Steve Jobs: ‘Flash is No Longer Necessary’ and Other Musings

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I don’t know if I’ve ever read anything longer than a sentence or two from Steve Jobs, but he pulled out the big guns with a 1,653-word post on Apple.com called Thoughts on Flash.

It’s been no secret that Apple’s opted to embrace HTML5 over Flash and the Apple-versus-Flash tiff has spilled over into the public arena, most notably with a Flash developer suggesting that Apple somehow engage in sexual relations with itself.

Steve Jobs has taken the opportunity to respond and he uses his post to list six reasons why Apple’s not too keen on Flash. The reasons include Flash’s closed system, security issues, poor battery life in mobile devices, lack of touch support, and the fact that “Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms,” according to Jobs.

The post paints Apple as a proponent of open standards—most specifically HTML5, Javascript, and CSS—and ends with, “Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.”

Whether you agree with Jobs or not, he makes a good point when talking about touch screen mobile devices:

“Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?”

He could have also just said what we’re all thinking; “Everyone has an iPhone, so make sure your site works on it.” The whole thing isn’t just an Adobe-Apple problem, though, it’s an Adobe-Mobile Device problem. Cell phones have gone so long without useable Flash support that, aside from web video, there aren’t too many big sites that are using a ton of Flash elements anymore since Flash doesn’t work in mobile browsers. Sites that look good on an iPhone generally look good in other mobile browsers, so you might as well develop your website with that in mind.

Jobs points out that most Flash video nowadays “is also available in a more modern format, H.264, and viewable on iPhones, iPods, and iPads.” The first time I used the iPad, I was pleasantly surprised by how many web videos played right inside the browser. That being said, I still came across plenty of Flash-only videos that wouldn’t play at all. It seems that the tide is shifting, though, with more and more sites focusing on mobile usability.

When all is said and done, Jobs asserts the following:

“The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.”

That, right there, is Adobe’s biggest problem when it comes to mobile. Most content providers and application developers have already left Flash behind in order to grab a slice of the big Apple pie.

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