Thoughts on Apple vs. Adobe

By on April 30, 2010 8:43 am

There’s really no obvious “winner” in the Apple vs. Adobe spat. While both sides make some good points, they miss the mark on many details as well.

First, Steve, we appreciate your bold Thoughts on Flash, but a few comments:

  • Steve, Apple did not invent WebKit… you rewrote Konqueror and KHTML. Give credit where credit is due.
  • H.264 is not truly open.
  • Your app store review process is anything but open.
  • Tools to generate source code that can be deployed to the app store should not be discouraged. Either the app passes or fails in a quality review process that you need to open.
  • Flash exists because while the open web is great, it’s not perfect and there are still things that are easier to do with Flash’s development tools (this from a major open web supporter).
  • The lack of true APIs for native features on the phone for web developers has been holding us back for three years. Camera, GPS, geolocation, native graphics acceleration, address book, etc. iPhone OS 4.0 helps a bit, but it’s way overdue.
  • Give open web developers access to the things they need to make the native app development process less important.

Unfortunately, Adobe’s CEO did himself no favors in his Interview with the Wall Street Journal:

  • Developers already have multiple workflows.
  • Don’t make excuses and pass the buck on Flash’s performance problems on Mac OSX. Where’s the proof?
  • One set of developer tools but support for all platforms is convenient for Adobe or Microsoft. Real developers mix and match tools rather than locking into a single vendor stack.
  • Your tool stack isn’t open, so you really can’t complain. Unless you offer a decompile option, it’s hard to judge the quality of your generated application code. Your history of quality generated code leaves me skeptical.
  • Flash being an open spec. is a misuse of the term open. Where’s the competing plug-in?
  • The Adobe stack should innovate to support the open web as another platform, per your logic, and my advice. See PhoneGap as a great example of working more openly to solve similar problems.
  • Overall, your view is that everything you deploy to should be open, except for your tool stack. We disagree.


  • “H.264 is not truly open.”

    It’s not even partly open! This was perhaps the most ridiculous assertion by Jobs. And you can rest assured that the MPEG LA *will* come a’callin’ after 2016.

    “The lack of true APIs for native features on the phone for web developers has been holding us back for three years.”

    Indeed, but have you seen the new SproutCore touch work? In spite of all of Apple’s missteps they’ve done as much as anyone (except perhaps Palm) to push mobile web apps to near native levels. Sure, they could do more. The real tragedy is that Apple opened the whole app store can of worms in the first place — if they’d stayed true to their initial plans we’d all be better for it.

  • Overall I’d say Apple won this battle and Adobe has the black eye… if they were smart they would adapt rather than fight… they keep it up Apple will just create new tool called iFlash…make it opensource and then start replacing Photoshop, Illustrator and more…

  • cyberswat

    This spat is a win for open source and illustrates that open source is and will drive the market in the long run. Companies that are closed like these legacy behemoths are becoming more and more aware of the impact their decisions are causing. They can keep throwing mud at each other and bicker over details but in the end open source is the victor.

  • Kris

    Wow someone still posts on this blog? I was starting to think you gave up.

    More dojo/javascript posts :)

  • Kris, we have a bunch in the works, we’ve just been really busy!

  • I agree that Apple won the fight of words, but by dishonest means. Some which Dylan commented on. Steve Jobs has tons of experience giving presentations & bridging the gap between tech & real-world language. Adobe’s CEO clearly lacks those salesmanship skills.

    But critically analyze Job’s attacks & the perceptions about Flash that he intends to create with the reader, and you find that it’s mostly a load of horse-crud, of which Apple itself is also covered in. For example, Jobs cites Symatec’s 2009 report in saying that Flash Player was one of the worst security risks. But if you look at the numbers you’ll see that QuickTime was ranked even worse than Flash Player, and Flash Player was second best in the list of security risks. And since Flash Player is cross-platform, how are we to really know whether the Mac Flash Player was even included in the security holes? But Steve doesn’t care, he successfully makes Adobe & Flash look worse than they really are.

    I covered that, and more in this article:

  • @Dean: Agreed, H.264 and video codec patents in general are a major mess. As far as SproutCore and touch, yes, but to have to do that is unfortunate. There’s a lot of similar work going on with various soon to be announced Dojo work as well.

    @Jason: I guess iFlash is flashier than iHTML5!

    @cyberswat: While it is a win for the open web, right now there’s a short term win for proprietary app store distribution models. The web needs payment systems that are trusted and work as seamlessly as iTunes.

    @lee: Great point on QT vs. Flash, and a great post on your site! I was definitely focusing on misinformation in their remarks. I haven’t bought an iPad for many of the reasons you state with regards to Apple’s control over the device. Adobe has done some great things in their history with things like their original SVG Viewer, and their embedding of WebKit in AIR. I do think they would be best served by not trying to force developers into a Flash/Flex vs. HTML/CSS/JavaScript decision.

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  • Ruprict

    How is this spat a win for open source? Apple has a closed, military state for their development platform (and OS, really) and Adobe has exemplified closed systems for years. It looks like, IMHO, that Apple is going to win this one. The iPhone will not have Flash on it, ever, and the only open source “apps” that will make it to the iPhone will be of the web variety.

    To me, it looks like open source loses no matter who wins this spat.

  • What has open source got to do with this? Both of these companies are closed source. Whatever happens it will just make people want more open source products, but wont be a win or loss for open source.