Now It’s Inevitable: Flash is Dying!

March 3rd, 2010

In 1998, Apple killed the floppy drive. It took a few years for the rest of the industry to catch up, but the handwriting was clearly on the wall. Of course, anyone who actually lost data on a worn or defective floppy would only cheer the end of that flawed storage scheme.

Segue to 2007. Apple introduces the iPhone without support for Flash. People complain, but iPhones sell at ever-increasing rates. Today, with some 40 million of them around the world, and the iPad on the immediate horizon, Steve Jobs has made it quite clear that Flash is the floppy drive of the 21st century. It’s time for it to go.

Now there have been lots of complaints from the tech media, but you have to wonder whether some of those stories were actually fed by Adobe’s spin machine. Sure, the players are given away free, but you have to pay for the developer tools, and that’s where Adobe earns lots of money. Indeed they bought Macromedia to get Flash and — of course — kill Illustrator’s main competitor, FreeHand.

Yes, it’s true that the lack of Flash on Apple’s mobile gear means that many sites will not look right. Whether navigation menus, introductory videos or special features, you won’t be able to access all the available content.

Adobe takes the position that they are working on a version of Flash that will better support mobile platforms, with improved support for Multi-Touch, which is where the existing version fails badly. Maybe that’ll happen, but Steve Jobs is not likely to backtrack on his decision. He’s already accused Adobe’s developers of being “lazy,” and complained that Flash is the number one cause of crashes on Macs.

You’ll note that, with Snow Leopard, browser plugins are sandboxed, so if they crash, it’s not accompanied by the application itself. In fact, 90% of the very few crashes I’ve encountered since installing Snow Leopard last August were, in fact, caused by Flash.

Now as tens of millions of additional customers acquire Apple’s mobile products, the number of visitors to Flash-based sites will also decline, which pretty much forces the issue. Web developers must either build two versions of their sites to accommodate the different requirements of their potential visitors, or just set Flash aside and try to work within open Web standards.

That may be happening. Google is beta testing an alternative to YouTube without Flash, and just this week Virgin America, a small airline, decided to drop Flash from its site. In the Macworld article reporting on the change, writer Dan Moren concludes, “Because, as we know, all it really takes in the corporate world is one executive with an iPhone to ask why she can’t use the company’s site on her device.”

But that’s just the beginning. Any site that depends on attracting the highest possible number of visitors to attract ads and/or garner subscription revenue will also take notice when the potential customer base drops. One thing is certain, and that is Apple will not be easily persuaded to work out something with Adobe to ultimately support Flash. I’m not going to say never, because it’s quite possible that Adobe, seeing the loss of potential profits, will press its development team to tame Flash for the iPhone and address all or most of Apple’s concerns.

But the window of opportunity is small, and I suspect if it doesn’t happen this year, the chances that Flash will persevere despite the lack of support from Apple are slim to none. Yes, Apple still has a minority share of the smartphone market, but they also have a disproportionate share of mobile-based Web users. Maybe that disparity will even itself out some as competing devices improve their Web access, but the problems with Flash will persist.

As has already been mentioned, even if Flash runs with decent performance, and even if it doesn’t hog system resources or compromise stability, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to magically access all or most Flash sites on your smartphone. Flash is designed to work with regular personal computers that have conventional input devices. The Multi-Touch universe can cause loads and loads of trouble, starting with the imprecision of using your finger as a pointing device on a tiny screen. Not only will Flash have to be updated to support such issues, but many sites may have to be reprogrammed substantially to accommodate the changes. It’s not an easy process.

As a result, Web developers might begin to look for the free, open source alternatives to Flash that don’t require paying fees for Adobe’s products.

In a few years, Steve Jobs may be proven correct once again. Flash will be history, and Adobe is just going to have to adapt to the situation and let those other products keep them in business. It’s not as if Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are going away any time soon, even without Flash support.

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44 Responses to “Now It’s Inevitable: Flash is Dying!”

  1. Blad_Rnr says:

    Flash needs to go away. The spirit of the Internet is open standards. And I agree that every crash in Safari I have had on my Mac running SL has been caused by buggy Flash programming. Nice article, as usual 🙂

  2. genemaster says:

    Actually the Creative Suite is going the same path where the mac version is buggy and slower than the windows version.
    Apple should simply buy out Adobe, kill Flash and make the creative suite OS X only.

