Quote from article on free software

Thoughts on ‘Thoughts on Flash’

Blogged on 29 April 2010

So Steve Jobs finally posted the reasoning for his decision to kill Flash, in any form, on the iPhone/iPad platform.

Some of what he says makes sense. It really does. I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision not to support Flash directly. I do think it’s a bit like Apple’s decision to pre-empt the market by dropping serial and parallel ports, rewrite its OS from scratch instead of crippling it with backward compatibility, and so on. In other words, brave and forward-looking.

Then again, there’s stuff here that Steve is Just Not Getting.

For example:

Apple has a long relationship with Adobe. In fact, we met Adobe’s founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer.*

Love how he makes this sound like Apple supported Adobe, rather than vice versa. The Mac’s big foothold in the market was always in the creative industries, primarily as the basis for the DTP revolution. Without Adobe technology that would never have happened. For years, Macs couldn’t even render fonts without Adobe Type Manager.

Since that golden era, the companies have grown apart. Apple went through its near death experience, and Adobe was drawn to the corporate market with their Acrobat products.

What a load of utter cobblers. Adobe is still hugely focused on the creative industries and the creative industries are still hugely dependent on Adobe. To portray Adobe as having decamped to the corporate dark side isn’t even funny, it’s just stupid.

Mac users buy around half of Adobe’s Creative Suite products

Let’s put that another way, shall we? Creative Suite users account for [insert your own very significant proportion] of professional Mac sales. If Apple were to piss off Adobe to the extent that Creative Suite disappeared from the Mac, I wouldn’t switch to Apple’s graphics and publishing software, I’d switch to Windows. You know why? Apple doesn’t make graphics and publishing software.

Anyway, Steve, go on?

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Oh, you wanted us to better understand that fact? Sorry, I thought you wanted to bury it in clause 3.3.1 of a developer agreement revision that you didn’t even publicly announce. Next time I want someone to better understand what I’m doing, I’ll write it on a PostIt, stick it up my own arse and blog about it a month later.

Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain.

Why bother? Everyone else and their dog have already rehearsed this argument. Blah blah blah. Highlights of Steve’s version:

…HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others…

Whoa! That’s big news. Last I heard, HTML5 was unlikely even to be recommended as a standard for another couple of years, let alone finalised and ratified. It’s almost like you’re telling us we don’t need Adobe’s stuff because something to which Apple has made a negligible contribution is going to come along sometime within our lifetime and do similar things. Which would be silly, obviously. Wait, that is what you’re saying.

Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit, a complete open-source HTML5 rendering engine that is the heart of the Safari web browser [...] Almost every smartphone web browser other than Microsoft’s uses WebKit. By making its WebKit technology open, Apple has set the standard for mobile web browsers.

Run that by me again. Developing a browser (software for viewing, not making, web pages) that supports existing standards is ‘creating open standards’? Tortuous much?

Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access “the full web” because 75% of video on the web is in Flash. What they don’t say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264

‘Almost all’? What? What? This is beyond reality distortion.

YouTube, with an estimated 40% of the web’s video, shines in an app bundled on all Apple mobile devices, with the iPad offering perhaps the best YouTube discovery and viewing experience ever

Agreed (see, I’m not just randomly arguing with everything) – but some YouTube content still refuses to play on my iPhone, and even if you counted their whole 40% of the market, it simply isn’t my experience that ‘almost all’, or even a majority, of web video I try to access on my iPhone will play. That’s just video, before we even get into Flash proper.

iPhone, iPod and iPad users aren’t missing much video.

Absolutely, totally, utterly, flat wrong. If you put that in an ad, there’s no way it would be approved for broadcast. Just not true.

Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true.

As that woman in Catherine Tate’s office sketch would say: Yes. It is.

Meanwhile:

Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009.

Meh.

We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.

Would that be ‘know first hand’ as in ‘don’t have any evidence to show’? Still, fair cop, it certainly crashes my Mac more often than anything except the operating system, iTunes and Safari. And all Microsoft’s software. You still like Microsoft, right?

We have been working with Adobe to fix these problems

Yeah, you phoned Adobe’s main switchboard and got a ticket number.

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices.

Not really qualified to comment on that, but general impression: true. Hence, I understand the reluctance to pollute iPx.

Fourth, there’s battery life. To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware [...] Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder

Wait – wait – wait! You don’t want Flash now because of a limitation Flash had in the past? Really? Have you been drinking German beer?

Fifth, there’s Touch. [...] Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

OMFG.

