Steve Jobs posts "Thoughts on Flash", or why you'll never see Flash on iPhone or iPad

Steve Jobs Thoughts on Flash

Steve Jobs has posted his "Thoughts on Flash" up on, and like his previous thoughts on (DRM) music, it's a fascinating insight into the mind and tactics of Apple's CEO. As background, this follows up iPhone, iPod touch, and now iPad shipping without Flash support, Apple's recent change in license to prevent the use of cross-compilers like Adobe Flash CS5's Packager for iPhone (which let developers make Flash apps and output iPhone apps), and Apple's recent addition of Mac APIs to allow hardware accelerated Flash on the desktop.

Jobs begins by stating how close Apple and Adobe were and how they've drifted apart. He then breaks down his case against Flash on mobile into 6 key areas:

  1. Flash is not open, it's wholly owned and controlled by Adobe. While Apple also has proprietary products, they believe the web should be open, and Jobs singles out Apple's support of WebKit (the rendering engine behind Safari, Chrome, etc.) as an example of this in action.

  2. Flash is not needed for the "full web" because H.264 is becoming the standard and as sites update to support H.264 they automatically provide video supported by the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. He lists Vimeo, Netflix, Facebook, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ESPN, NPR, Time, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, People, National Geographic as examples. Jobs also says Flash games aren't needed because the App Store has 50,000 games, more than any other platform in the world, and many of them free.

  3. Security and performance. Flash is increasingly an attack vector for malware, and Apple still claims it's the number one cause of crashes on the Mac.

In addition, Flash has not performed well on mobile devices. We have routinely asked Adobe to show us Flash performing well on a mobile device, any mobile device, for a few years now. We have never seen it. Adobe publicly said that Flash would ship on a smartphone in early 2009, then the second half of 2009, then the first half of 2010, and now they say the second half of 2010. We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?

  1. Battery life, Jobs claims, would take a significant hit with Flash support. Since H.264 content already runs on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad natively and with full hardware decoding, that only leaves the older codecs for Flash, and these would require the much more "expensive" software decoding.

  2. The move to multitouch is not supported by a mouse pointer-centric Flash sites that use rollovers and other desktop behaviors and since these will need to be re-written anyway, Jobs believes they might as well be re-written in open HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript formats.

  3. Most importantly, Jobs says Apple doesn't want 3rd party cross-compilers sitting between developers and the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

The third party may not adopt enhancements from one platform unless they are available on all of their supported platforms. Hence developers only have access to the lowest common denominator set of features. Again, we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor’s platforms.

Flash is a cross platform development tool. It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms. For example, although Mac OS X has been shipping for almost 10 years now, Adobe just adopted it fully (Cocoa) two weeks ago when they shipped CS5. Adobe was the last major third party developer to fully adopt Mac OS X.

(Insert your Final Cut Pro jokes here).

Jobs ends with his characteristic "boom":

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

After his "thoughts on music", we slowly saw DRM get dropped and iTunes music go "free". Will Jobs' "thoughts on Flash" cause a similar evolution of the open web?


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 52 comments. Add yours.

Frank says:

Flash is not open? Talk about calling the kettle black, Apple.

Ummm says:

Adobe started with a flash-to-html5 canvas toolkit with CS5. I'd imagine they would be just about done with it had the disingenuous Mr Jobs had not allowed them to burn 16 months and God knows how many engineering man-hours building something he knew he would reject 2 days before its release.
But that wouldn't fit into Jobs whitewashing, which his legions of sycophants will now defend in the comments.

