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  • Apple Versus Adobe: The “Can’t We Just Get Along?” Argument

    May 10th, 2010

    So tech pundits continue to weigh in on the world war between Apple and Adobe. While some suggest that Flash has long since outlived its usefulness, others either favor Adobe, or want to find some middle ground. When it comes to deciding between the disparate interests of two countries, serious compromise is essential. But when it comes to a corporate conflict that has a simple yes or no answer, the gray area approach is destined to fail.

    Infoworld’s Galen Gruman is a typical example of a compromise advocate. Perhaps in the tradition of former President Jimmy Carter, he is advancing “The Infoworld peace plan,” where he first defines the arguments and then suggests the two companies sit down, discuss their concerns, and, in the tradition of all those DAs on TV’s “Law and Order,” make a deal.

    The question is, of course, just what is it that these two companies need to talk about? Steve Jobs has already defined the problems with Flash and, unfortunately, Gruman glosses over some of the concerns and fails to address what may be the most serious issue of all.

    Yes, Gruman is very upfront about Flash’s well-known stability problems and doesn’t dispute the fact that there are security concerns as well. Unfortunately his credibility begins to sink when he asserts that “Apple has had its share of security issues on the Mac OS,” forgetting that none of those alleged issues have resulted in widespread malware outbreaks. The most serious security issues impacting the Mac are caused by social engineering. You download a bogus file such as a pirated application from a torrent site, launch it, and it performs its mischief.

    When it comes to the question of hogging resources, Gruman admits the existence of the problem, but doesn’t really define the “battery power” complaint beyond that single phrase. According to Steve Jobs, battery life on a smartphone is cut in half by Flash. That threatens to be a far more serious issue than just causing the OS to slow down somewhat because of resource hogging.

    Gruman’s solution is for Apple to allow Adobe to create an iPhone plugin. Period. The rest of his suggestions are simply logical consequences of the first. However, he ignores the thrust of Jobs’ complaint that “Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?”

    If you believe what Jobs says there, and there’s no reason to assume it’s not true, Apple has already delivered their “show me” argument to Adobe without success. If it’s possible to build a Flash player that satisfies all or most of Apple’s concerns, it would be a trivial matter for Adobe to stage a special media event and demonstrate a working product.

    So where is it?

    If Apple is lying that Flash is the biggest cause of crashes on Mac OS X as Adobe claims, surely they can produce crash logs that reveal the real offender.

    So where are those logs?

    Adobe’s initial reaction to Apple’s complaint is that it’s all a “smokescreen,” but it appears to me that the smoke is actually spewing forth from Adobe’s side. They have had lots of time to prove that Apple is wrong. Instead they are busy encouraging their media partners to echo their unproven statements, when they’re not crying crocodile tears to the U.S. government.

    In the end I expect the authorities will run a routine inquiry and conclude there’s no evidence to pursue the matter any further. I would be very surprised if they chose to investigate why a private corporation that doesn’t hold anything near a dominant position in a market segment should be subject to antitrust action.

    Yes, the App Store is dominant, but since it only caters to users of the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, it doesn’t impact any other company. If you’re using an Android-based phone, you go to Google’s own marketplace, assuming you can find anything worthwhile beyond a task killer. Is that Apple’s fault?

    Yes, I grant that Adobe might suffer, at least when it comes to control over the way sites are coded. That wouldn’t be so bad if all or most of Flash’s known shortcomings were fixed. Certainly Adobe has the resources to get the job done, but it does seem they are still having problems. Just the other day, there was a published report that so-called “smartbooks,” which are essentially netbooks that use an ARM processor, have been delayed since 2008 because of Adobe’s failure to deliver a satisfactory version of Flash. So I’m not confident that Adobe will do any better for smartphones that, in large part, use the very same processor family.

    While I’m sure Gruman’s heart is in the right place, it’s up to Adobe to produce something to demonstrate at a sit-down session. I see little reason to be optimistic that’s going to happen anytime soon, as more and more sites continue to transition away from Flash.



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