Well, here I have to admit I was wrong. I said:

I realise Steve Jobs may have trouble understanding that other people actually have to do stuff to respond to change, not just shout at someone ‘Fire Flash devs! Hire iPhone devs!’, but I don’t believe he’s oblivious to the scale of the challenge.

OK, now I do believe it. Totally oblivious.

Finally, to the app packager question.

Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices. We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps

I would interrupt here to insert a list of all the sub-standard apps already approved by Apple that have nothing to do with Flash, but I don’t have three months of my life to spare.

If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

Sort of get that. Problem: at the moment, for the thousands of developers and creatives who do have the skills to use Flash but don’t have the first glimmer of a clue how to code in Objective-C, none of the enhancements of the iPx platform are available. The platform isn’t available at all. (I wrote about this in my reaction to 3.3.1.) And the only way it’s ever going to be available is via some kind of third party tool. One with full typographical support. You know, like Adobe TLF.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary

No it doesn’t. Because from magazine companies, arguably the content sector most excited about the iPad, there’s so far an avalanche of PDF-derived shovelware but only a trickle of original apps with genuinely innovative and appropriate ux. And that now looks like changing very slowly at best. Far from ensuring the predominance of high quality content, removing the Flash route delays it.

Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future

Agree! But Steve – what about the present?

*Come on, Steve, you can at least put the right capital letters in PostScript and LaserWriter. I bet you wince when people write ‘IPOD Touch’.

{ 8 trackbacks }

Thoughts on ‘Thoughts on Flash’ | Flash Player roundup
29 April 2010 at 6:12 pm
Flash and Apple from my perspective. | House of w00t
29 April 2010 at 6:18 pm
untoldentertainment.com » Snow Jobs
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Apple vs. The world - Silent Wind
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Thoughts on Jobs ‘Thoughts on Flash’ « This Too Shall Pass
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Adobe launches ‘We (Heart) Apple’ campaign « It's All Tech - Connected with Technology
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14 May 2010 at 4:57 am
Ten reasons to doubt the Telegraph’s linkbait — AdamBanks.com
7 July 2010 at 5:30 pm

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig Grannell 29 April 2010 at 3:30 pm

Oh man, you are the ANGRY MAN! I agreed with a lot of Steve’s stuff and also think you’ve got some great points, but here are some comments nonetheless:

“To portray Adobe as having decamped to the corporate dark side isn’t even funny, it’s just stupid.”

I agree, and I’ve no idea why he said this. However, had he said “And Adobe hasn’t given a shit about the Mac for years, instead concentrating on Windows,” that wouldn’t have been too far off the mark.

“Whoa! That’s big news. Last I heard, HTML5 was unlikely even to be recommended as a standard for another couple of years, let alone finalised and ratified. It’s almost like you’re telling us we don’t need Adobe’s stuff because something to which Apple has made a negligible contribution is going to come along sometime within our lifetime and do similar things. Which would be silly, obviously. Wait, that is what you’re saying.”

OK, here’s where I don’t agree with you. Part of the reason why the web is so fucking broken is because of the ‘wait and see’ attitude that’s prevailed for years, most often as a ‘wait for Microsoft to pull its thumb out of its butt’ attitude. We’ve in the past relied on the likes of WaSP to essentially ‘force’ big companies to adopt web standards, which then filter down over the period of a couple of years. Today, things are very different. Because the battle in the browser space, bar the sloth-like IE, is about “look what great shit we can do now,” HTML5/CSS3 and associated web gubbins (HTML5 from hereon) is being rapidly adopted in chunks regardless of its ratification. This means we’re moving along at speed, due to the work of browser devs and web devs. HTML5 as a whole, and as a fully W3-endorsed standard may be years off. HTML5 as a usable ‘thing’ is here right now, it’s fantastic, and I think Jobs was right to comment on it the way he did. Also, for the most part, we _don’t_ need Flash now and going forward.

“Would that be ‘know first hand’ as in ‘don’t have any evidence to show’?”

According to the crash reports that Apple gets, judging by previous quotes/reports. I would say that in my experience, Flash Player/plug-in is by far the crashiest thing I have on my system. In Leopard, it took down Safari every hour without fail. In Snow Leopard, it crashes several times per day, but at least no longer takes browsers with it.

“Fifth, there’s Touch. [...] Apple’s revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn’t use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

OMFG.

Well, here I have to admit I was wrong. I said:

I realise Steve Jobs may have trouble understanding that other people actually have to do stuff to respond to change, not just shout at someone ‘Fire Flash devs! Hire iPhone devs!’, but I don’t believe he’s oblivious to the scale of the challenge.”

But that’s not what he’s saying. His point is that, going forward, why not transition to open web standards for websites, rather than relying on a proprietary plug-in? He’s not talking about turning sites into apps, but turning Flash sites into standards-compliant websites.

