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Steve Jobs reveals 'thoughts of Flash' in open letter

Apple CEO's comments appears on Apple web site

Steve Jobs has attempted to clarify Apple's position with relation to Adobe Flash in a letter titled 'Thoughts On Flash', which appear's on Apple's website.

Apple and Adobe's relationship has been rumoured to be strained after Apple refused to allow Adobe's Flash player technology to be integrated into its Safari web application provided in the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices.

This prevents owners of these devices from viewing content created in Adobe Flash, including Flash-based video.

The letter starts by recognising the "long relationship" between Adobe and Apple.

Jobs, says "we met Adobe's founders when they were in their proverbial garage. Apple was their first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20 percent of the company for many years" but then seems to cool somewhat.

"Today the two companies still work together to serve their joint creative customers – Mac users buy around half of Adobe's Creative Suite products – but beyond that there are few joint interests."

Jobs continues: "I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe's Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterised our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues. Adobe claims that we are a closed system, and that Flash is open, but in fact the opposite is true. Let me explain."

He then outlines six reasons why the company has taken the decision to oppose the presence of Flash on its mobile devices. They are:

1. Open

Jobs states: "Adobe's Flash products are 100 percent proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc..."

He does note that Apple has "many propriety products too" but these are not web-related.

"We strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards."

2. Full web

"Adobe has repeatedly said that Apple mobile devices cannot access 'the full web' because 75 percent of video on the web is in Flash," Jobs says (we have to admit, this is a claim by Adobe that is somewhat borne out in our own experience).

"What they don't say is that almost all this video is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods and iPads. YouTube, with an estimated 40 percent of the web's video" continues Jobs.

At this point he seems to lose us. What he appears to be saying is that Adobe Flash powers a lot, but not all, of web video content and that this is changing to the more modern format H.264.

Our take on this is that, yes, a lot of video is moving over to H.264 content but this is because of Apple's opposition to it - rather than a reason for Apple not to include Flash in the first place.

The letter then states: "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".

While we're hardly enamoured by the thought of playing thousands of Flash games on the iPhone it seems rather beside the point. Unless the point is "we're limiting choice by provide an alternative that we control".

We can't help but note that the App Store isn't one of Apple's 'open' products that Jobs outlines in point 1.

3. Third, there's reliability, security and performance.

"Symantec recently highlighted Flash for having one of the worst security records in 2009. We also know first hand that Flash is the number one reason Macs crash" says Jobs.

A point that is hard to argue with, after all, Flash is probably the number one reason our web browsers crash as well.

Although we're not completely sure about the security aspect. It's hard to imagine Flash running in anything other than a closed environment on Apple's mobile devices.

NEXT PAGE: Battery life, touch and the most important reason


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