  3. Peter says:

    Apple didn’t kill the floppy. That’s a fanboy myth. The floppy was around for many years after the introduction of the iMac, and it was done in by its limited size and speed as well as alternatives such as the CDR. I used an external floppy until 2004 in order to collaborate with people who used PCs or older Macs. Apple has more clout now and may influence the demise of Flash. But Flash is so entrenched, it will take more than a obstinate Steve Jobs to kill it. Adobe may contribute to Flash’s demise by its own lack of vision, yet there will need to be enticing alternatives.

    • @Peter, Well, Apple killed the floppy despite the fact that it was in use on hundreds of millions of PCs, so don’t assume that it can’t happen with Flash.


      • Wagon Man says:

        @Gene Steinberg, Actually, it was the introduction of USB flash disks that killed the floppy. Apple may have stopped using it sooner but they just didn’t kill it. I used to use the floppies even though I had a CDR for sometime (2 years apprx) until the USB disk was introduced @32 MB and I bought my first USB flash disk. The same happened to 100s of my college friends and classmates. It’s death was expedited by the introduction of external hard disks. So, you can basically say that USB killed the floppy, just like it did to the serial and parallel port and soon the PS2 port as well.

  4. […] Tech Night Owl: In 1998, Apple killed the floppy drive. It took a few years for the rest of the industry to catch […]

  5. Maeric says:

    Indeed they bought Macromedia to get Flash and — of course — kill Illustrator’s main competitor, FreeHand.

    That certainly is spelling out the truth of Adobe’s hubris. Adobe looks to have become their own competitor, Microsoft, and is borrowing from their playbook. Seeing Flash become obsolete would be justice in a fast changing world where open standards are setting the future. The proprietary business model is so …90’s.

    (btw, the FreeHand debacle should never have happened—and so blatantly. I would love to see FreeHand go open-source ever since I heard your TNOLive interview about it last year.)

  6. wincros says:

    So how does the Youtube app work on the iPhone? If not flash, has Apple already written the alternative?

  7. sfmitch says:

    Flash (full version of flash) is missing from all smartphones, not just the iPhone. Since the iPhone was the first smartphone with a quality web browser and they coined the term, the whole internet in your pocket, it highlighted the lack of Flash on the iPhone.

    Add up the tens of millions of iPhone and iPod Touches and Android phones and Palm Pres and blackberries and nokias and real, full Flash is nowhere to be seen. Sure, Adobe has been talking about shipping real Flash for smartphones but so far, it is just talk.

    I think the iPad being introduced without Flash is what amplified the situation. Suddenly, you have a larger screen device with a faster processor but still set to ship without supporting Flash. It is much easier to dismiss the smartphones not using flash then a tablet computer.

    @Gene Steinberg – I think it would be much better if you didn’t state rumor as fact, e.g. Steve Jobs calling Adobe Lazy. Is there any official record or recording of this. Un-verified rumors are a bunch of bullshit and should be labeled as such.

    • @sfmitch, Jobs’ comment has been repeated in a number of respected mainstream media sources (not just the Mac rumor sites) and the statement hasn’t been denied by Apple. It is vintage Jobs, so I’m inclined to take it seriously, although it’s possible he used more descriptive language. 🙂


      • sfmitch says:

        @Gene Steinberg, Sure, lots of other blogs have said that Jobs called Adobe lazy but also mention that the quote comes from an anonymous source or that he reportedly said it. Making a rumor into fact because a lot of people repeat the rumor is crazy, isn’t it?

        As for Apple not denying the statement, huh? Apple doesn’t comment on anything. That’s not proof of anything.

        • @sfmitch, The report went way behind the Mac press and encompassed mainstream publications too. It is also in keeping with the attitude expressed about Flash in more public venues, so I expect that the more descriptive language reportedly used at the company meeting in question is in character. He could have called them any number of terms that indicate “lazy” and I would still find it credible.

          If Apple didn’t want that message to get through to Adobe, they would have denied it. That they allowed it to stand indicates that they are willing to let it remain in the public arena.


    • unknowns says:


      Indeed. I’ve read often that ipad users and fans were upset that Flash wasn’t added to the unit. Yes, Steve did state that adobe is lazy. I have a link in email that can back that up, but it Steve was also called on the b.s. too where they were pointing out that he’s shouting has more to do with trying to isolate their product from the rest in order to compete, similar to what Microsoft had done during the early 90’s buying out the competition. Monopolizing.