“Sort of get that. Problem: at the moment, for the thousands of developers and creatives who do have the skills to use Flash but don’t have the first glimmer of a clue how to code in Objective-C, none of the enhancements of the iPx platform are available. The platform isn’t available at all. (I wrote about this in my reaction to 3.3.1.) And the only way it’s ever going to be available is via some kind of third party tool. One with full typographical support. You know, like Adobe TLF.”

On speaking to devs, they increasingly tend to side with Apple on this. I think it sucks that Flash apps won’t be available on the App Store, and I also think Apple’s actually overestimated how much clout they’d have (or doesn’t care and was using this as an excuse), but what if Flash apps did get a huge foothold? Apple would be reliant on Adobe for updates. And what if Apple wanted to make huge changes Adobe couldn’t or wouldn’t implement? The users of Flash apps caught in the crossfire would blame Apple, not Adobe. So I sympathise with devs who were excited about Flash but totally get Apple’s argument on this.

“Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future

Agree! But Steve – what about the present?”

Well, they certainly don’t have great HTML5 tools for the present. ba-dm TSH!

Adam 29 April 2010 at 3:58 pm

@Craig: yes, I was probably being a bit disingenuous about HTML5 - I don’t think everyone should wait for standards to arrive on a plate. But it’s surely too simplistic to say Flash bad, HTML5 good, when Flash exists right now, not only as a delivery medium but as a full set of very accessible creation tools, while HTML5 looks to me like an amorphous bunch of rather technical stuff that demands various skills and tools I can’t immediately lay my hands on.

Difference in background is key here: I’m not claiming to speak for everyone. Nor, as you know, am I remotely a Flash fanboy. I’d just prefer to see it decline as better alternatives emerge, not be summarily executed and leave a void.

Jared Earle 29 April 2010 at 4:13 pm

Most of the video on the Web is h.264; the problem is that it’s wrapped in Flash. If Adobe can’t produce a working version of Flash in the three years they’ve had, how can that be anyone but their fault you can’t see it?

Put it like this, if Apple had said “Yes, we’ll allow Flash on the iPhone” do you honestly think we’d have it yet? Steve’s right to get this out there. Adobe have had plenty of time to earn their place on the iPhone and so far, they’ve not demonstrated a single reason why they deserve it.

Adam 29 April 2010 at 4:26 pm

@Jared: Fair point. I’m a bit suspicious, though, of the set of arguments that might be summarised as “If only Adobe hadn’t invented Flash we wouldn’t need it.”

Lukas 29 April 2010 at 5:05 pm

“HTML5 looks to me like an amorphous bunch of rather technical stuff that demands various skills and tools I can’t immediately lay my hands on”

Funny, that’s exactly how Flash looks to *me* :-)

At any rate, current browsers (including IE7 and IE8) already support enough modern HTML to create advanced web applications that work consistently across all three major rendering engines. That’s the present. IE9 will go a long way towards catching up completely in many relevant areas. Claiming that we will have to wait decades until we can use HTML5 is quite simply not true.

Lucy 29 April 2010 at 5:25 pm

You say that Flash is a “full set of very accessible creation tools.”

Have you tried doing anything properly exciting with Flash that doesn’t involve at least a pinch of ActionScript? I agree that Obj-C and Xcode is impenetrable to designers out there. Go back to when Macromedia started offering a choice of interfaces for designers and developers and you’ll find designers who didn’t want to get their hands dirty with coding. That has changed a bit thanks to alternative IDEs and reusable, abstract code, but Flash is still one hell of a complicated tool to learn and make good use of.

But getting something out of Flash like the concept demos we saw from the likes of Sports Illustrated is far more complicated than just putting content on a canvas. It’s no InDesign. Compared to Xcode, parts of Flash are easy to learn but there’s a huge amount of it that’s alien to designers, too.

That’s why there needs to be a layer on top of either tool - Flash or Xcode - to make building interactive books and magazines easier through a framework and higher-level tools than code. It’s just not going to happen with Flash unless Adobe and Apple sit down and work out a way for Flash to output an Xcode project that can be turned into a native app through its own tools.

That’s also where Apple needs to step in with regards to Xcode - it needs an alternative, abstracted interface to help designers build apps.

Adam 29 April 2010 at 5:41 pm

@Lucy: Completely agree.

One wrinkle: Flash is no InDesign, but it doesn’t have to be, because you can port content from InDesign to Flash, and thence to app packager - as I was playing with in the CS5 beta before it all became academic. Zero ActionScript? Perhaps not, but a few bits of ActionScript that would be written once to create a template for an iMag which could then be used by InDesign monkeys to create each issue - feasible from what I saw.

