For the last several weeks (or has it been months now?) I’ve watched the Flash wars from a distance. Not for lack of interest but for lack of time. It’s been a busy season around here and for all the rhetoric I think I sensed that for all the headlines I really didn’t have the information I needed to make an informed decision. But I’ve had the chance to get more-or-less caught up and I think I’ve come to a place where I’m willing to come down off the fence.
I think Steve Jobs is right.
To be honest, I’m a little surprised at myself for a number of reasons. There are folks inside Soma Games who will expertly and vocally disagree*, also I just wrote a separate post that is seriously critical of Apple (but for other reasons) and we have a genuine interest in seeing the Flash/Flex/Air runtime continue to thrive as we get more diversified from the iThing family of products. All that said, when I read Job’s ‘Thoughts on Flash‘ and watched some of his comments on a recent D8 interview I must confess that I’m convinced.
For one thing, where I’m less willing to condemn Flash to its autumn, for the last 12-18 months I’ve spoken and acted as though the turning of Adobe’s leaves is here. As I heard that metaphor roll out I found myself nodding my head at thoughts I’d never put words to – as cool as Flash is, it is getting pretty long in the tooth. What’s more, Apple has proved remarkably prescient in the past – more than once – but in all other cases their technological eccentricity was seen as only that and who really cared if the iMac lacked a floppy drive…until a bunch of other folks started doing the same thing shortly thereafter. This decision is different because the iThings are now substantially driving a whole industry. The decisions made by Apple now effect a much wider group of people, not only those AppleWacks.
Job’s ‘rollover’ argument is half-baked. Gozillions of non-Flash sites have the exact same problem – they need to rewritten as well – so what? Though I do think that ‘touch’ is absolutely the future which DOES make the call to support current Flash sites moot even if it has zero relevance going forward. I don’t see that Flash was designed for mice so much as the web, Flash or otherwise, has been designed for mice (the mice that Apple had a big hand in universalizing I might add).
For me though, the clincher was these two lines from Jobs’ letter:
“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.”
“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.”
If those two statements are materially accurate, and I believe they are, then I am compelled to conclude that Adobe is in fact lazy just like Jobs has suggested, or at least that they really don’t WANT to stay relevant in the very exciting, fast-moving and innovative space that’s developing around smartphones and tablets. I hate to sound melodramatic but it’s an actual fact that the iPhone changed my life. I got into web development when it was all wild west and booming biz. By late 2008 we had tumbleweeds in the office. Web development had become so commoditized that we found it difficult to compete with untrained twits writing code from their mother’s basements. But when we tried our hand at the iPhone things got fun and exciting again. No, it’s not the only thing going, but it certainly started something huge and it’s kept food on my table for the last 18 months. If Adobe just doesn’t have the corporate will to adapt to the new environment then it’s that attitude that I find the most condemning part of this story almost regardless of the technological arguments. What’s more, in this light I can’t help but be reminded of the way Adobe has treated Flash’s most widely known flaw – its search engine opacity. This has been a huge gaping hole in the technology for 10-15 years and Adobe still hasn’t really fixed what is a HUGE problem (See Penseodor and Gaia).
If Apple’s offer to include a better implementation of Flash remains open then I sure hope Adobe gets off it’s butt and make some changes. Answering legitimate concerns and questions with full-page advertisements is, in a word, lazy. Resting on yesterday’s achievements is lazy (which is incredible ironic to me – it could be argued that the self-contained SWF movie was an early version of today’s apps). And whining that your product isn’t keeping up is lazy. I’m even starting to see your whole CS5 play as lazy as well – unwilling or unable to make the runtime meet reasonable performance specs you instead tried to slip through a back door.
C’mon Adobe – show us that you aren’t too fat and slow to adapt and we’ll carry you into 2020. Drag your feet, delay, and waste another two years(!) and we’ll be sweeping yellow leaves from the Flash tombstone.