Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Apple-Adobe Altercation Continues

The open-than-thou battle between Apple and Adobe continues in full swing. Steve Jobs has now come out with an essay on how Adobe's Flash is technically inferior for usage on the mobile platform and how Flash is yet to evolve beyond the PC-centric web that it was originally designed for.

No doubt, some of Jobs' complaints on Flash might indeed be on the dot, in terms of battery usage and/or bugs. The logic carries weight when Jobs says there's a sizable body of content through YouTube that can still be viewed through Apple's devices. However, the argument breaks down when Jobs tries to drive home the point that Adobe is as closed a platform as any other. The problem is, as Jobs himself acknowledges in a fleeting manner, Apple has taken onto itself the responsibility (as it sees) or control (as Adobe sees) of determining what is best for its consumer. And a huge factor going in its favor currently is that consumers don't appear to be giving a thought. For now, Apple's innovations in user interfaces and form factors are greater drivers for consumers. Is that likely to sustain?

Apple is no stranger to criticism and Steve Jobs no stranger to writing open letters. A few years back Jobs wrote an open letter on criticisms that it faced on DRM'd music content. A common theme across both these letters is the emphasis on how industry players are expected to work around to address the needs of Apple's consumers! In the case of music, Jobs exhorted labels to go DRM-free and in the case of flash, the focus is on telling Adobe to deliver a tight product.

Jobs' reference to Adobe's strategy of working as a cross-development platform and how that hinders rapid deployment of new features is a clear acknowledgement of how Adobe's multi-platform multi-screen strategy gets in the way of Apple's single-platform multi-screen strategy (which I had alluded to in my previous post on control issues on the iPhone). And that issue is clearly one revolving around business model and potential monetization than a real pressing technical challenge.

Computing platforms have historically evolved and will continue to evolve. Flash may indeed have been designed for a PC-centric world, but it is as much Apple's responsibility to its consumers as it is Adobe's that they develop a working version of Flash rather than create their own versions of walled gardens. The issue at hand is very little around whether consumers can view flash videos on Apple's growing stable of devices, but one that is fundamental to how the web evolves. A seamless experience for the end-user or a series of islands that constantly spar on how to and if they should build bridges !
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