What to Make of Steve Jobs's 1700-Word Letter on iPhone Flash Ban

Tech bloggers are stunned

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs published a six-point letter this morning explaining why his company's mobile devices don't support the Adobe Flash format. The nearly 1,700-word post is the most comprehensive explanation to date from Apple on the hotly-contested subject. As Jobs writes, Apple owned 20 percent of Adobe for "many years" and the Apple operating system has long been the preferred platform for Adobe design products, such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. But the one-time friends now find themselves engaged in a cold war over Apple's reluctance to support Adobe's ubiquitous format. Jobs argues that Flash is a power-hog and a security risk, that it isn't suited for touch devices, isn't sufficiently open, and that it doesn't allow developers to take advantage of all the features on Apple's devices. As one blogger described the signficance of the memo: "shit just got real."

  • It's Honest. In a short post, Mashable's Stan Schroeder offers his take: "The letter is a clear, sober, in-depth view in all of Flash's defects from Apple's point of view, and while we're sure it will be dissected over and over in the upcoming days (especially the part about Flash not being open), you have to admire its frankness." True to its name, Short Form Blog offers a short, but similar analysis: "We don't think Jobs has ever been this open. We'd like to see him keep this up in the future. It really makes his points seem reasonable." He then gives a "summary that's about a fifth of the size" of Jobs's original.
  • This Matters Because It's Rare ZDNet's Andrew J. Nusca contextualizes the letter:
Jobs' letter is remarkable not for its argument, which has been elaborated on before by Apple and pundits alike, but in its very existence. It's highly unusual for the chief executive to respond to criticism in such a public and permanent way.
  • Right On Daring Fireball's John Gruber, a popular Apple blogger, briefly praises the letter, calling it "cogent, detailed, straightforward. No prevarication. ... While you're reading it, think about how little wiggle room the whole thing leaves for Adobe to respond."

So generally, Steve says Flash sucks and I tend to agree. Is it right that millions of Flash developers out there can't make their stuff in Flash for the iPad? Heck no. But is it right that I have to suffer painful rickets every time I visit a Flash site on my PC because of memory problems and poor programming? Probably not, either.
Developers, on the other hand, aren't likely to be so willing to buy into Jobs' reasoning. After all, there are plenty of ways for developers to use cross-platform tools in order to create perfectly workable apps, HTML5 video doesn't necessarily guarantee better performance and battery life, and some Web developers will continue to create sites that are geared toward mice and not fingers.
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