CEOh-Snap: Jobs Calls Flash "Old Technology", Adobe Calls Apple "Proprietary Lock"


Valleywag claims "people familiar with the meeting" between Steve Jobs and the Wall Street Journal have told them Apple's CEO once again dismissed Flash as "old technology", while Bloomberg News reports on Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen calling Apple a "proprietary lock".

Jobs apparently repeated claims that Flash is buggy and crashes Macs, is a CPU hog with security holes, would reduced battery life to 1.5 hours, and was basically old technology, something Apple doesn't spend time on and historically jettisons quickly, like floppy drives, FireWire 400, and even optical drives on the MacBook Air. Switching to H.264 was said to be trivial, though Valleywag points out it's fairly non-trivial in implementation.

Narayen, commenting on the record, had this to say:

"Considering the amount of content on the Web that uses Flash — not allowing your consumers to access that content isn't showing off the Web in all its glory. Apple's business model is more trying to maintain a proprietary lock."

Since, Open Screen Project or not, Flash is ultimately controlled by Adobe while HTML5 is an open standard, the "proprietary lock" comment is a tad ironic. Narayen, however, also pointed out that Flash 10.1 was the the "middle-ground" solution Jobs himself asked for following the launch of the iPhone -- more fully featured than Flash Lite, not as resource intensive as Flash (Full).

The Apple vs. Adobe, iPhone vs. Flash debate has beaten whole heaping herds of horses to death now, so we'll just ask you this -- do comments from the CEOs, on the record or gossipy alike, inform or sway your opinion in any way?


Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 50 comments. Add yours.

zeagus says:

They don't sway my opinion, but it's amusing to watch. The right honorable representative from "proprietary lock" is the one championing open standards and trapping the entertainment industries into removing DRM. Irony, Adobe, look it up!

Zsb says:

Html 5 is not a standard (yet) due, in part, to apple and friends pushing for h.264 in order to keep their propietary lock and prevent open source browsers from competing with theirs.

Tansen says:

Apple pushing for the open format like that is great, and it's true that flash is definitely old technology. Every crash I ever have on my PC is from flash-related issues. Apple is very great to advocate for the new HTML5, and Adobe needs to either shape up or stop complaining. Apple gains nothing by having people use HTML5 instead of Flash since Apple has no stake in HTML5, given that it is more open, and this is proof that they are concerned primarily for the quality of the experience by the end-user.

dloveprod says:

I still think that people should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to use flash, not apple. And I want my google voice app, it won't confuse me, I swear.

desjones4ever says:

But if Apple were to let it on the iPhone or iPad if it causes problems most consumers are not going to blame Adobe they will blame Apple.

Cool Cases says:

This is funny.
I like the argument about battery life considering iphone next version will use a new screen that decreases battery life for no apparent reason (perhaps they got a deal or a partnership?)

MrAnonymous says:

We don't need Flash. Not that big of a deal.
Steve Jobs
Sent from iPhone.

Luke Wilson says:

Hi, Luke Wilson here. I know a lot of you have been wondering what hipster tweed jacket I would wear for my next commercial. Please go to and vote to decide how smug and douchey I will be for the next commercial. Thanks!

Edie says:

Like Apple said: "if you're not a fan of the software, then go & make your own software!"
(Not the exactwords, but it's somewhat like it.)

frog says:

Flash 10.1 isn't even released yet!

Yobad says:

Honestly if the next iPhone isn't totally amazing and actually has features I want. I might go android or 7 series for my next phone. And I know there are cons to flash but some sites are totally flash based and thus unviewable on the iPhone. I think people should have the choice if they want it or not and not be forced to wait several more years untill HTML 5 is finally the standard for the web.

icebike says:

I don't like flash. I don't need Punch the monkey ads.
But seriously, if Flash crashes Macs Apple needs to learn how to write an Operating System. Flash never crashes my Win7, Ubuntu, or OpenSUSE machines.
Seriously Steve, write a better OS, or go out an "borrow" another one.

icebike says:

@Luke Wilson:
Want to learn to be smug and douchy? Look up Justin Long. He has it down pat.

TEHKI says:

why cant we have flash 10.1 when it comes out?

