Today in Apple’s “Hot News” section, Steve Jobs decided to give customers and critics his “Thoughts on Flash” which turned in to much more than a few thoughts (Read Here). From the day the iPhone came out the lack of flash on the device that wants to replace your everything has been a sticking point for a lot of people. For Jobs this decision came down to six main reasons:
- Flash is not an “open” platform
- Flash does not represent the “full” web
- He has an issue with reliability, security and performance
- Battery life
- Lack of support for touch devices
- Sub-standard apps with a third party layer between platform and user
Now what does this mean to you as a consumer of Apple products and does this all really make sense? Right now it is a big deal to the average consumer, who will not be able to consumer a lot of content that is out there on the web for you to see. The lack of flash takes you away from web based games, interactive learning tools and pesky little ads. Jobs argues that the apps will be substandard because they are cross-platform developed and he says that the developers should just use Apple’s tools to create a native app. The problem with that is not all developers have huge resources at their disposal. If I was a flash developer already, the cost in time and finances to learn and program for the iPhone/Pad is huge. With that aside, in the long run I don’t see the lack of flash being a huge deal as more and more people will start to use HTML5.
My main issue with this really groups issues one, two, and five together. Apple is far from an “open” platform and if they were flash apps would be allowed in the app store, so I find this point highly hypocritical. Being a closed system like Apple is, they determine the quality of application they approve. So what is the problem with approving a quality application built in cross platform tools using flash? His issue with flash of touch compatibility I think is based on the fact that a lot of times you have to hover your mouse over content to interact with it and you simply cant do that with your finger and a touchscreen. He suggests web standards solve this problem, but a major component of many menus and images on websites is the Hover attribute in CSS that controls all of the dropdowns and rollovers. They are trying to define the “full” web and touch compatibility for you that may or not may be what the true definition of full is.
Although I may not agree with the decision, he does make a few good points. Security is a big problem. The major source of security threats is to browser plugins. That is the case because that is the main point your computer connects with the outside world and is exposed to these threats. Any layer of abstraction within the browser just creates more possible holes for hackers to try and squeeze through. This is especially the case with flash because of its ability to interact with your computer on a systems level and not just channeled through the browser. He also has battery life right, it’s common sense, static unchanging pages will take less battery than fully interactive sites, so on that Mr Jobs you are correct.
Illustration by Daniel Adel at Wired