But yes, if Apple really thinks its devs don’t need Adobe, it needs to give them the kind of tools Adobe was trying to.

Adam 29 April 2010 at 5:46 pm

@Lukas: Don’t tell anyone, but Flash looks a bit like that to me too. I’m basically a print designer who’s well informed about the digital stuff but is only gradually getting to get to grips with it in practice.

Lucy 29 April 2010 at 5:58 pm

That’s fair, Adam, regarding the packager thing in CS5. I haven’t played with it, but to me it seems like Adobe needs to put some framework between Flash (or add that feature to InDesign) that implements all the basics of a page-based publication. That framework needs to output an Xcode project that can be turned into runtime code by Apple’s own compiler, which it couldn’t really grumble about.

It could if you’re being strict about the wording of 3.3.1 but doing that would expose Jobs’ latest argument as bullshit as it would make little or no difference to iPhone users what language the apps were originally written in.

To all intents and purposes, they wouldn’t be aware of any middleware Adobe sticks between Flash/InDesign and Xcode.

Even then, you still have the nightmare of designers having to learn how to output their apps from Xcode and send them to Apple. Have you looked at the steps that involves? It’s insanely fiddly.

Jens Alfke 29 April 2010 at 6:42 pm

“he makes this sound like Apple supported Adobe, rather than vice versa.”

It was mutual; DTP was clearly a huge boon to both companies (and don’t forget Aldus, whose PageMaker was the 3rd crucial piece). But Adobe was literally a tiny startup and it’s likely they would have failed without Apple’s buy-in. That’s what Steve is referring to.

“For years, Macs couldn’t even render fonts without Adobe Type Manager.”

It was only a year and a half (ATM: Oct ‘89; System 7: May ‘91), and you mean “render _smooth_ fonts at arbitrary sizes”. And the reason it took Apple until 1991 was because Adobe kept the Type 1 font format proprietary and wanted to charge Apple an arm and a leg to build PostScript into the OS; so Apple had to go to the work of designing and implement their own open font format (TrueType). Finally John Warnock broke down onstage at a trade show and announced Adobe would open the Type 1 font spec.

Adobe goes way, way back with the closed proprietary technologies. You couldn’t even buy good-quality 3rd party fonts back then, because they all looked crappy at 300dpi, since only Type 1 had hinting. So fonts were another nice monopoly market for Adobe.

I was working at a 3rd party font developer at the time of these ‘font wars’; it was quite an interesting time. Apple clearly did the right thing; having something as crucial as fonts depend on a closed technology was clearly a terrible position for the industry to be in.

Finn 29 April 2010 at 6:58 pm

>>If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features.

He’s off on this point too. Tools like monotouch produce great apps and are are updated very frequently. If Apple comes out with a new feature, sometimes you can just recompile in monotouch and it takes advantage of it!

I mean really — who builds large software products without using third party libraries? The Unity game engine, or Lua scripting in in RPG — these make for better apps, not substandard apps.

Adam 29 April 2010 at 7:10 pm

@Jens: *bows*

We used ATM for a lot longer than that. The reasons are probably stored somewhere in my brain, but currently 404ing.

olimax 29 April 2010 at 7:20 pm

A fine appraisal. The poor old bugger has really lost it. He’s like some snarly bigoted old tramp shouting abuse across the street to his neighbours.

Ian Betteridge 29 April 2010 at 7:29 pm

OK, you’ve roused me into a response…

“Love how he makes this sound like Apple supported Adobe, rather than vice versa.”

Well, Adobe notably didn’t invest in Apple, did it? And remember the era when Apple was struggling and ditched Mac support for Premiere?

“Let’s put that another way, shall we? Creative Suite users account for [insert your own very significant proportion] of professional Mac sales. ”

And pro Mac sales amounts to what proportion of Apple revenue these days? While I’m sure Apple is very happy to still dominate that market, you’re still talking about Apple users being far more important to Adobe than Adobe users are to Apple.

“Last I heard, HTML5 was unlikely even to be recommended as a standard for another couple of years, let alone finalised and ratified.”

Oh come on Adam, you know as well as anyone that’s not how web standards work. Safari (and Chrome) already supports much of the proposed HTML 5 standard, just as in previous eras browsers adopted elements of HTML 4 and 3.2 before the standards were finalised.

“Developing a browser (software for viewing, not making, web pages) that supports existing standards is ‘creating open standards’?”

Apple fully takes part in HTML standards bodies *because* it is a key browser developer. Canvas, for example, was originated at Apple.

