Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A response to Steve Jobs "Thoughts on Flash"

My screensaver was flashing the Apple News today, when I noticed an article by Steve Jobs about Flash. Since we have 3 iPhones in our family, this has been one of the few sore spots with that ownership. I'd like to share my perspective as a computer and iPhone expert, and longtime customer.

"Thank You"
First of all, Mr. Jobs, I think it is very important that you know I am a huge fan, ever since oh, sometime around 1981. What you and Mr. Wosniak have done is truly astounding, as an entrepreneur, inventor, businessman, and innovator. Truly, the products you have out on the market today have continued to push the envelope in reliability, usability, and giving consumers choices. However, I have to strongly take issue with your Thoughts.

I understand being principled - I direct much of my spending based upon principle: if the company whose products I am considering (or purchasing) is against my principles, I will either go elsewhere or go without. However, the problem as an Apple customer here is not principle. The problem is ubiquity and access to content. Yes, you have a point that Adobe's format is proprietary. However, it is, unarguably, ubiquitous, and as such much content made available to users is in a format that is not available on the iPhone/iPod/iPad devices.

"Full Web"
Flash is not, per se, a video format. Flash is so much more than video - it is an application architecture. As such, you are not only depriving your iPxxxx customers of videos, but of much web content that is necessary to their lives. Things like banking applications, web tools, searching, even web site content are only available in Flash. It would be one thing if these were available in H.264 or any of the other standards, but much of it is authored and available only in Flash. Hulu, Fancast, and many other video sites are only Flash. Since iPxxxx supports PDF, why not also Flash?

"Reliability, Security, Performance" and "Battery Life"
OK, if these are such issues, let's do something. There are many technologies available here. Crashing - you can virtualize or thread the running process, to isolate it and handle crashes. You can isolate calls it makes to create, delete and access files or resources to enhance security. You can even make these options available in Settings to the user, so he can decide for himself (yes, with all your legal disclaimers for CYA).

If battery life is truly a concern, it is not a concern on the iPhone (for sure) just because of Flash - it is a concern regardless. We all want longer battery life, and some products offer such benefits, like extended batteries or solar cells.

I find it insulting to yourselves that you think the Cocoa Touch development team could not come up with a creative solution, such as a gesture or additional button to help with the problem of treating a touch/drag like a mouse move. For a team that came up with the most innovative devices of the past decade, I think you sell them short. And, I bet you could push Adobe to come up with a mobile touch-enabled version of Flash, and I bet they would be more than happy to! You are approaching 40,000,000 devices, I think they would have an interest in it.

"Sixth, the most important reason."
Touche. But, let me say you opened this can of worms - the App Store suffers the same problem, albeit you do have some say in what is released through it. Users have to accept the risks of using such things on their devices, but we also trust that the underlying architecture will handle such "questionable code" in a robust way. We trust that it will prevent security intrusions (like accessing your contacts, etc.), we trust that it will handle crashes without needing a full restart, and I think it's time that you trust us users to know what it is we want. We want the best mobile platforms on the planet, with access to the content we need and want.

in reference to: Thoughts on Flash (view on Google Sidewiki)

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