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The Adobe Flash Fiction Report

Even when a story is just not true, that doesn’t stop it from being repeated over and over again. Take the silly theory that Apple won’t allow Flash into its mobile walled garden so Steve Jobs could exert more complete control over your online experience. Few will admit that the objections contained in his infamous blog posting by Jobs are true, and that Apple’s reasons at the very least include significant technical considerations.

So it just happens that the latest Android OS software includes the long-promised mobile version of Flash. But it’s also true that this version of Flash remains incredibly buggy. Some Adobe-approved sites work just fine, whereas others cause serious system slow-downs, or plain don’t work properly.

As Jobs — and too few independent tech writers — stated, there are tens of millions of Flash sites out there that weren’t designed with touch in mind. They expect you to use a mouse, trackball, trackpad or similar conventional device to point and click. Touching isn’t a part of the picture, so loads of sites would have to be redesigned extensively to take advantage of this expected state of affairs. The experience with the Android version of Flash fully confirms this serious shortcoming.

Jobs also said that Adobe was late to the party, that they promised a working smartphone version of Flash, but never delivered. You can argue that, yes, such a release exists on the Android platform, so Jobs must be wrong. But that would be true only if that version of Flash answered all or most of Apple’s complaints. It doesn’t.

Just this week, Adobe’s stock is suffering because their earnings report, while showing a 69% increase in net income, has a less favorable outlook for the next quarter, due to flagging back-to-school orders and poor sales in Japan. I suppose it’s possible the “Not Welcome” sign for Flash-based content on the iOS platform has hurt Adobe to some extent, but it doesn’t seem that most people buy Creative Suite products simply to focus on building Flash-based content. Besides, Apple has loosened the requirements for building iOS apps, which means you can, once again, port them from Flash, if that’s what you want.

What that means is that, in the end, the marketplace will decide. If those apps fail to catch on, the developers will either have to find ways to improve them within the existing structure, or use a different programming environment.

Unfortunately many of the objections to Apple’s original position didn’t take into account the consequences of building inferior apps.

Now this doesn’t mean Apple isn’t exerting a substantial level of control, particularly when it comes to the mobile platform. However, Mac OS X, though legally limited to Apple-built personal computers, pays a lot of respect to open source apps. The underbelly of Mac OS X has loads of them. Apple also continues to push industry standards, such as HTML5.

Surprisingly enough, one of the promised advantages of the forthcoming Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 for Windows is that there’s greater adherence to industry standards, including HTML5. Those who have played with the current beta version say it’s as fast or faster than the latest Firefox and fully competitive with Safari and Google Chrome. Such are the advantages of genuine competition.

Returning to the mobile platform, Apple has decided that a controlled environment is good not because the company is populated with control freaks, but because you get a predictable, consistent, reliable user experience without having to worry about carrier-based customizations, or complicated preference settings. Despite the occasional complaints about arbitrary App Store review policies, Apple’s published standards provide at least the assurance that what you download — and often pay for — will perform as advertised without crashing your iPhone.

You cannot say the same about an Android phone. One is definitely not the same as another, once you consider the various OS versions and the fact you may not even be able to install OS updates. Tack onto that the customizations added by the manufacturer and/or the wireless carrier, and all bets are off.

As far as Adobe Flash is concerned, the company is ignoring the best way to demonstrate Apple is wrong in its objections, and that is to deliver a version for the iOS that meets Apple’s objections. If they can do that, a simple YouTube video would prove to one and all that Steve Jobs was wrong.

That hasn’t happened because it is clear to me that Adobe is unable to meet those objections, not out of spite or because they were made by a mercurial control freak CEO, but due to clear and provable technical grounds. The version available for Android smartphone users fails to vindicate Adobe.

So it’s high time that tech pundits abandon their claims about Flash. The truth is out there, if they can handle that truth.