  8. LarryCrain says:

    At a tech/entrepreneurship conference last weekend, I was amused by an “enthusiastic” discussion between a diehard Flash developer, and a MS/Silverlight advocate, over which would dominate the future of the web. When I asked them, “what about HTML5 and standards-based solutions?”, both assured me the contest was between Flash and Silverlight. HTML5 might be nice, but would ultimately be irrelevant.

    So I suggested that, in my view, that battle was equivalent to a Bear and a Wolf fighting over possession of a cave. A cave with parallel steel bars on the floor, and a light far back in its depth, growing steadily brighter.

    Then, I went in search of a more enlightening discussion.

  9. John says:

    It seems that Flash is on the way out. If Adobe does figure out how to make a version of Flash that runs on touch enabled devices will it be backwards compatible? If not they might as well not even try. It will just muddy the waters further as there would be new Flash and old Flash sites and who would want to code and test two kinds of Flash? Also, Adobe doesn’t seem to be really good at writing solid code. I bet that we’ll see more and more defections like Virgin and that within 18 months Flash will be something you only see rattling around on old sites playing those goofy games based on “pick a number from 1 to 9…”.

  10. dfs says:

    Say what you want about Flash (and there’s plenty to say), the reality for Web designers who use the Mac platform is that there is a pervasive lack of serious page-creation software not made by Adobe. Okay, there are some programs for beginners and joy-poppers which depend on prefab templates, but these are of no use to professionals. We’re confronted with the bleak fact that there is no viable alternative to Dreamweaver and the other items in the CS suite. These are buggy, bloated, have a steep learning curve, and are almost unimagineably overpriced, a lot of us would walk away from them in a minute if we were given a viable choice, but we don’t have one, and so we’re obliged to do things the Adobe way, like it or not. Steve can say all the nasties about Flash he wants, but he’s doing no more than wasting his breath if he isn’t willing to break Adobe’s stranglehold on Web design software and shaping Web standards by giving us an alternative set of tools to get the job done.

  11. If Adobe’s so worried about it, why don’t they bring out their own hardware? The FlashPad? 😉

  12. Tom Coady says:

    @Gene Steinberg – why not ask Apple PR to confirm or deny? I appreciate they’ll most likely respond “no comment” if at all, but whatever the outcome you can insinuate with a bit more confidence 😉

  13. […] mais no artigo completo de Steinberg. var addthis_language = 'pt';var addthis_options = 'email, print, favorites, twitter, […]

  14. John B says:

    I agree, that Flash’s (slow) fade into obscurity has begun. And all I can say is, good riddance to Flash! And to Adobe! As a long-time Director/Shockwave developer, Adobe’s handling of that software after acquiring it from Macromedia has been horrendous. As a loyal customer for many years, I feel betrayed. Much like Microsoft, Adobe will not be getting any more money from this developer in the future.

  15. Peter says:

    @Peter, Well, Apple killed the floppy despite the fact that it was in use on hundreds of millions of PCs, so don’t assume that it can’t happen with Flash.

    Gene, show a little intellectual honesty. Just repeating “Apple killed the floppy” doesn’t make it true. The floppy was too small and slow to be used as the kilobytes turned into megabytes and gigabytes. My first hard drive was 10mb. The tech guy said, “you’ll never fill it up.” The floppy made sense then. The floppy died of natural causes and not from a Jobsian plot. Steve was ahead of the curve, but he didn’t design it. Stop the fanboy nonsense.

    As I stated previously, he has more clout now, so he may help kill flash. I can only hope it comes quickly.

    • @Peter, It is a fact that the iMac was the first mass market personal computer without a built-in floppy, and Apple ditched them from other products after that. So, Jobs was the instigator. It may have died eventually, but Apple moved it along. By the same token, USB didn’t go anywhere on the PC platform until it debuted on the Mac.

      That is the history.


  16. dfs says:

    Of course if Steve really doesn’t like Adobe software and wants to get rid of Flash, he has a simple and elegant way of doing this. With all its billions of dollars of cash reserve, Apple could presumably buy Adobe. This would put an end to the current corporate conflict and would give Steve all the leverage he wanted for making the Web work the way he wants it to.

