What's behind the Apple-Adobe feud?

After being kept out of the Apple playground, Adobe is taking its ball and going home

Adobe recently announced that it was not going to put any more money into developing a software tool, called Adobe Packager for iPhone, that would have made it easy for Flash developers to port their apps into native iPhone/iPad apps. This was of course in response to Apple’s announcement that iPhone and iPad apps must be coded with Apple-approved programming languages. This effectively would disallow any app made with Adobe’s package, and pretty much exclude Flash apps from the picture.

Now, this may seem like a sore-loser move on Adobe’s part, but the company has really been backed into a corner. It seems that Apple is bent on digging a grave for Flash, one that Adobe has managed to jump to play with Android-based platforms.

When the iPad was released without Flash support, Apple press releases said it was because it was too “buggy” to be of use on the iPad platform. Steve Jobs has since posted his reasoning, citing preference for more open standards of HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript, which Apple has every right to exercise. He also brings up that Flash isn’t optimized for touch input. Now this may be a bit specious, since the Flash objects on most Web sites are embedded to run automatically, meaning no input device interaction is required for the most part.

He also says that decoding compressed video in the hardware takes less power (and therefore promotes longer battery life) than doing it in the software, and older versions of Flash don’t support the H.264 decoder standard. Although the power differences are significant, the current version of Flash does support H.264, so it is only a matter of time before nearly all of the Flash-based video out there should be acceptable to Apple in this regard.

But the biggest reason is that, because Flash is a cross-platform development tool, Adobe is not motivated to help developers write the best iPhone/iPad apps. Instead of looking at Adobe’s motivations, perhaps we should be looking at Apple’s. With his statement, Jobs is effectively saying that he knows what is best for Apple users and will protect them from inferior products. Apple will not let its users choose, or even think for themselves.

When the first Mac was released in 1984, it was preceded with a Super Bowl commercial depicting a gray dystopian future where everyone was forced to use a PC and never question authority, which was symbolized by a face looking out of a huge screen on a wall. That is until MacWoman throws a huge hammer and smashes it.

Now it looks as if Mr. Jobs’ face is on the wall. The only question is, who will be the next one to throw the hammer?

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

Reader Comments

Sun, Oct 31, 2010

I think adobe needs to be on the touch so people can play games without jailbraking their touch

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 Brian Yagel

No developer I know has a big problem with Apple's Flash prohibition. Frankly, Adobe's development tools are too basic, very inferior to what Apple provides developers for iPod/iPhone and iPad app and content development. I don't know anyone who'd seriously consider using Adobe's tools. I do regret that Flash-to-iDevice conversion tools will not, for now, continue. Because there ARE some excellent Flash-based apps and content out there. More likely, Adobe will be hard at work improving Flash efficiency, rolling out improvements to compression algorithms, and doing the hard work to erode Apple's very legitimate criticisms. With Apple clearly in the driver's seat for all things mobile right now, it doesn't matter, really, if you, or if Adobe, thinks Apple is playing hardball. Adobe really has no choice but to capitulate. What owner of an iDevice misses Flash? Initial grumblings have died. No one cares. Adobe needs to care, and their letter aside, I'm sure they do. This is not the first Apple and Adobe war, nor will it be the last. Both companies offer market-driving technologies and great user experiences. It's win-win when they play well together, but when they have problems, which are inevitable, we can expect a few shots across the bow. What I know, from the past issues between the two companies, is that they generally work things out splendidly. And that's good for consumers.

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 Brian Yagel

On the surface it looks like a hissy fit on Apple's part, trying to lock down development. And it *is* partly that. But as a content developer, I can back up - fully - Apple's claims as to the horrible performance of most Flash content on battery-powered devices. Flash is a power monster. It seriously hogs processor power decoding everything in software and the power consumption issue is VERY real. Battery life on mobile devices is often halved, or worse, when using Flash-based content. It's no trivial matter. h.264 for video helps, and it's just so incredibly superior to other, more currently common video compression out there now. The person commenting above the h.264 isn't good for larger screens is badly mistaken - it deserves no comment other that to point out his incorrect assertions. Thankfully, h.264 support finally is available to Flash developers. Hopefully, going forward, this issue will be put to bed. So. Apple's point about Flash being a battery-frying, slow-as-molasses behemoth on its mobile apps? Very, very true. Ask ANY developer for mobile apps and content-rich websites. That is changing for the better, but not fast enough. Apple: we all know what control freaks they are. One of the reasons Apple has so many fanboys IS that control: Great looking, great working hardware...which Apple, from Day 1, has been very careful to showcase with great SOFTWARE. Their restrictions on developers are stiff, but that doesn't mean "closed". It means, "We want software running on our machines to be as well engineered and enjoyable to use as our machines." Because mediocre apps running on premium devices make the devices seem mediocre, too. Sketchy software running on iDevices will seriously tarnish Apple's caché. And they sell product based on that caché. That, too, is no trivial matter, to a company who has seen its stock value rise more than 1,200% in the last decade. Whatever they're doing, Apple will keep doing it.

Tue, May 11, 2010

Never anger the fanboiz, Mr. Crowe. A dog that licks the boot that kicks it will defend the boot wearer all the more viciously for the kicks it has gotten.

Mon, May 3, 2010 Larry MS

We all have a choice. Buy what you want. But don't tell ME what I should buy, Greg. The market is already deciding the issue - 1 million iPads in a month? Sounds like Apple > Adobe.

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above