Gil says:

and boom goes the dynamite

francolasalsa#IM says:

I dont care if its flash or html5 just get videos on my iphone !!! To be fair i can already watch html5 videos from and other sites and no flash ( from any device) so  steve jobs is RIGHT about flash and mobile device 

Anti-Fanboy says:

1) Fliash is not open. Neither is Apple. I don't buy the open web crap. If apple wanted open web then why are there no other browsers for the iPhone. Sounds like he is closing our web options right out of the gate.
2) H.264 is becoming the standard... BS How many major sites are still flash based and how many are HTML5? Hulu anyone... not for iPhone unless the develop an app for it.
3) crashes on the Mac.. Just becuase you can not make a computer / OS that does not crash if any little outside application sneaks in don't blame adobe. Does my PC crash, yey, but it also supports everything in the world, not the 3 programs speciically written for it. I will take the occasional crash for options.
4) Battery life... again, don't blame the shortcomings of your hardware on someone else.
5) move to multitouch... you finally got one right... multitouch MAY not play well with SOME flash sites. They can be rewritten just like you need to rewrite them anyway for HTML5. So I take away the 1 I gave you.
6) 3rd party cross-compilers... again... a line of BS. Let the developers write code in whatever they want. The compilers may not include the latest feature in OS4 but guess what, the programmers don't know it either. If they learn it or someone includes it in the compiler it will take time to take advantage of the new features in your OS.
Apple has replaced Microsft as the ig EVIL in the computer world.

Country Boy says:

@ Frank.
I guess you didn't read the article, or if you did you failed miserable at comprehension.
"Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open."
Adobe was the one going around saying Apple is closed while Adobe is open, so how is that calling the kettle black?

Michael says:

Way to go Stevie! Stick it to the man! Flash is good but we can do better. So let's do better.

a1by says:

@country boy
Apple is a closed system for the following reasons
- lock in of hardware and software (i.e. iPhone, Mac, iPad)
- AppStore: Apple dictates what is kosher and what is not (in some cases arbitrarily)
Just because you are a closed system doesn't mean it's bad, just that it isn't open to competitors.

sting7k says:

All good points. Lets hope this has similar effect as his DRM letter did. Bye bye Flash, I won't miss you.

Rob says:

you are retarded. Every point you make is under researched or just miss understood. There are other web browsers for the iPhone, like opera for instance. When he says flash crashes macs, he said that because he makes macs! Flash also crashes windows, so the point is not to support a program that is such a memory hog that it causes os's to stop working. Im not saying that I agree with apples stance on flash, but I am anti uneducated comments.

Dragonfly says:

Couldn't care less about how open or closed Apple or Adobe's flash are, what I do care about is the performance of whatever device I'm using. And from my experience Flash is a complete performance and power hog that needs to die. The sooner we get rid of it, the better.

OmariJames says:

Hmm. I think he'll force out flash the way he pioneered the end of floppy drives. I own a 2008 iMac and if I had top many seperate windows in safari running flash videos safari will crash. I thought it was apple's fault untill I remember the last time I used a PC in my home many eons ago ( back in 2008 haha ) IE I'll freeze up in the same case.
I say get rid or flash. I beleive the whole security problem because Ive had situations where sites like Overstock will stalk me. If you do a search for a product on that site and they advertise else where , that product will be in your face for about a month. Kinda scary.
Flash for desktops is also resource heavy.

OmariJames says:

As for the " adobe isnt open " bit , it DOES sound very contradicting. However in terms of web standards I don't think it is.

sting7k says:

@Anti-Fanboy, you are confusing "the web" with "iPhone OS". As Steve said the OS IS proprietary, you can still get to all the open web through Safari. Not having another browser isn't blocking you from the web. And by the way, there are other browsers in the app store; they all use webkit and there is also Opera Mini.

Hang says:

As Steve jobs said flash is one of the main reason for macs to crash..... I hav been experiencing this a lot with all if a sudden message, " flash plugin crashed/out" something like tht, n the safari goes like without flash. Then I wld need to refresh safari to play the flash video.

scoremann says:

@Dbag... I mean @Anti-Fanboy, I believe Apple business plan is to make products that are are easy to use and easy to learn for the masses. Just because they do it well and make a lot of money doing it doesn' t make them is evil. If you don't like it, do not buy their products. Another platform may be better suited for you. Grab a Android phone and return to your basement.

