ... the christmas tree effect is too compelling when it is a matter of selling to the ignorant web site owners, even if it is often shown to be detrimental (an intrusive turn off for visitors) rather than attractive presentation.

So instead, the Flash scripting goes for a download and install, kind of like a viral drive-by hijacking.

Feb 17, 2010
The issues are:
-CPU, memory, etc... crushing
-The ability for flash game developers to render the games portion of the app store useless by offering their games through the browser.

@rincewind Precisely, and well said.

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