(Insert rolling eyes response to a few snippy, content-free comments here)

“Problem: at the moment, for the thousands of developers and creatives who do have the skills to use Flash but don’t have the first glimmer of a clue how to code in Objective-C, none of the enhancements of the iPx platform are available. The platform isn’t available at all.”

If you are a designer, either hire a coder or learn to code. You’re arguing like man from the pre-DTP era, demanding that Pagemaker allow him to use his Letraset-cutting skills or else they’re wasted.

“Because from magazine companies, arguably the content sector most excited about the iPad, there’s so far an avalanche of PDF-derived shovelware but only a trickle of original apps with genuinely innovative and appropriate ux.”

And you know what we’d get from magazine companies if they went down the Flash route?

I’ll tell you: Ceros page-turners. Because given all that tools that Flash makes available, that’s all they’ve come up with so far, with very very few exceptions. Why? Because it allows them to cling to the design and development models of the past.

Ryan Henson Creighton 29 April 2010 at 7:29 pm

Interesting! We did the same line-by-line analysis, and still managed to call him out on completely different points:

http://www.untoldentertainment.com/blog/2010/04/29/snow-jobs/

To your point about whether or not Steve Jobs *knows* this or that … of course he *knows*. An article like this is not about knowledge, research or fact - it’s about spin. Now that Apple is courting soccer moms with their iPad, they seem to think that spin is the right tactic to use. Hey - it works for elections. It’s just going to take folks to loudly and vehemently call him on his bullshit, before people convert his lies into sound bites.

- Ryan

Michael Thuma 29 April 2010 at 7:32 pm

I don’t know about the relation between Adobe and Apple in the past - I cannot comment on this.

The reason I see is that the unit responsible for playing video can only be put on hardware if there is a reliable standard. In the Windows sound system you have almost everything running in Software but this required a fast processor. This can be a technical reason ..

The problem imho is that if they don’t say no to something that goes beyond a scripting engines on portable devices and virtual machines go beyond … mhhh … think this over consequently.

And who cares about webistes in Flash … this can be a pain on a desktop computer too. We cannto simply increase the power our machines with multiple cores just to have this crap running. The crap in the meaning, how things are written. Ressouce consumption by defintion. A mobile device is somewhat inbetween PC and automotive electronics …

On the other hand how to make a business app, even it is a tiny dashboard for example based on flash - which is definitly different from the software mentioned above… especially IPAD would fit … because on WePAD under Windows 7 it works then … and it works with this and that … an in the end … hard to see what’s better.

Ian Betteridge 29 April 2010 at 7:32 pm

Craig: “I agree, and I’ve no idea why he said this.”

Probably because of the lamentable state of Acrobat on Mac compared to Windows. Adobe has consistently delayed feature on the Mac version that are standard in Windows, because they’re “corporate” features. Form support in Acrobat - which was hugely important to government/corporate customers - was MIA on the Mac for years.

Adam 29 April 2010 at 7:56 pm

@Ian: Hey, I’m no Adobe apologist (although their software is awesome). Scrapping Premiere was not their finest hour, and the Apple snark war hasn’t been one way. But Steve’s argument was that Apple supported Adobe in the past. I say: Adobe also supported Apple. I don’t agree btw that the Mac’s position in digital arts is no longer important. It’s part of the Apple brand as well as part of the business model.

I do know that’s not how web standards work and I’ve already fessed up on this above (@Craig).

“If you are a designer, either hire a coder or learn to code.” Yeah, I’m looking to partner with coders (I find they get all snippy if you talk about “hiring” them when you don’t actually have any money to pay them yet). I’m not a complete stranger to coding, but really, who the hell has the time? Building an iApp is not like knocking up some CSS.

I seriously disagree that content creators should necessarily be writing code, or even commissioning other people to write code. That’s like saying print mags should be laid out by writing PostScript. We need an InDesign for online. Using tools doesn’t mean failing to innovate. On the contrary: if print mags _were_ laid out by writing PostScript, there’d be a lot fewer of them and they’d mostly look like crap.