Scott K says:

To all the Apple haters - This is exactly the same backlash Jobso and company received when they took the floppy drive out of Macs years ago and put this unknown thing called USB ports in its place. Where are floppies now?
Listen, it doesn't matter if you're for or against the lack of Flash on the iPhone and iPad. It all matters to the person who uses the mobile device. Who's life is destroyed because you can't get Flash on the iPhone? If you can't live without Flash on your iPhone, well go buy a phone that can! Come on - how hard was that? Not a good idea for you? How about you develop the next jesus phone and code it for Flash.
@Anti-Fanboy: Please don't comment on something you don't practice. As a full-time professional CROSS platform developer, I am here to tell you H.264 is becoming the new standard. And, Flash is probably in the top 3 for kernel panics on the Mac platform. Also, as a point of interest: My firm receives more complaints from my clients about Flash than any other platform we code for. This goes for Windows and Mac platforms.
Battery life - it's not important? Failure of a hardware platform? I challenge you to find one mobile device on par with the iPhone that has a battery life comparable or better that is Flash compliant. (Don't even bother looking, I can tell you there are none. They are all about the same.)

Andre says:

Good for the user/customer but not perfect for the rest.

Starship says:

1) Yeah, there are other browsers in the iPhone, including Opera with it's own engine...
2) yes, h264 it's a standard, you don't see hardware decoders for other formats in any mobile device, and even blu-ray is h264. flv is only good inside flash. You don't see good media players based on flv. flv players sucks...
3) If that was true, then every non-apple software would crash on a mac, and you know that this is not the case...
4)Hardware limitations exist, you can't just say it's some company's fault, it's technology. What you CAN do instead, is get the most of what you have with the best possible power management and optimized software/hardware that consumes the minimum possible amount of power. And this is also better for the environment...
5)Yeah, it's right. re-write them! ;)
6)And what about important features like multi-tasking? It's been a long time for apple to support it and then you want to wait for adobe to support it too... how long that would be?
Yes, apple is becoming evil. The problem is that every company that starts to dominate in a market eventually becomes evil. In my opinion, no company should dominate in any market. In a perfect scenery we should have balance between companies that compete for the best possible products. But we don't live in a perfect world, right?

Jerry-O says:

GAH!!! When will it end... we know apple will never support flash. This is a non story.


It really amuses me that the Mac haters always go into such a rant about everything Apple. We know there are things we would like changed, but you don't see us lurking around the dingy corners of Winboy sites moaning about Microsoft. If you don't like Apple and love Microsoft so much why bother mocking? Some of these dudes really have issues - seek help, please!

Visi says:

And you can still get to all the open web through Flash.

Johnsen says:

ohhhh, come on steve. just don't talk about flash.
Nobody cares, if it's open and owned by Adobe, or closed, really No Customer. JUST YOU!
You could have saved those 1700 words and just write this sentence, because that's all about it.
"We don't want to give control on our IphoneOS to anybody. We are not an "open" system and we don't care what customers really want."
So funny, Steve Jobs is telling Adobe to create more HTML5-Tools. Great Guy, really.
That's why Google and Android will win in the long term, they just begun..... keep an big eye on it Steve, with your super-closed system!

Joe McG says:

Wow! I'm really glad Steve posted this. While I'm not a fanboy at all, he convinced me he's right. That, coupled with the fact Adobe can't get flash to work on android and keep pushing back the release.

danny92975 says:

Adobe devs are too lazy to innovate the old Macromedia's Flash. Adobe is closed they want their expensive CS5 suite to be a compiler for all mobile smartphones but are not willing to innovate the software to comply with the leader of mobile phones with only 4 years of existence. Apple has lead the way and put tremendous pressure on mobile makers to innovate. They have inspired or motivated companies to change so why is Adobe not doing the. Adobe should create a mobile smartphone and run flash to it's hearts content, why don't they????

