Before Steve Jobs sat down to write an angry letter about why Adobe Flash stinks, he should’ve realized that this war of words cannot be won.
The Apple chief executive’s “Thoughts on Flash” letter consists of six main reasons why Apple’s iPhone OS-based products don’t run Flash. In summary, Jobs said Flash is proprietary, insecure and unreliable, a drain on battery life and not optimized for touch screens. More importantly, he said Adobe’s claims of providing the “full Web” with Flash are increasingly irrelevant as more sites come up with alternatives, and that banning iPhone app development in Flash will result in better apps because Apple retains control over new features and innovations.
Those last two points are the ones most likely to irk the pro-Flash crowd. The central philosophy among folks who want Flash on their iDevices is that the option to run Flash should be in users’ hands. For Web apps, that means users should get to visit whatever site they want and enjoy all its content regardless of what standard is being used. For app development, it means the market should ultimately decide what makes a superior app.
Neither side has it totally right, of course. Jobs’ argument falls flat when he says the iPhone’s lack of Flash gaming support is OK because the App Store has more games than any other platform. Tell that to the tens of millions of people addicted to Farmville on Facebook, or the people who are part of existing Flash game communities on Lifetime or Kongregate. The App Store is just not the same.
On the other hand, Jobs’ arguments against the quality of Flash are valid, particularly that it’s a drian on system resources and battery life. By avoiding Flash on the iPhone OS, Apple speeds the rate at which other, more mobile-friendly standards become adopted. And that’s a good thing for mobile devices.
The reason this debate won’t be resolved is because it epitomizes the indignation people feel for Apple as a company. Jobs’ letter exists solely to articulate that Apple doesn’t like Flash, and so iPhone OS devices won’t support it. People who don’t like Apple loathe that idea, that a hardware and operating system maker decides what software you can run and what Web sites you can visit.
In other words, both Apple and Flash advocates have the mindset that, “It’s our device and we can do with it what we please.” But the meaning of that statement is completely different depending on who says it.