    • @dfs, It would be a foolish investment, since Adobe doesn’t necessarily advance Apple’s technology with new products. Apple is already competing with Adobe with Aperture and Final Cut Pro, for example. You’ll notice Apple’s investments are sharply focused towards products and services that advance their future product portfolios. They don’t seek out tired blood. 🙂

      It would be a total waste of money. The industry will determine in the years to come the future of Flash.


    • unknowns says:


      Aint gonna happen due to the fact that the market is much larger than the Apple users. Steve knows this too. As long as there are computers users outside of Apple, Adobe will make money and they’re in a position where they don’t have to kiss Steve’s @ss. Adobe is the standards in the advertisement, photography, commercial, and many other things both industry and non. Adobe is just as popular as Apple.

  17. Richard says:


    Steve just has issues with Adobe. Period. That is all. Flash is not dead and will not be, if at all, for quite some time. It is pervasive on the internet and will remain so through many product cycles.

    This is further proof, along with the fouled up design of the iPad, that Steve is out of touch with reality and that there is no one there who can tell him so.

    I can tell you that the iPad is but the latest in a series of products I would not pay a dime for and which makes me wonder just how long I am going to hold on as an Apple user.

    It is, perhaps, time for him to go. He has become addicted to his own reality distortion field.

    • sfmitch says:


      Yeah, let’s get rid of Steve Jobs. Obviously that guy doesn’t know what he’s doing. I mean come on, how long should we have to put up with record sales, record profits and a string of insanely great products? It is so obvious that he has lost his touch – think about it. The iPhone, the iPod Touch, Unibody Macbooks, iTunes – nobody in their right mind would spend money on this crap. And those Apple stores, big waste of money of time – nobody goes there. Too bad Apple shareholder meeting was last week, We should have organized to get Steve Jobs fired – I mean who could disagree with the stock price at an all time high and $40 billion in the bank?

      If you couldn’t tell, that was sarcasm.

      Obviously, Flash isn’t dead and nobody said it was. The article states that Flash is dying – specifically that the dying has started.

      The iPad is shaping up as another hit product for Apple, just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it is fouled up. Maybe it means that the iPad isn’t right for you. Crazy thought but Apple products are not for everyone.

      If Apple computers, iPhones, software or iPods aren’t for you then no hard feelings, just go use something that you like better. No need to ‘hold on’.

      • Richard says:


        Obviously, you completely missed the point and the time frame.

        Steve has done a number of things which did, in all reasonable probability, save the company, but that was then and this is now. It is increasingly apparent that, looking forward, Steve may not be the man to guide the company. The iPad is really a second or third rate idea the way it is implemented. The A4 processor is simply not as good as it should have been based on what other (similar) processors, such as the Tegra 2, are capable of doing. Based on the analysis of others who have looked at it in a reverse manner, that is to say that based on what it is capable of doing they have inferred what it is. It lacks so much that it can only be the result of a conscious decision to introduce a crippled device. Despite the sales of the iPhone, which it can fairly be said is the number one product Apple sells, it is a device of limited ability. In fact, may hoped that the iPad would resolve the limitations of the iPhone. Plainly, it does not.

        P.S. Just because you like the iPad doesn’t mean that it isn’t fouled up. Your argument is a complete non sequitur.

        P.P.S. In answer to the question Napoleon asked, “Is he lucky?”, the answer is obviously that Steve is one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth. He completely escaped scrutiny for stock dealings for which others were fired for cause and some faced criminal charges. He was “at the right place at the right time” to resume control of Apple.

        He survived pancreatic cancer because he had the version of it which is treatable and occurs in less than 2% of cases. He got a liver transplant.

        The reality distortion field is still working.

        Yes, he is a very lucky guy.

        • sfmitch says:


          If Steve Jobs was getting props for introducing the iMac or iPod (early 2000s) and hadn’t done anything since then you could talk smack about his effectiveness. The truth is that Apple is doing better now then it EVER has. Apple is completely on top of its’ game RIGHT NOW (and last year, and the year before that and the year before that, etc).

          Maybe you saw that Fortune named Steve Jobs – CEO of the decade.

          Macs, iPhones and iPods are all doing great. Apple stock hit an all time high yesterday = Investors believe that Apple is kicking ass and will continue to do so. These aren’t people who are fanboys or are arguing on a blog but are investing their $$$ because Steve Jobs (and team) have proven that they continue to produce great products that people buy.

