What's behind the Apple-Adobe feud?

GCN Lab’s Greg Crowe examines the motivations behind the Apple-Adobe feud.

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?

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