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Apple vs. Adobe

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Where you side on this argument boils down to whether or not you trust Apple's motives.

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs is feuding with Adobe over the efficiency of its Flash platform, which is commonly used to deliver video on the Internet. Jobs claims that Flash is a poorly designed program responsible for crashing Apple computers. Jobs also says Flash is ill-equipped for mobile devices as it sucks up battery life and has security holes.

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And finally, Apple doesn't want to be held hostage to another company's proprietary software; if applications on Apple's App Store don't work immediately because Adobe has yet to release the latest version of Flash for the iPhone, it creates a tech support mess on Apple's end. That's why Apple banned Flash from its iPhone in 2007 and from the iPad in 2010. Jobs published his negative views about Flash online in April 2010.

All of these factors led Apple to restrict the use of third-party software tools by app developers, essentially banning the use of Flash for any developer who wants to publish an application on the company's App Store. Instead, Apple has encouraged developers to write applications on open standards such as CSS, JavaScript and the emerging HTML 5 standard that Jobs says "lets developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins."

Of course, there are two sides to this dispute, which is garnering media buzz in 2010. Although Adobe has tried to tread carefully and avoid isolating Apple, the company has hinted that Apple's problems with Flash are less about the product's flaws for mobile platforms and more about maintaining control of how iPhone and iPad users access content. In a May 2010 letter published on their company's Web site, Adobe cofounders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock responded to Jobs' criticisms by noting that Flash had become successful for a reason, since "in an open market, the best products will win in the end."

The pair also accused Apple of undermining fair competition on the Internet by barring its mobile users from utilizing Flash."Apple… has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web," they wrote. "In the end, we believe the question is really this: Who controls the World Wide Web? And we believe the answer is: nobody."

Not all Flash fans were quite so diplomatic, of course. Flash platform evangelist Lee Brimelow wrote on Adobe's FlashBlog that Apple had "slapped developers in the face" with its move to bar Flash and that the company "go screw" itself.

So what's the verdict? While it seems that some of Jobs' criticisms of Flash's security and reliability problems do have merit, there doesn't seem to be a truly compelling reason for Apple to bar Flash outright from its platform, especially since HTML 5 is still an emerging standard. As PC Advisor UK writer Simon Jary put it, "We're all losers until HTML 5 is sophisticated enough to match Flash, and that could take years."

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

This story, "Apple vs. Adobe" was originally published by Network World.

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