Moan all you like about the _way_ Adobe was trying to create these tools. Apple isn’t trying.

thefisl 29 April 2010 at 7:56 pm

I don’t care about steves crap. The point is that we should be given the choice. Unfortunately, the best thing at the time was a SIGHphone, and hence I rock one myself, but I am going android as soon as i get a chance.. I hate this locked down to the will of El Stevo. The fact that Flash is here now, and HTML5 is coming is just an excuse. As to Adobe catering to PC, I don’t think so. It’s more about Adobe trying to work with Apple and Apple being who they are making it incredibly difficult. Hence why things happen so much easier for PC and it is perceived as Adobe playing some sort of computing camp favoritism. Adobe is not stupid, they are trying to get there technologies everywhere but, just like everything, if Steve can’t command how it’s done, then he says eff off!

thefisl 29 April 2010 at 7:58 pm

@Adam

I agree with the whole building an iApp. I am on a PC and I have no easy way of getting enough access to a Mac to build one. I think it’s ridiculous. For Apple to tout openness they sure as hell have made it pretty difficult to create apps for them if you are not in their environment.

Christopher Phin 29 April 2010 at 8:00 pm

“Because it allows them to cling to the design and development models of the past.”

Actually, I’d posit that it’s a much more insidious, harder-to-solve problem than that: it lets them (us, I should say…) hang on to established, understood workflows. I’ll say it till everyone agrees with me: workflow is key. It’s the unsexy thing that, I know from experience, nobody wants to or even can talk about. They just don’t understand the implications of changing, or how utterly pervasive the current mindset is.

When people like us, essentially house-trained, literate geeks, try to bandy around phrases such as ‘XML’*, most C-level execs’ eyes glaze over, because it’s frankly pretty tough to get your head around.

*PedantSpoiler™: XML is not the saviour of publishing. It is, however, potential incarnate, but you need teams of geeks, not writers and (traditional) designers not only to implement it at the back-end, but to optimise, constantly optimise and tweak, at the front.

Ian Betteridge 29 April 2010 at 8:05 pm

” That’s like saying print mags should be laid out by writing PostScript.”

No, it’s like saying they should be laid out in InDesign and not Word. Use (and learn) the tool which allows you to exploit the medium to the fullest-possible extent.

To put it another way: If, in 1997, Joe Designer started learning to hand-code HTML, he’s now going to be an experienced and incredibly valuable web dev. If, on the other hand, he insisted on using Dreamweaver and refused to learn HTML because it didn’t look like the layout tools he was familiar with, he’s now going to be a muppet who can’t code and who’s stuck with the same skills as he had 10 years ago.

Adam 29 April 2010 at 8:05 pm

@Ryan: Aww, you’re so cynical. How long have you been dealing with Apple?

(Well worth reading Ryan’s piece: http://www.untoldentertainment.com/blog/2010/04/29/snow-jobs/)

Adam 29 April 2010 at 8:16 pm

@Ian: Anyone who went near Dreamweaver in 1997 was beyond help. (The only major app launch where I fell asleep in the front row. Normally I’m not in the front row. Got there late.)

Besides, I _did_ start hand coding HTML around 1997, and when I came back to it ten years later I had to unlearn everything I knew (admittedly not much). So nuts to that.

I’m sceptical about these mythical designer/coder hybrids, because I’m as close to a likely candidate as I know, and just reading about Xcode makes my skin crawl. Anyway the children would be sterile.

Adam 29 April 2010 at 8:19 pm

@Chris: “I’ll say it till everyone agrees with me: workflow is key” - I agree with you.

Ian Betteridge 29 April 2010 at 8:20 pm

I’m sceptical about them too, but I don’t think that’s a problem: it’s perfectly fine to just be a designer and work with coders to implement your ideas. In fact, that’s the way a lot (most) web development works: designers and UI geeks create the pretty stuff, coders turn it from pretty pictures and functional descriptions into working products.

One more point:

“and when I came back to it ten years later I had to unlearn everything I knew (admittedly not much). So nuts to that.”

I think the clue’s in the bit where you say “admittedly not much” :)

Pobregizmo 30 April 2010 at 4:12 pm

Great article and great comments. It just occurred to me that while on desktops, flash is here and html5 is coming, evolving, etc., in the mobile space the opposite is true. I’ve seen plenty of working hrml5 demos for mobile safari and chrome including video (and support for embedded video in-page is coming to iPhone os 4) but I haven’t seen a single flash demo available to consumers on mobile devices. The adobe produced videos are paltry, at best, and are nowhere near the “full web” experience they’ve been promising for over 2 years.

Lucy 30 April 2010 at 8:48 pm

“I mean really — who builds large software products without using third party libraries? The Unity game engine, or Lua scripting in in RPG — these make for better apps, not substandard apps.”

I do not mean to offend, but this comment isn’t the first that I’ve read on this subject that lacks a rudimentary understanding of what a framework is, how it fits alongside Xcode, or even the difference between interpreted and compiled code (which is secondary school-level computer science stuff).