          “P.S. Just because you like the iPad doesn’t mean that it isn’t fouled up. Your argument is a complete non sequitur.”

          I never said that I liked the iPad. I said that it looks like another hit product = people are going to buy a lot of them. The vast majority of people don’t care about Specs – A4, Tegra, Atom, A8, A8, Snapdragon, Athlon, i7, etc. doesn’t mean anything to the VAST majority of people. If that’s your problem with the iPad, it clearly shows you don’t understand what Apple is all about.

          P.S. Just because you like the iPad doesn’t mean that it isn’t fouled up. Your argument is a complete non sequitur.

          I think Steve Jobs is one of the best examples that you “make your own luck”. Apple has been (and will continue to) fight an uphill battle against the MS behemoth. Convincing people to leave the most popular computer platform in the world AND to spend more money is ridiculously hard. Beating the entrenched cell phone manufacturers and up-ending the Carriers lock on power was un-thinkable. Executing quarter after quarter, year after year at a super high level isn’t luck.

  18. sfmitch says:

    Darn. 2nd quote was supposed to be

    P.P.S. In answer to the question Napoleon asked, “Is he lucky?”, the answer is obviously that Steve is one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth

    • Richard says:


      There are many things about which one could say one makes one’s own luck, but I do not think having the version of a disease which is survivable in less than 2% of cases is “making his own luck”.


      • sfmitch says:


        I choose not to comment on Steve Jobs’ health.

        But, in general, surviving a type of cancer with only a 2% survival rate is very lucky.

        However, I am not sure what surviving a disease that kills most people has to do with success in other areas of their life.

        • Richard says:


          It does not. It is simply one example of him being “lucky”. You commented about making one’s own luck after I made the comment and my response is simply that I do not believe that one makes their own luck on such matters.


  19. Nikos says:

    HTML will not be supported across all browsers for at least 6+ years + developing complex business applications in html and JS is a pure pain. The only risk I see for flash is Silverlight being supported on $iphone ect

  20. docred says:

    Lol….to reiterate what others have said – Apple certainly did not kill the floppy 🙂 I’m sure they helped when they introduced their floppy diskless systems, but Mr. Egomaniac Steve Jobs and Co. can’t quite claim that one all.

    I’m afraid I’m still choking on the irony of Jobs talking about free and open standards, when for so many years he stood in the way of anyone but Apple doing anything for his own systems. The irony of this quote….

    “Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. While Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system. Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open. HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member.”

    From the following article

    should be apparent to anyone who knows anything about Apple from over the years. Apple has done more proprietary work and denied more people and companies the ability to work with their hardware and software than most other companies. Apple are masterful marketers…but average developers and hardware techs. It is ironic that Jobs talks about the ‘PC era’ when his systems are now built with a ‘PC’ processor. As far as I remember, their step to using the BSD unix core in their operating system was the first significant step they took into opening up their products.

    Mr. Jobs is certainly good at drumming up hype. Apple has some great products and some great ideas (the Touch is one heck of a device and very versitile) but often they are successful in spite of themselves. If they had been more open and progressive during the 90s, they would be much further ahead.

    Again, as someone mentioned above – HTML5 as the prevalent standard is probably years away. As of February 2010, only Chrome, Safari, and IE8 fully support it I believe. It will come – but it will take time. Will Flash die? Probably at some point, or mutate into another form if the company can get a handle on things. With the market penetration and number of applications and sites that use it now though, it isn’t going anywhere for a long time. That is fact. That is the numbers. Pie in the sky Apple fans may love their devices, but this is business, and it trumps love 🙂 It costs money to make big changes…money for every company with a website to pay developers and web programmers to change things. Remember I.E. 6? It is old….out of date. Still around even now, because of economics. Not everyone can afford the latest and greatest.

    Apple is an important company with a lot of successes. They also have a lot of lame ducks in the closet, just like other companies. They have a respectable though less than significant computer market share. Iphones and Pads in their present form will not replace a desktop or a laptop…anyone who works at a computer most of the day for a living knows that. Apple is certainly no Intel or Microsoft though. Jobs single mindedness has always been his greatest strength, and his greatest weakness. Ahh for the days of the Apple II line, when Apple really did stand for openness, innovation, and forward thinking.

    Whew!!! Rant done 🙂

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