Kris M says:

@coolcases, umm, so unless you are breaking a very binding NDA, how do you know about the next version iphone and what it is made out of and how its battery life compares to previous? Enquiring minds want to know....

icebike says:

@Cool Cases:
Yes it it funny.
If the iPhone processor was half as good as Apple brags, Flash wouldn't be a problem.
If the iPhone OS was half as robust as Apple says Flash wouldn't crash it.
If the Steve's sandbox was worth didly squat, Flash wouldn't be a risk.
Lets face it, this is cat fight between a bunch of bitchy egomaniacs. Both sides need to get over themselves.

Pat says:

I remember seeing flash sites TEN years ago. They were annoying then and they are still annoying now. Flash is only for adverts or for web devs with too much time on their hands.
Getting Click-to-Flash for Mac was one if the best things I ever did.

Dimwit says:

Until Adobe PROVES that flash can run on the iphone in the real world, I call bullshi%. If they can make it work, why not release it for the jailbreak community?

Lady Kaede says:

For my Macs, I use Click2Flash. Highly recommended. CEO comments are always good to hear, so thanks TiPb -- though I don't think by themselves they've ever convinced me of anything. I suppose Steve might single-handedly convince me with a public comment, but I can't recollect that he's done so yet.

Wyatt says:

I wish flash would just dissappear. People say they want the choice to use Flash or not but in reality it's a perceived choice. Some sites don't offer a non-Flash equivalent and if it's important then you ate forced to install it. So were is the choice. Video sites that are all done in FLV files, where's the choice there. It's already been made for you. Companies using lots if Flash content for their sites got "locked in" and didn't even see it coming. HTML 5 really needs to promote open standards and proprietary formats like Flash, WMV, Silverlight, etc should have no place in it. Those who want Flash on their phone will have a rude awakening when they see how bad it is on a small mobile device. Adobe states Flash is coming to all mobile platforms but have yet to even preview a decent version that even mildly appeases reviewers. They have had since 2003 when smartphones first started to appear on the scene to produce any even half decent version and have failed. What would make anyone think that all of a sudden in 2010 that they could do it now. Give me a break. Just like floppy drives all thinks must come to an end... And in this case it's Flash.

Dennis says:

Content providers are looking to make money from what they have been offering for free, and Apple not supporting Flash provides those content providers with a platform for doing that. Adobe recognized after the iPad announcement that content providers are going to work with Apple directly and are not going to push for Flash compatibility, and so Adobe is engaging in a campaign that involves arguing from the standpoint of openness and availability, in order to protect its revenue source from Flash (which is, in fact, content providers).
I never took the criticism that the iPad doesn't support Flash as a viable reason for why the iPad won't succeed. I think the situation is actually the opposite. If a content provider wants to provide content for free on the iPhone OS, it can use h.264; if a content provider wants to differentiate its desktop/notebook content from its iPhone OS content (where content can make money), it won't want the iPhone OS to support Flash at all.

L says:

It's sad that "we" the consumers are caught in the crossfire of these two companies feud! It's getting a bit childish with all the name calling! In the end it should come down to business and the needs of the consumers...

Edie says:

Sorry, you're aren't able to view this message without the use of Flash. Please choose an operating system, and download the supported software in order to have a great experience.

the real truth says:

It is a known fact that flash is more processor intensive than other formats. This is widely documented. And yeah maybe apple should go out and write an os more like windows.....I for one feel left out, what with not having access to all those viruses and worms and malware.......damn you apple!!

icebike says:

@the real truth:
So what if flash is processor intensive? How long are you going to stare at a flash screen on an ity-bity-iPhone? Two minutes?
And who said anything about making it like windows? Or did you just throw that it to be argumentative?
Flash doesn't crash Linux. Flash doesn't crash BSD. Flash doesn't crash Windows 7. So how come Flash crashes OSX?

cardfan says:

From demos, flash looks like crap on mobile devices. Any movie sites will probably disable it. Games aren't even worth the lag time.
I'd rather they moved on and worked on html5.

mark says:

"the 'proprietary lock' comment is a tad ironic."
it's not just ironic, it's false. for that statement to be true, apple would have to have its own, competing format -- something that competes with flash. but it doesn't. apple's pushing the open-standard HTML5. so, the idea of a "proprietary lock" simply doesn't apply.
i'm a bit stuck in the middle; it's frustrating not to be able to see all web content on my iphone (or that others can't see mine on their iphones), but this is probably the only way to "force the issue" and make people abandon flash, once and for all. adobe is lazy. they should have improved it, YEARS ago. but they didn't. it's a catch-22, but i think it's the right move on apple's part.

