Friday, April 30. 2010
Some thoughts of what could happen if that headline above could become a reality.
Most probably you've already heard about Steve Jobs dislike of the Adobe Flash Player. A War that started when it was announced that the iPad will not support Flash and his claims that HTML 5 is superior to Flash (I already blogged about this topic). The current climax is the change in the famous section 3.3.1 of the Apple developer contract that forbids the use of any programming language which is not approved by Apple directly targeting towards the Flash Packager contained in the Creative Suite 5 (CS5). This Flash Packager can create a native iPhone application from Flash code.
This change in the Apple developer license domination eventually forced Adobe to throw away their work in the Flash Packager shortly after its announcement and a refocus on other platforms as written by Mike Chambers.
Understandably this caused quite some uproar and finally Steve Jobs has felt the need to comment on this on the Apple web site. However his Thoughts on Flash contain several falsehoods and half-truth. Jesse Warden has written a long post commenting several of such points. I recommend reading this for the details and I do not want to repeat this. Just some points I would like to highlight and add.
Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary.
While that's true for the developer products, it's not true for HTML 5 as explained in deep detail by Serge Jespers. There is even a free Flash Player available. Yes, this one is far from being perfect - however given that Flash is not just about rendering some object, but in fact a whole runtime environment for applications it's not a big wonder that no one has created a full, compatible alternative yet.
What's more worrying is that even the opposite could be more true than everybody likes. Bitmap Canvas used in HTML 5 might be covered by patents issued to... well, guess who?
Then the same is true for the non-free h.264 codec which is the base of HTML 5 video, where once again Apple is an licensor of the concerned patents.
Apple even creates open standards for the web. For example, Apple began with a small open source project and created WebKit.
This really makes me angry as this is such a shameless statement and simply false. Fact is that WebKit is based on the open source project KHTML, which was the core part of KDE's web browser Konqueror for several years, before Apple started to fork KHTML and invented the name 'WebKit'. Sure, Apple did several changes and important contributions. However the core was created by the KDE developers, not Apple. And the fact that KHTML is licensed under LGPL is the only reason, why WebKit is also an open source project today for sure.
Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.
Sure... and some of the these games that even were featured on the App Store have been developed on the Flash platform. I am glad that I am not one of these developers that got slapped in the face by Apple in this hard way.
In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices.
Well, Seeing is Believing, right? At the FFK10 conference I've seen Serge Jespers demonstrate a HTML 5/Flash Benchmark on iPhone and the Nexus One (that's the Google Android Phone): HTML 5: 1 FPS on the iPhone, 5 FPS on the Nexus One vs. Flash with 27 FPS on the Nexus One.
Yes, that was the Flash Player 10.1, which is not released yet - just as HTML 5, which is still a W3C draft.
And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.
Oh I see... so Apple itself does not count here, right? Or what shall we think about iTunes, which is still not a Cocoa app?
And how the hell does Apple think who they are to blame Adobe for not switching to a new library set, just because Apple demands so? Obviously Adobe has the right to decide that on their own and they may have had valid reasons - especially since Mac OS is not the only platform that is supported by the Creative Suite. This sounds like a very arrogant statement from Apple towards Adobe to me. The same arrogance that made Steve Jobs think that he can dictate developers, which toolkits to use.
Food for Thought
Obviously Steve Jobs enjoys his power. But does that mean Adobe is powerless? Let's imaging what would happen, if Adobe did the following:
- Announce to discontinue support for Mac OS X starting with CS6 and start a free switch from CS5/Mac to CS5/Windows. This would give Mac OS users enough time to start the transition to Windows.
- When CS6 is starting to ship, offer a special transitional bundle for licensees of CS5 on Mac OS containing of CS6 for Windows and a Windows version (or in case you allow me to start dreaming a bundle consisting of CS6 for Linux and Ubuntu) - after all Apple computers are standard PC hardware today. On the FFK 10 one guy from Adobe even presented the latest feature of CS5 on a MacBook running Windows 7.
Sounds aggressive? Well, I believe it's much less aggressive than what Steve Job is currently doing. Steve himself writes:
Mac users buy around half of Adobe’s Creative Suite products
That sounds like a big part of the Mac OS software market. So what would a typical graphic designer do in such a case?
- Would he stick with Mac OS, but abandon Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign,...? - Hard to imagine, isn't it?
- Would he dual boot to read his mails and do other stuff on Mac OS, while doing his main work on Windows? - Maybe for a short transitional time.
- Or would he start working more and more on Windows and finally consider not buying Hardware from Apple at all? There are very decent laptops also from other vendors like the HP Envy series, but also a lot of cheaper alternatives. When talking about workstations the Apple Mac Pro series have fallen behind in performance anyway.
Could that be dangerous to Apple? I guess it's unlikely that such an scenario would be a real thread as they make more money from iPods and iPhones than with their computers. But it would certainly hurt them.
However I bet that Adobe won't do that. I don't believe that they will carry out this war on the back of their customers - like Apple is doing by removing the choice and therefore freedom from developers and users. The dangerousness here is that the end user does not care - yet. But it will affect him sooner or later. Hopefully not too late to give end users the chance to wake up in time and open their eyes to see what's going on behind the scenes.
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