Engines like Unity have to be ported between platforms. You don’t just take what’s built off the shelf and graft it onto an app built in Xcode. There’s much optimisation to be done to bring something like that to the Mac or iPhone OS, and you’ll find that it’s redeveloped through Apple’s frameworks and the APIs that they present to the developer, and in either Objective-C or C++, which are supported by Xcode.

Apple’s wording in 3.3.1 is poor and possibly unfair because it demands that applications are written in the languages supported by Xcode. That’s more restrictive than it needs to be, and it would be in Apple and Adobe’s interest to either provide an API so that people can translate

But then you still have the issue of poorly optimised code in the source language, whose inefficiencies then slip through into the compiled version that ends up on the store. And I see that Apple isn’t the only one highlighting performance issues (and security) with Flash today. Microsoft’s singling Flash Player out, too, which is remarkable when its still dominant platform is the one that’s the poster child for how well Flash can behave. It seems even Microsoft isn’t too fond of it. Think about it for a second: that’s the company that was the bane of web developers for years.

Also, just because two compilers target the same architecture doesn’t mean they’re equivalent. If you want to show that, you’re getting into the realms of formal specification and proof theory to show that two programs (since that’s all compilers are) are equivalent in every way - that you put the same input into them and you’ll ALWAYS get the same output from them. That’s far beyond the ability of the mainstream press and, it seems, even far beyond many technology journalists to relate to their audience, so people focus on the things they feel qualified to talk about: business decisions.

Compilers are designed by humans, just like any other program, so one might contain a bug or produce machine code that’s perfectly fine on the surface, and to all intents and purposes the same from an end user’s point of view, but that code could be inefficient due to poor optimisation of the compiler.

Compilers are not all alike. Think of them as people who have a good understanding of, say, German and English. Take two people who are fluent in both languages, at least to the degree that they can cope with living in either country. You ask them to translate a German phrase to English for you and both provide understandable translations that you can see are essentially the same, but you might have to think harder (poor optimisation) to grasp what one of them has provided.

Blocking Adobe’s compiler isn’t just a case of excluding future apps and ensuring stability going forward, what with iPhone OS 4.0 on the horizon. With tens of thousands of applications on the App Store, over 100 of them written with pre-release versions of Flash CS5, it might appear that Adobe’s software can output code that runs perfectly on the App Store.

That’s true at the moment, but what if Apple shifts to a new processor architecture for iPhone OS devices in future? Apple would have to invest lots of its own time and effort ensuring Adobe’s compiler is up to scratch and ready to go at the time it put the new version of the OS and hardware in the hands of developers, so that they can recompile older apps as the iPhone OS equivalent of Mac universal binaries that run on any legacy hardware that’s being kept around for the next few years, as well as the new platform.

When Apple talks about stability, it’s meant in a very broad sense. Crashing apps is part of it, but it’s not the whole story.

I think Ian raises a good point about the quality of interactive magazines and books that we can expect from magazine publishers. They’re not the ones tooled up to make the best quality apps, and I doubt that they employ many (if any) staff that are experienced enough in development of good software to deal with companies that are kitted out to do it.

Publishers envisage the end result in their minds, but not how to get there, never mind laying down a proper specification of what they want delivered. And many of those developers don’t give enough of a damn about making sure their products are a strong foundation to build upon for many years to come. They bolt bits on as and when it’s asked of them. So you get stuff like Ceros that does a basic job in a half-assed way, but it’s the best either side can come up with at short notice so they make do and everyone’s happy as long as the money keeps rolling in. If it ever does.

Rob McKeown 30 April 2010 at 9:06 pm

I love how people talk about the partial implementations of HTML5 as a good thing. It really wasn’t such a good thing when Netscape and Microsoft had different partial implementations of HTML4 and CSS. That is part of the reason Flash became so popular… you could do the stuff today that HTML and CSS promised for tomorrow. We are in that same situation now. Anyone who says that HTML5 can do what Flash can do has obviously never made a complex Flash game or application. Steve’s comment “If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?” clearly indicates that he has no idea either.

As far as Adobe needing Apple more than Apple needing Adobe. That is complete crap… if all of sudden Adobe tools only worked on PC, can anyone really say that design shops wouldn’t just switch to PCs (and save about 40% on each one compared to Macs)? I worked on Macs all through school and for the first couple years of my design career. About 10 years ago I switched to PCs and really haven’t missed them. Occasionally I use Macs when I teach design classes and find them cumbersome.