Oboewan says:

@icebike: Maybe if Flash crashes on Macs, Adobe should learn to write freaking Mac code. Adobe actually has said that most of their code is lazily recycled from the Windows version. Apple should not have to distort a perfectly good operating system in order to work with one stupid piece of crappy web technology. Also, if a site is flash only, it's 90% of the time not worth my time. (Exception: Hulu, who is working on an app) Also, not many people realize this, but the iPhone has a DEDICATED CHIP for decoding H.264 video and it STILL can't run videos and Safari simultaneously. You want to try to throw Flash in? By the time a page loads you'll be back on your PC. Also, Apple wrote iPhone OS as a primarily single-process OS and MobileSafari as an app that is designed to work on its own. There is NO plugin architecture whatsoever, and what Adobe is essentially asking Apple to do is rewrite their entire operating system… Apple's probably thinking "Yeah, as soon as you rewrite your plugin so it WORKS on the Mac." Apple didn't write OSX to run Flash. Adobe "wrote" Flash to "run" on OSX.

Oboewan says:

Also: Can someone from the Adobe camp enlighten me as to how one would simulate mouseovers, the right mouse button, arrow keys, etc. on a multitouch screen?

deadp1xel says:

I still don't see why people need flash on their iPhones, or the iPad, but I do think that the customer should be able to make the decision, and not Apple. Like a previous commenter said, I'm glad there isn't flash just because of those annoying ads. I'm not sure where this "Flash crashes macs" thing came from because I play flash games and even develop in Adobe Flash on my Macbook Pro and have never had a crash or reboot or anything. Not saying that such problems don't exist, just saying I have never personally experienced them.

Rene Ritchie says:

Via Gruber, this is funny because it's true
Me: (tries to visit a local restaurant’s website via iPhone)
Restaurant website: I require Flash. Fuck off.
Me: I just want to know how late you’re open.
Website: Nope.
Me: But I’m on my phone. Don’t you have a little “HTML Version” link up in the corner or
Website: I’m ignoring you.
Me: What if I’m on my phone because I’m out, looking for a place to eat? Didn’t that ever occur to
Website: Fuck entirely off.
(Keep reading via link above!)

Visi says:

Flash crashes Mac? Who cares? I have never had problems with flash and i am sure many others are like me. I hope someday Iphone will not support neither google and i like to see your faces and your excuses "Who wants google, google is devil, google crashes my Mac etc.

Visi says:

Rene you see Steve as priest and Apple as religion. This is your fault.

Sean says:

Flash isn't the problem, it is the developers who use Flash inappropriately that are the problem. Flash is actually a great platform when you use it correctly. All these cracks about websites that are Flash only aren't Flash's fault, anymore than a website that is one giant image would be the JPG format's fault.

Rene Ritchie says:

@Visi -- attempts to invalidate opinion through personal attacks is an ineffective, if revealing, form of discussion.

Oboewan says:

Sean: There's a difference between "websites that use flash" and "websites that ARE flash."
Websites that USE Flash are either (a) too desktop-centric or (b) can be easily adapted to HTML5. Websites that ARE Flash need to die. (This does not apply to Flash as an animation tool as long as you export to a video file.)

Oboewan says:

Thedeadbaby: it's not the consumer's choice. It's Apple's. Adobe is whining to Apple about a MobileSafari plugin framework that doesn't exist. Which is especially bad considering MobileSafari is hard-coded into the OS. Adobe is asking for a complete OS rewrite in exchange for possible compatibility with one piece of outdated web 1.0 crap. It's like if I said "The American government system is nice, but do you think I could stick a parliament in there somewhere?"
Visi: You have not, but many have. And those are the people who have dual-core processors and graphics cards, not to mention mice. And if Google were incompatible, it wouldn't be Apple's fault: it'd be Google's for not adhering to open Web standards or adapting to the marketplace. Apple is doing us all a favor by making the Web more open by encouraging use of HTML5 over Flash (which nowadays is synonymous with "noisy, non-user-friendly Web design), thereby discouraging IE use!

