Steve Jobs attacks Adobe Flash as unfit for iPhone (Update)

Steve Jobs attacks Adobe Flash as unfit for iPhone (AP)
In this file photo taken, Sept. 9, 2009, Apple CEO Steve Jobs gestures during an Apple event in San Francisco. Jobs, in a statement Thursday, April 29, 2010, said the Adobe Flash technology has too many bugs, drains batteries too quickly and is too oriented to personal computers to work on the iPhone and iPad.(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

(AP) -- For iPhone users who've been wondering whether their devices will support Flash technology for Web video and games anytime soon, the answer is finally here, straight from Steve Jobs: No.

In a detailed offensive against the technology owned by Adobe Systems Inc., Apple's CEO wrote Thursday that Flash has too many bugs, drains batteries too quickly and is too oriented to personal computers to work on the iPhone and iPad.

This is not the first time Jobs has publicly criticized Flash, but the statement was his clearest, most definitive - and longest - on the subject.

In his 1,685-word "Thoughts on Flash," Jobs laid out his reasons for excluding Flash - the most widely used vehicle for videos and games on the Internet - from Apple's blockbuster handheld devices.

He cited "reliability, security and performance," and the fact that Flash was designed "for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers" as some of the reasons Apple will continue to keep the program off its devices.

But he said the most important reason is Flash puts a third party between Apple and software developers. In other words, developers can take advantage of improvements from Apple only if Adobe upgrades its own software, Jobs wrote.

Adobe representatives did not have an immediate comment Thursday. But in a March 23 conference call, President and CEO Shantanu Narayen said his company is "committed to bringing Flash to any platform on which there is a screen."

That certainly includes Apple's devices, and Narayen said at the time the Flash ban "has nothing to do with technology."

"It's an Apple issue and I think you'll have to check with them on that," he said.

Adobe has owned Flash since buying its creator, Macromedia Inc., in 2005. Flash is one of the slew of software tools Adobe sells to professional designers and Web developers as part of its Creative Suite software package, which also includes Photoshop, Illustrator and other programs, and brings in more than half of Adobe's revenue. Adobe benefits from Flash's wide use because it means Web developers will keep buying the tools they need to create Flash content.

Apple has been criticized for the omission of Flash because that limits what the iPhone can do., the popular video viewing site, uses Flash, for example, as do many restaurant websites. But thanks to the immense popularity of the iPhone, game and application developers are pouring their creations onto Apple's devices without using Flash.

In his rebuttal, Jobs said that with an abundance of media outlets offering their content on iPhones and iPads, "Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of Web content."

"And the 200,000 apps on Apple's App Store proves that Flash isn't necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games," he wrote.

For consumers, Apple's move means they will have to decide whether or not they want Flash content, and if they do, they'll have to use devices other than Apple's.

"It doesn't mean this is the end of Flash," said Sheri McLeish, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Apple is not the only game in town, and PC and Windows devices continue to dominate the market."

She called Apple's move a business decision, even though Jobs stressed it is based on technology: It is, after all, up to Apple to control how users experience its products.

"They have the momentum to do it today," McLeish said. "A few years ago they wouldn't have been able to."

Although many websites use Flash to display videos, animation and Internet ads, this may change in the years to come. HTML5, a new Web standard - that is, a way to create Web pages - will have built-in support for video and audio files.

But it could take as long as 10 years for HTML5 to be fully adopted, McLeish said. What Apple is banking on is that HTML5 will eventually win out, making Flash obsolete.

"Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind," Jobs wrote.

Shares of San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe dropped 82 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $34.65 in midday trading. They have traded between $24.78 and $38.20 in the past 52 weeks.

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Why can't Apple and Adobe just get along?

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User comments

Apr 29, 2010
Apple doesn't want to use Flash? That's fine, I don't have to use Apple.

Apr 29, 2010
Good for Jobs. High time someone stood up for having a positive viewing experience. ADOBE: What a horror. What annoying, intrusive, flickering garbage. Ban it. No herky jerky or any other kind of video should play without being invited to do so by the page viewer. Freeze it unless clicked.

Apr 29, 2010
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out, if Apple find that this is hurting their market share, they'll change this tune without skipping a beat.

Apr 29, 2010
Yeah, but they could also just add support. This is just a power play by apple to constrain developers to their platform... Sure you can develop websites for the iPhone, but adding flash would allow the web to work properly.

Apr 29, 2010
I bought my son/daughter 8 and 6 yrs old an iPad. It seemed like a good fit and simple to use product for kiddos who aren't extreme technophobes (not yet at least). I am EXTREMELY disappointed, it has way less usability, versatility for even my non tech kiddos than any PC laptop we own (or even the Apple airbook). No USB connectivity to mainstream devices, they can't connect to their digital cameras or memory cards to get their photos easily (instead the hassle of uploading/emailing through web). They LOVE Farmville, major network flash games (ABC, CartoonNetwork, Disney etc) that are ALL in FLASH and incompatible. The battery was bad on one (would not hold a charge) and we had to spend 4 days have it serviced due an internal no access part. Apps are fun, but its like buying a movie, you pay $, watc it once or twice, then use it very rarely and want something different, before you know it your hundreds/thousands of dollars into it with stuff you hardly ever touch... ipad is a rip off.

Apr 29, 2010
I'm with Stevie and Bookbinder. Adobe has dragged its posterior in terms of ensuring Flash is stable and efficient enough not to require a multicore processor, let alone secure enough to operate in today's hostile electronic environment.

I'm sure Adobe's programmers have the skill to develop it properly - it's their management, instead, which decides to keep the varying problems to save them development costs.

Apple has made their decision for now. If Adobe opened up the format to allow third-party developers access to developing it independently, Apple would have the rights (albeit perhaps licensed) to develop their own version and keep their customers happy.

Who makes the next move: Apple or Adobe?

Apr 29, 2010
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Apr 29, 2010
I truly believe in a few years this won't be a issue, With Microsoft's next internet explorer version all the major browsers will support HTML 5. It might not have all the functionality as flash currently has but it will expand as HTML develops. And with the support of all the major players. Adobe or some other company will develop some HTML tools. Flash will die and we'll move on. If I was a flash developer I'd be trying to learn HTML 5 as quickly as possible at the moment. Its the future.

Apr 30, 2010
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Apr 30, 2010
Flash is WIDELY used. Flash is needed. Consumers love and frequent flash driven media (games, site navigation, interactivity, etc). Flash is current with market experience. HTML5 is buggy, HTML5 is new, needs a lot of work/integration/development, HTML5 is NOT Flash (does some things well, other not), HTML5 is NOT a standalone Flash replacement. HTML5 does not offer design level creation and animation of projects (such as the Flash software).

Bottom line, Flash IS used and needed. Best of luck to HTML5, look forward to it being benficial, but its no Flash replacement, and if it were it would be a great deal of time to do so. So simply, no flash on iPad = Steve Jobs is a moron.

He probably lost a game of golf with Adobe CEO and is throwing a fit in his normal, the whole world must bow and tailor to me and my products, sort of way.

May 01, 2010
Steve's full letter can be found here:

Flash may be widely used right now, but it not an open standard. It requires proprietary software from Adobe, therefore anyone developing for it is at Adobe's mercy, not good, when you consider Adobe's record of fixing Flash bugs, and very poor performance on mobile devices. HTML5 is an open standard, that is now rapidly gaining momentum.

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