Adobe Flash 10.1 for Mobile

Choosing a live interview as his platform of choice, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen fired back at Apple and Steve Jobs' open letter "thoughts on Flash".

Roughly addressing each of Jobs' points:

  1. Narayan chuckled at the thought of Flash being considered closed. "Flash is an open specification." They're using different meanings for "open" here. Clearly Adobe owns Flash but they're fairly open about its use. It's a dependent standard.

  2. It does not appear as though he addressed the full web question this time, but has said in the past 75% of video runs on Flash. He also didn't address the growing number of sites bypassing Flash and going directly to H.264.

  3. Security and performance were addressed by blaming Apple for Mac OS X. Since security for Flash (and Acrobat) are an even larger concern for Windows users, we're not sure how seriously we can take him on that. We've also had enough Flash-related crashes on our Windows machine to not buy that argument either. Certainly, until the most recent version of OS X, Apple didn't provide the low-level hardware access Adobe needed for better performance.

  4. Narayan called Jobs assertion about battery life drain for Flash "patently false". Jobs was fairly specific in separating out software decoding as being the drain. Narayan said every accusation Jobs made could be explained by an Apple proprietary lock. However, we're not certain when Apple locked Sorensen decoding out of every chipset on the planet...

  1. Flash websites being designed for point-and-click mouse interaction versus multitouch gestures was not addressed.

  2. In response to Jobs' "most important reason", Apple's desire not to have an intermediary exist between developers and iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad devices in the form of CS5 Flash packager-like cross-compilers, Narayan pointed to 100 apps already created in Flash and already approved for the App Store. However, he didn't address Jobs' point, which was that while easier for developers, it created a barrier towards platform feature implementation.

Countering a carefully prepared, piece-by-piece massacre of your product by someone like Steve Jobs and Apple marketing during a live interview is gutsy but probably not the wisest course of action.

Narayan also didn't try to counter Jobs fatal thrust -- that there's still no functional, full implementation of Flash on mobile despite talk of it going back to 2007. He didn't have to -- no one should think for a moment that, even if Adobe could deliver functional, full Flash for mobile at some point in the not-so-distant future, that Apple would allow it.

Again, Apple views Flash just like IE6 and ActiveX -- something that was once needed but is being surpassed by better, standards-based alternatives. That Microsoft held ActiveX and Adobe is trying to share Flash is irrelevant. To Apple, it's just another anachronism, and we know Apple's record on those.

Either way, both Apple and Adobe have now gone all in. Either Adobe ships an incredible version of Flash that blows mobile socks off world-round and gets users flocking to Android, webOS, and other alternatives by the millions, or Apple gets all the sites that matter to serve them direct H.264 and port their games over to the App Store.

The ground war has begun.

[WSJ blogs]