Friday, April 02, 2010

Apple to Adobe: We don't need your stinking Flash


Fellow iPhone users, take heart. The legions of soon-to-be-iPad users have likely moved the Apple vs. Adobe Flash debate to the tipping point. To no ones surprise, it looks like Apple will win.

If you've tried to view Facebook video, or watch a Hulu TV show, or play an MSNBC video on your iPhone, you know that none of these things are possible without some serious (and warranty-voiding) machinations. This is because Apple has refused to support Adobe's Flash product, the leading method for delivering Web-based video and a whole bunch of other Internet content. Apple claims (rightly so) Flash is buggy, unstable, and hogs resources. Adobe, as has been their habit for about the past 10 years, has yawned and pointed to the vast amount of Flash content on the Web, implying that Flash is good enough for everyone else, so Apple should just shut up and get over it.

Millions of iPhones, and what looks to be another home run with the iPad, give Apple some clout in this fight, and it looks like content providers are going to go with the numbers. According to Daniel Lyons in Newsweek, some of the biggest syndicated content providers on the Internet are moving to support HTML5, the standard Apple is touting as a superior substitute for Flash.

All of the big tech companies are arrogant, and I personally think Apple is one of the more egregious abusers of its customers out there (FAR more so than popular whipping boy Microsoft), but on this one, I'm with Apple. Flash is a terrible product. It is exactly as Apple describes it - buggy, prone to crashes, and a far bigger consumer of device resources than it should be given its functionality. HTML5 is a more open and elegant standard, requires no licensing fees to use, is more stable, and ought to be a better solution in every way to unstable proprietary code.

Eventually, the market does make right in most cases, and especially so in technology. Those companies which adhere to proprietary code, tightly controlled IP, and closed standards are ultimately doomed to be replaced by open-source alternatives. The exception, so far, has been Apple, which has held the open-source revolution at bay by designing and mass-manufacturing elegant, simple, and functional devices and software. They have to work pretty hard to keep up the pace of innovation while maintaining their edge, but to date, they have done a pretty good job.

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