Steve Jobs wrote a memo defending Apple’s stance on preventing Adobe Flash on the iPhone. I won’t get into the point by point details of that memo but address only the conclusions. He wrote:
Flash was created during the PC era–for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards–all areas where Flash falls short.
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.
New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.
The gist of his memo is that Apple is for open standards and is leaving the past behind. I’m sure this played well to the multitude of Apple fan bois looking for a defense to present to the many Apple detractors but it doesn’t wash with anyone who has a lick of knowledge of Apple products and takes more than a few minutes to noodle it out. Apple’s past actions show they are not leaving the past in the past nor are they overly concerned with open standards.
First let’s look at Mac OS X (OSX). When Apple moved forward to OSX in 2002 what grand new future technology did they move to? An operating system based on a proprietary hybrid of the Mach kernel and the user space from FreeBSD. The initial project for Mach closed up in 1995. FreeBSD started in 1993 though clearly code that made it into OSX is from later versions of the project. If you’re not familiar with those terms then here’s the layman’s explanation. The core of OSX is Unix. Yes, that ancient OS with confusing command-line incantations many a Windows and Apple fan boi has heap derision upon for decades is what forms the core of Apple’s shiniest desktop and server OS.
But at least it was built on open standards. In fact for a time there was an open source project around that core of OSX called OpenDarwin. So clearly Apple is at least about open standards? Actually, no. Back in 2006 I was looking for a portable music player. My two previous 20Gb MP3 players (purchased in the late 90s, early 00s) had long since died or been lost in moves. I had but one problem. Ever since the early 00s I had encoded all of my music in Ogg Vorbis. Why? Because MP3 was (and still is) proprietary. Ogg Vorbis is a patent and royalty free format; an open format. Being an open source advocate I generally pick the open format. PNG over JPG or GIF, ODF over DOC, OGG over MP3 and yes, HTML5 over Flash. The Nano only supported MP3, AAC, WAV and AIFF (plus variations thereof). No Ogg support. However I purchased it anyway betting that the Rockbox project would get a port of Rockbox onto the Nano (it was already on 1st gen Nanos). That never happened. 4 years later my wife purchase a fifth generation Nano. Ogg Vorbis is still not supported. In fact only extensions to the above format are supported.
So here is Steve Jobs defending Apple’s stance on Flash by claiming to support open standards and to be moving into the future. Yet their own products don’t support open standards and some are, at least, based on technology older than Flash. In other words they support open standards when it suits their purposes and will “focus on the future” when it suits their purposes. To believe that Apple’s decision has anything to do with either of the stated reasons is to believe in a farce. I can’t say why Apple’s got a beef with Adobe. I can say that Steve Jobs is dissembling in his memo.
I am not an Apple user. Even my trusty 2nd gen. Nano is largely unused. Not surprising since my Android based phone plays my AAC & MP3 encoded music just as well as the Nano, it plays my music encoded in Ogg, too. I harbor no love for Adobe either. While PDF is fairly ubiquitous their tools for it are frustrating to use. I dislike Flash for content of any kind. But what Apple, or rather Steve Jobs, needs to realize is that as the consumer that is my decision and not his. That, too, is a part of the past, and future, of technology. Especially one with open standards. Ideas should compete on the open market; especially when those ideas are open to all as HTML5, OGG, PNG and ODF are. Limiting the consumer’s choice is only going to serve one purpose; driving consumers away. Especially when you are dishonest in your reasons for so limiting their choice.