Steve Jobs has a Flash fit

The Apple chief executive pens a long and public letter about the deficiencies of Adobe's Flash.

By Kim Peterson Apr 29, 2010 3:00PM
Apple CEO Steve JobsPeople hang on every word Steve Jobs says. So when the Apple(AAPL) chief executive writes a long letter bashing another company's product -- well, it's the talk of the tech world.

That happened Thursday, when Jobs released 1,671 words about the Flash software system from Adobe (ADBE). Adobe shares dropped a couple of percentage points in response but were recovering at midday, while Apple shares were up slightly.

The letter may have been a defensive move in part, since Apple has taken a lot of heat for banning Flash from iPhones and its new iPad tablet. Flash is so pervasive online -- it's been the go-to platform for videos, advertising and games -- that banning it was a pretty shocking step (and, in the short term at least, one that hurts the experience of Apple users).

Jobs defended his treatment of Flash mainly by attacking Flash. He calls Flash a closed system owned entirely by Adobe. He also says that much of the Web is accessible even without Flash.

He also highlights several of Flash's perceived weaknesses: security holes, battery drainage, problems with mobile performance and issues with touch-screen technology. Flash is the top reason why Macs crash, he adds. Post continues after video:
The biggest problem with Flash, Jobs writes, is that Flash allows developers to write programs for numerous platforms at the same time. That hurts the Apple experience. In other words, Jobs wants developers to use Apple's tools to write for Apple products.

"Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs," Jobs writes. "But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short."

The reaction to the letter has come pretty fast and furious from all sides. John Gruber, a respected and knowledgable Apple observer, calls the letter "cogent, detailed, straightforward, brutally honest." The letter gives Adobe very little wiggle room in which to respond, Gruber adds.
ZDNet.com notes that it is highly unusual for Jobs to respond to criticism in such a public way. "It’s a wonder that Jobs couldn’t work this out behind the scenes, and that the clamor was so great that he felt compelled to write a public letter on the subject," writes Andrew Nusca.

Adobe has been slow to respond to Jobs' letter, but at least it's developing an ally in this battle: Google (GOOG), which has also had a falling out with Apple.

Google said that it will have full support for Flash in the next version of its Android software platform.

Business Insider's Dan Rayburn writes that Jobs is lying in his letter. Anyone who uses an iPad can't see video from such Web sites as NFL.com, MLB.com and Amazon, Rayburn writes. So for Jobs to say that iPad users "aren't missing much video," well, that's just wrong.

"If Apple does not want to support Flash, that's their right," Rayburn writes. "But for Steve to think we're all dumb and that he can tell us something works, when we clearly see it doesn't, that's simply an insult to consumers."

Rayburn said that this is really all about money, and the fact that Apple can make more money without Flash.

Perhaps, as The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs suggests, this is all an effort to distract people from the Apple-employee-leaves-phone-in-bar incident?

If so, let's remind everyone with a link to Jon Stewart's recent takedown of Apple. The "Daily Show" host calls Apple "appholes" and says the whole incident was out of control.

Related reading:


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