With Steve Jobs' Passing is Flash for the iPhone/iPad Now Possible?

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Tom Keating
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With Steve Jobs' Passing is Flash for the iPhone/iPad Now Possible?

Everyone in the technology world - and the world in general - mourns Steve Jobs' passing. My Facebook News Feed is still filled with friends who changed their profile photo to something Apple or Steve Jobs related. But I do have a bone to pick with Steve Jobs' decision to block Flash on Apple's iOS devices.

Steve Jobs gave his thoughts on Flash back in 2010. When Steve Jobs and Apple blocked Adobe Flash from Apple's popular line of mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch), Steve's main claims against Flash were that it was too processor-heavy, a battery hog, security issues, performance issues, and that HTML5 was a better standard for the future. My boss, Rich Tehrani calls it the "Apple Tax".

HTML5 may indeed be the future and be the final nail in Adobe Flash's coffin, but we're not there yet. As an iPhone and iPad user, I can't tell you how frustrating it is that many YouTube videos embedded on websites just plain don't work. All you see is this tantalizing YouTube box with the play button having a diagonal line through it. Sorry, no video for you!

I believe YouTube (owned by competitor Google) has to transcode each video into a format the iPhone can play. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, not every video gets transcoded by YouTube into an iOS-friendly format, especially older videos. Considering Google competes with Apple with their Android operating system, which plays ALL YouTube videos due to Android's Flash support, if I were Google, I wouldn't be in any hurry to transcode everything into iPhone format.

In fact, if I were Google I would stop offering separate iPhone transcoded videos all-together. Why should Google enable a competing platform and have to pay for extra storage and maintenance costs to host two video files for each video uploaded? Google should make Apple support YouTube (via Flash support) and not cater to a crippled Flash-less platform.

There was a big battle between Adobe and Steve Jobs that I'm sure left some bad blood between the two. This bad blood might explain Steve Jobs's intransigence in allowing Flash on the iOS platform. Though Steve Jobs diplomatically stated this:

Sixth, the most important reason.

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.

We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

What is interesting is that Steve Jobs initially cites security, reliability, performance, and battery life, but then he states he doesn't want third parties to mess up his precious iPhone - or the user experience. First, it's all about "control", which we all know Apple & Steve Jobs are renowned for being control freaks. Secondly, Android devices run Flash just fine. Last I checked Android surpassed the iPhone in market share back in January. According to a recent Business Insider report, Android "has 43.7% market share, while Apple's iPhone seems to be slowing a bit with smaller incremental changes. Apple is now at 27.3%"

So in a very short period of time, Android has surpassed the iPhone and is getting closer to doubling iPhones market share. I wonder why that is? Do you think Android being able to run Flash has anything to do with it? With no support for Flash (1 million 4S pre-orders not-withstanding), it may not matter that the new iPhone 4S has some cool features like Siri, 1080p video capture capabilities, and 512MB of RAM.
Does Apple want to repeat the same mistake in the 1980s when it refused to allow third-party hardware to run the Mac operating system? It relegated Apple to a small niche number of users, while Microsoft (Wintel) dominated the desktop market share. I posit that Apple is repeating the same mistake and their closed nature is making consumers look elsewhere. I have no problem with Apple having their closed App Store, but to refuse Flash within the browser is asinine.

I was just having an email discussion with my boss Rich Tehrani who uses both an iPhone and iPad and he said, "This Flash thing really sucks. I was ordering from GNC.com last night and a screen popped mid-order which was blank (on iPad)". This is yet another Flash Fail for Apple's products!

The one ray of hope I have is that Apple's stubborn refusal to allow Flash on their iOS platform was due primarily to Steve Jobs and his ego-maniac personality. While I mourn his passing, I do hope Apple's Tim Cook (Steve Jobs' hand-picked successor) will reconsider the decision on not allowing Flash. HTML5 is indeed the future, but Apple iOS products need Flash now! It's killing iOS's usability - something Apple prides itself on. Agree or disagree? Post a comment...

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