JonnyPancakes says:

The dumbasses claiming that Apple is closed, should really read the article before opening their mouths and exposing us literate people to their moronic ways.
Steve states that Apple has their own "proprietary material". They believe the Web, meaning all web sites and the material on them, should be open, meaning that any device should be able to access it with the proper web browser without having to install 20 billion plugins.
And whoever said it was closed because the iPhone only offers one browser is obviously ignorant of the fact the that Opera's Mini browser was just released a few weeks back.
I have need for Flash on my phone anyway. Jailbreak lets me install a plugin that allows for any movie to be played, but i haven't run across a site yet that doesn't offer the Safari it's support.

tom says:

where is chrome, mozilla, or any other browser. safari blows, I want my google chrome on my iPhone. oh wait, I can't, but not bc apple isn't open. well. at least I can choose from safari and opera

MJ32 says:

Great job Steve! Apple Rules!

tom says:

oh hey Johnny. by the way, since apple is so open and free, why exactly are you jailbroken?

Jellotime91 says:

I'm glad Steve wrote about this. He's right. Apple gave them the opportunity to develop a quality flash prototype, and they failed. Apple even asked them to make their own iPhone app for browsing with flash, and adobe refused to do it because they didn't want to put their name on the crap performance either.
So I really hope Adobe can stop whining about it.

GinoDotCom says:

Regardless of what Steve says, many websites still use flash and it is very noticeable on the iPad. I browse a ton with my iPad and it's almost embarrasing that some websites are still not compatible with a device that's labeled as the best browsing experience.
Love the iPad, but flash is still needed. If not on the iphone, at least on the iPad until the web all converts to html5

P Rock says:

Apple is For Profit company... Abode is a For Profit company... They both want to get new customers and retain existing ones... Apple is obsessed with "customer experience" and they want to control/maximize this to the best of their abilty... Abode products will interfere with there business model (obviously)... Apple explained their rationale why they won't let this happen... It's in Abode best interest prove Apple wrong "sucessfully" incorporating flash on a competing mobile platform...becuz Apple rationale is fairly solid why they won't allow flash (my opinion)

anon says:

More nuanced than closed vs. open. Jobs is saying if it interfaces the web then its open. eg WebKit. Otherwise, like iPhone OS its closed. Flash would conflict with Apple's closed system because Flash is closed too. So, they choose Apple. Since they want the web to be open they choose html 5 over flash too. Moreover they don't want third parties dictating the platform. Seems reasonable to me.

jimbo says:

Ummm...your atrocious command of the language aside...
"not willing to innovate the software to comply with the leader of mobile phones"
That was what Adobe was doing for the past year and a half, completely changing their strategy after the Flash runtime rejection to comply with Apple's rules, until Apple pulled the rug out from under them by making an entirely new set of rules two days before Adobe's launch.

Bshecko says:

Steve Jobs is turning into a royal D-bag

BMFarrell84 says:

The first rule of business is: Do other men for they would do you. - Charles Dickens
Apple is a smart company and will succeed whether or not you people think flash is great.
Its hard to imagine what the internet would be like without flash . . . oh wait its easy . . . no more annoying advertisements. OH NO!

Bshecko says:

Yea, no Flash ads. Now we have iAds built right into iPhone OS 4. So yea...more ads.

The real truth says:

Steve jobs has always been a royal d-bag. You don't enjoy such a level of success by being a nice guy

BMFarrell84 says:

I'm not saying iAds wont be annoying. It will be like Flash.
You have to admit though, Jobs is right. You're only as strong as your weakest link and if Adobe wont upgrade their system for quality all around apps then why bother with them?
My understanding is that there is very little you can do with Flash that you can't do without it.

Moh says:

If apple is open then why do we have to jailbreak our devices
every one needs flash on iPhone

Dantv says:

Alright, the lines are clearly drawn!
We don't need another comment from Adobe or Apple on this issue.
Apple has made its case.
The ball is in Adobe's court---> Time for them to put up or go home once and for all. ALL ADOBE has to do is release a kickass version of Flash on Andriod and I tell you now that it will be game over for the iPhone.