Apple is an interesting beast… people get so emotionally invested in them. (It is quite remarkable from a branding/marketing perspective.) That is why people have such polar reactions to this argument. The reality is, Apple’s decisions are pure business. It has nothing to do with technology, battery life, the multi touch capabilities of the device, blah blah. That is all just a smokescreen to cover the fact that Apple stands to lose a lot of money by allowing really cool browser based apps and games on their devices via Flash. Think about it, every company could go sell licenses/subscriptions to their own content via their own channels and not pay a dime to Apple. But if you force them to create an iPx app that has to be distributed through Apple, then Apple gets a cut. Not to mention the revenue from selling developer licenses, dev tools and hardware and any advertising that would be in those apps.

Adam 30 April 2010 at 9:59 pm

@Lucy: Thank you for explaining the compiler stuff that I sort of grasped in the abstract but lacked the knowledge to get specific about.

Adam 30 April 2010 at 10:08 pm

@Rob: See, that’s what I thought about HTML5, before everyone and their dog told me I was wrong.

Sean 30 April 2010 at 10:17 pm

This issue is not black and white and the fanboys on both side are trying to paint it as such and it’s patently absurd.

Jobs wholehearted dismissal of flash is a major issue because flash is ubiquitous on the web.

On the Adobe side, they don’t want to talk about the elephant in the room…which is that Flash is a horrific resources hog and most likely needs to be scrapped for a more efficient alternative or have the core of flash completely re-engineered to not be such a brutal consumer of resources so that it’s practical in the mobile device market

fuhgdufgifdgh 1 May 2010 at 7:51 am

Why make flash website? Seriously, its a petty, but stupid mistake that companies make. Why not settle for HTML and CSS, not a 3mb .swf file that’s suppose to be a website. Flash wesite may be flashy and full of “awesome sauce” but the whole point of a website is to display content, not throw a freaking carnival on a monitor. Flash Website sucks. Example: the Droid website, watch as the suckers are dumbfounded and are in awe because of the pretty images.

(By HTML, I mean any version.)

Kamran 1 May 2010 at 8:16 am

Well, what can I say except for Apple is now becoming the new Microsoft. And BTW, Adobe Flex is open source, so yes, Flash / SWF is an open platform: http://opensource.adobe.com/wiki/display/flexsdk/.

Adam 1 May 2010 at 11:05 am

@fuhgdufgifdgh: We’re talking about apps rather than websites. Worth saying because there are two different issues here: whether Apple supports Flash Player running on its devices (most people would probably like to have the option, but I can see Apple’s reasoning against it) and whether Apple dictates the tools used to create, and the internal code structure of, individual apps developed by third parties. While there are also concerns about compilers, I think Apple is on dodgier ground with the latter, and I note that people who know more about coding, such as Lucy, essentially agree.

(Etiquette-wise, since this is a conversation rather than a megacorporation offering you free Soylent Green in return for your personal data, a meaningful ID would be appreciated.)

Jonathan 2 May 2010 at 4:56 am

BTW, they didn’t *technically* create WebKit. They made a fork of KHTML, and thus had to keep their own work open-source. And had they acquired a layout engine or created a new one from scratch, it probably would never have been made “open”, just like the majority of Apple’s products.

Andrew 2 May 2010 at 6:47 am

I’ve been following the Apple/Flash discussion for quite some time and think a lot of the points brought up here can be addressed in a different light, especially in view of some recent events like Microsoft getting behind HTML5 and the problems with Theora not really being unencumbered by patents. I’ve posted my full thoughts and argument here:
http://andrewm.info/blog/13-2010/55-way-to-go-steve

Patrick M 4 May 2010 at 12:11 pm

The thing about HTML 5 and video that I wish more people would be talking about is the fact that Apple is one of the patent holders (so is Microsoft) of H.264.
http://www.webmonkey.com/2010/04/microsoft-says-web-video-in-ie9-is-all-about-h264/

Gryzor 14 May 2010 at 12:32 pm

“For years, Macs couldn’t even render fonts without Adobe Type Manager.”
Are you serious ? Did you really use a Mac under OS8 or 9 ?
ATM was really useful but sometimes a buggy pain, and Macs could easyly render text without any adobe axtensions activated .

Flash is a pain without any doubt, and far, very far from beeing an opened standard .
Please think as well about USB, iEEE1394, Zeroconf aka Bonjour, and Apples contribution to these standards and many others before saying that “webkit” is only a graphical environment.

Adam 14 May 2010 at 12:42 pm

@Gryzor: Yes, I used Macs in publishing from System 6 onwards. ATM was required for the first few years (in PageMaker and then Quark) because the OS had no built-in ability to render PostScript outline fonts to the screen. This is, of course, going back a long while now; and yes, people continued to use ATM after it was really necessary. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t necessary originally.

Fair point that Apple has contributed to some standards; I implicitly acknowledged USB at the top of the piece.

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