Matt504 says:

Oboewan makes an extremely important point, you can't do mouseovers or other actions with the iPhone, most of the sites people are complaining about, would still have limited functionality even if flash was available on the iPhone, the only flash that would work full time would be annoying flash ads that don't require any user input, and sites like Hulu...
Let's move past flash.

SheiknetChris says:

Personally, I think Adobe should make good on their Packager for Flash apps. Sure it may not help people view Flash ads, but for making self-contained Flash applications available on the iDevices, it may be an excellent compromise.
This would place the onus on the app purchaser and developer, Apple and Adobe would not be culpable and the UX wouldn't be compromised.

luis says:

people understand that flash based websites are almost 85% and no its not hit the monkey....most of it is video sites, especially porn sites he all your local weather, local sites and plenty of online games....if u a apple fan boy, off course u gonna complain or say flash its garbage...but admit it html5 its not gonna be a hit till 2012 till all of the u.s. be hip with smartphones...meaning android, webos, iphone os, and possibly windows series 7 if it doesnt flop

buggy_mac says:

Stevie says "flash is buggy", uhm, i think it's more your MAC OS which is buggy. I read alot of complaints of people, e.g. in the 3d scene, which say, Mac Versions sucks compared to the Windows Version.
This is pretty common, that people say that. So are these companies also "lazy" and their software "buggy". No, it's your fu+++ing MAC OS.
Implement FLASH. Not that big of a deal.
Your Daddy Jobs

andrew says:

I would like flash on my phone and ipad (when i get it) but i will be happy to see when it is gone. i always have trouble with flash and dont like the performance of it when i don't have problems. As far as it being the os i don't agree i run win 2k, xp, vista 7 at work and mac os 10.4 10.5 and 10.6 at home and flash doesnt run good on any of them no matter how fast the machine is it should be replaced.

Fraydog says:

Buggy Mac, do you have any proof behind this? Saying it does not make it so. Saying something without proof merely makes you a moron.
Flash is reliant on so much legacy Carbon code base that it's really silly to think they didn't know Cocoa and Objective-C was where the Mac was going. They've had nine years to figure this out and forge a transition, and failed. Even with 10.1 Beta, Flash CPU usage is way too high. It's clearly not because of the Mac, the Mac is a platform of technical excellence compared to Flash. It's because of Adobe's willful neglect of the Flash codebase and inability to write an Objective-C Cocoa based counterpart.

deviantdj says:

I think this argument is getting tiring. As a person who has worked with flash, and not with flash. I personally dont like it, but that is not my personal opinion. I am also tired of the Fan Boi comment, seriously get a life, so what if someone like Apple Products. I have been an avid user of WIN, MAC, and LINUX for a long time. I have had problems with flash on every system. As for the comment about OS X being buggy fix the os, seriously most ports from windows versions are all just wrapper based. IMO I would personally as a developer on both PC and MAC systems write the code ground up to incorporate a system on both ends. I know that is a lot of work, but it pays off and you provide a better service to your clients.
But in the end, I say flash needs an awakening and this debate is going to cause it. I would like to see more from the Top Dogs as a consumer, to hear more about the direction the companies are chosing, but that is also from a business side. As a developer I need to keep track of these trends to ensure I am providing my consumers the best solutions for what is out there.

Virtuous says:

Removing Flash from my browsers makes many web pages load faster. No more annoying Flash ads!

Orion2021 says:

I am so, soooo tired of the flash debate. NO FLASH!!!!!!!

Preacher says:

History is full of proves, which shows where arrogance and agressive behavior leads. If Apple want to censore and bound users, they will face dark future. Apple sux. Their bussines model can slow down industry and creativity in bigger measures.

Mac Adobe says:

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finance says:

Just go around and knock on doors of investors