Johnsen says:

And everyone who says html works so smooth.
Surf this HTML(5) Browsergame from EA with extensive graphics with your Iphone and you will realize that html with javascript is far beyond "smooth". lol

danny92975 says:

I apologize for my language if it offends you or anyone else.
Adobe had more than plenty of time to change their software but never delivered. Apple moved on without them, they knew that where Apple stood on compilers before this rule. Apple asked Adobe time and time again to come up with something that would compliment the iPhone but failed to deliver. Time to move on....

ae says:

I'm no fan of Adobe, but this talk about Flash the memory hog or how HTML5 will replace Flash is ignorance. The Web is literally changing every 18 months. HTML5 is 3-5 years from full implementation, and when it comes it will be able to do what Flash did back in 2005--big deal. Plus it will usher in the same old BS of having to develop a ton of variations on a site to satisfy every flavor of browser.
Flash has its problems, but it brought the Web to levels that open source folks could never have imagined. When HTML5 finally fully gets here, it will have the same sucky problems that some of the Flash sites have because it will have to deal with the same issues.

SugarMouth says:

@Scott K
I agree! The floppy disk comment is right on track!

Zooro says:

Flash is not perfect but you Mac fan boys are worse. Say what ever you want about flash.. it has brought a ton of innovation through concept of open computing... I have a mac and have supported them for a long time, but I am done.. You mac boys can run off and make love to each other in your walled off garden with Steve Jobs shiny little toys... while the rest of innovate and create... sure some things will be better than others but we will have the room to fail and try again... while you mac fan boys wait on Steve Jobs to tell you its okay...

Steve Jobs says:

All the Technogeeks cry and complain once again about the dinosaur that is Flash. Yes, I am a royal dbag but I'm a rich royal dbag that creates the best computing products in the world. If I didn't, this would be a non-issue. The bottom line is you like the products my company creates so much, you want us to make what YOU want. Not gonna happen. I dictate what goes in my products and I've told you my Thoughts On Flash and I'll tell you once again - Flash is the Past!
So all of you cyberclowns can wax philosophical about how I'm the evil anti-CyberChrist until 2012 or until your mother's kick you out of the basement. It doesn't matter to me. It's like ants protesting that giant human beings always seem to crush their communities and demand satisfaction.
Question: Do giant humans really care about tiny ants? I'm sure you're still rational enough to answer that question as caffeine and video games hasn't warped your brains too much. But do me a favor: while you're on your 20th Mountain Dew arguing with another cyberloser about how Apple is the evil new world equivalent of Nazi Germany, I'll be sipping my Mocha Latte from Starbucks listening to the latest iTunes pick debating which stock option I'll purchase next and you can pucker your up your lips and just kiss my royal iAss!
Sent from my iPad

RickK says:

What an a..hole! Steve has every right to dictate what he allows on his creations but it totally sucks. As a lifetime Windows user, I now understand why we think Apple is so sucky. I can use everything in my Windows machine and it really doesn't crash often.
In America we are free to make choices and when you sign up for Apple it seems like you leave America and go to Appleville, home of the ruler named Jobs.
As a developer I use whatever tools I deem appropriate. My end users will be the final judges as to whether it was a good choice or not. All I know is that I want my site to be SEEN on a mobile phone. It might not be the best experience but at least it's visible. You're on a phone for christ sake. All you're looking for is a little information. Can we live without Flash on our phones? Certainly. But it forces the developer to create an alternate site for the mobile user. While that is probably a real good idea anyway, it should be optional, just like the tools I use.
I dig my iPhone and I do survive without Flash but being immersed in this world of Jobs for the last year has been insane. I have associates that won't develop for the iPhone because there is no guarantee in the end that Mr. Jobs will accept it.

WHO DAT says:


mastercard prepaid credit card says:

Flash Player is an animation runtime. It's capable of much more than simple video playback. The Flash format is documented and not exclusive to Adobe's tools. H.264 is a patent incubated compression algorithm. Besides, Flash also supports H.264. At least now we know the reasons. Steve Jobs just exposed his ignorance.

Fdev says:

It's funny how Steve Jobs takes care only for his own good.
Just by reading the sentence:
"Flash games aren’t needed because the App Store has 50,000 games, more than any other platform in the world, and many of them free."
Is that so? So he's saying the internet should be completely free, but on the other hand won't let us choose which games to play? (or stringing all apple users to ONLY use one of the 50,000 games that can be found in the appstore...)
Something to think abot...