Adobe’s CEO responds to Apple’s Open Letter On Flash

Frankly the Adobe CEO’s WSJ interview, which ended up focussing on his rebuttal of Steve Jobs’ Open Letter on Flash, was embarrassing.

Mr. Narayen called Steve’s accusations of Flash draining battery power “patently false.” A statement which is in itself “patently false”.

Mr. Narayen also said that if Adobe crashes on Apple, then that actually has something “to do with the Apple operating system.” Something which brought both laughter and ire from a large portion of both the Apple User and Developer communities.

And finally on Jobs’s assertion that Adobe is a closed platform, Mr. Narayen chuckled and said. “I find it amusing, honestly. Flash is an open specification.”

None of these statements make much sense. And all smack of damage limitation in a battle that Adobe themselves have admitted defeat in with their announcement earlier this week that they would not be pursuing development of tools for Flash on the iPhone.

Microsoft themselves in a blog entry about Internet Explorer have also made it very clear that in future implementations of Internet Explorer their HTML5 engines will only support H.264 video.

Even more embarrassingly ex-employes of Adobe have openly criticised Adobe’s strategy with regards to mobile-platforms and the iPhone in an interview with Wired. In that article they cite Adobe’s strategy as the reason they ultimately left the company.

For a second time in Apple’s and Adobe’s history it seems that Adobe have chosen to ignored an Apple platform in its early stages and been caught out looking incredibly slow later on. If they had only made some fairly intelligent decisions early on we may not all be obsessing over this tech grudge match, and we might even have seen some form of Flash on the iPhone. This seems like something that will never happen now.

Meanwhile the majority of right thinking bloggers and technical analysts all agree that Apple is forging ahead with an aggressive strategy to create a dominant product eco-system, and ensure continued market leadership in mobile devices with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Basing this strategy on hard lessons they learned in their dealings with companies like Adobe in the past, and their loss of market leadership in the desktop computer sector in the tech industry’s now ancient history.

What is your take on Adobe’s reaction to all this? Do you think Steve is right, or Mr. Narayen’s response was on the right track? Let us know in the comments.

8 Comments on “Adobe’s CEO responds to Apple’s Open Letter On Flash”

  1. stephennorthcott

    @pavja2 : Absolutely. The CS5 Compiler makes native ARM code, and also exposes a subset of Apple's own iPhone OS API to Flash Developers. But it only exposes what Adobe wants to. It also does not address any of the issues Apple have with Flash in terms of buggy-ness or resource hogging.

    Furthermore Adobe have shown time and time again that they cannot (or will not) keep pace with Apple as they develop their operating systems. This has been shown with Adobe's support of their own desktop tools and Flash on OS X, and their inability to date to have a working version of Flash on *any* mobile platform at all – despite promises of demos earlier this year, and last year.

    @Bart Well, plenty of us have seen Flash related crashes, and performance problems related to Flash. And many of us have either BashFlash or ClickToFlash installed on our Macs for that reason.

    On other platforms Adobe have had access to low level graphics APIs for quite some time, and that has not done much to improve either their use of resources, bugginess, or power consumption profiles.

    It's not really a smoke screen from Jobs. What it is is Apple learning from the past. They don't want to be tied to middle-ware, or any partner who can slow them down as they try to maintain market dominance. They also don't want to potentially have to deal with end-users complaining when Flash breaks each time Apple updates its OS / SDK. And they certainly don't want resource issues that have been very clearly shown to come with all attempts at earlier mobile versions of Flash. Those being something different from full blown Flash, which is more resource intensive still.

    If you take a look at Unity. Unity breaks many of the same clauses in the iPhone SDK Developer Agreement as Adobe do with Flash. And yet Unity are able to keep pace with Apple in terms of development, and have acted a little more maturely about all this. Hence Apple are still talking to them about how they can both move things forward.

    Unity had an iPad version of their tools out before the iPad was released, for example. Adobe have not managed to get a working version of Flash (even internally as some kind of Alpha or Beta) to Apple, for the iPhone, since 2007!

  2. Rick


    While you may not have experienced any crashes on your macs, I sure have. Perhaps the sites you are visiting have better flash coding.

    Whenever a program crashes I look at the crash reports that are to be sent to Apple. Every time Safari crashed it was Flash.

    Out of frustration, I ended up installing Click to flash on all our Macs. Unsurprisingly, the crashes stopped.

  3. Patrick

    As a user experience designer, I've been wanting Flash to go away for over a decade. I hate having to make myusers deal with two navigational metaphors at the same time. If theyhit the back button, the flash page is gone. Good riddance, Flash. You were for the era of 1997 dial-up modems. Ciao!

  4. pavja2


    What it does is makes it possible to write iPhone apps in the FLASH LANGUAGE. Then end result is the exact same assembly code and binary going through the processor as something made with the official SDK. The CS5 compiler is simply a translator, taking commands written in one language and moving them to another, attacking the Flash web platform is apple's way of converting the masses who don't understand technology, the flash you use on your computer and the CS5 compiler are two entirely different things. All of this BS that Jobs is making up about flash's shortcomings does not apply to this particular case.

  5. Bart Telmy

    The first statement is not patently false. Flash battery consumption is old news. As soon as Apple opens up the APIs to the GPU and gives outside developers the same access as they have internally, this became a non-issue. FWIW, I have used Flash a lot on my Macs and have not experienced any crashes. Not sure why, but it hasn't been an issue for me on 3 Macs.

    What I agree with Adobe is that the bottom line is that this is not about technology, that is a smokescreen. It's about money and control of the sales channel. I don't hold that against Jobs, but his blog rant was disingenuous at best.

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