iPhone SDK: Smashing Flash Rumors

Daring Fireball has an interesting post up regarding the continued lack of a Flash Player for the iPhone, and the reasons why Flash support for the iTablet/iSlate/iPad is unlikely:

I’ll leave the last word to Apple COO Tim Cook, who a year ago said, “We believe in the simple, not the complex. We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

Flash is owned and controlled by Adobe.

Gruber breaks it down into several broad strokes.

  • According to Apple plugins in general, and according to sources at Apple, Flash in particular, is the leading cause of crashes on Mac OS X.
  • In order to make a 64-bit version of Safari on Mac, Apple had to create a new plugin architecture because Adobe (still) only makes 32-bit Flash and since Apple has no control of the Flash code, they have to work around it.
  • Flash is the only remaining major web technology that's proprietary and controlled by one company, which is not good for the web, and if Apple can't control something, they'd rather it be non-proprietary.
  • Flash performance on Mac OS X is poor compared to QuickTime. Adobe would like to address this via direct hardware acceleration, Apple would rather developers use the existing, higher-level QuickTime APIs.
  • Flash is used as a runtime, which Apple doesn't support on the iPhone.

I'll add two more things to this list, especially applicable to the iPhone:

  • Flash is an increasingly large target for malware attacks. While Apple is slow to respond to zero day exploits, Adobe is as well. The idea that Apple would have to wait on Adobe to patch an iPhone exploit is likely not appealing to Apple, and might seem glacial to end users concerned with security.
  • Flash is privacy hostile, allowing sites to store "Flash cookies" which can restore deliberately deleted browser cookies and otherwise track user data. That Adobe still doesn't better inform their users, and relies on an obscure website to provide controls is troubling to say the least. (That page is supposed to contain site-specific permission for Flash to access webcams. Mine contains entries for major online media sites and e-commerce stores).

Apple believes control helps them create the best user experience. It's incredibly frustrating at times, but it's how they've built their business and arguably attained some of their success.

I don't believe for one moment Apple is pushing open standards over Flash for altruistic reasons. In this instance, however, their reasons happen to coincide with what's better for the web. They're also are one of the few companies powerful and popular enough to push HTML5 video.

The iPhone and quite possibly the iTablet are their best shot at doing that.