Is the adored, charismatic Apple CEO Steve Jobs secretly the Dark Lord of the Sith in a black turtleneck? The buzz in the universe is that we're all being duped, like Jar-Jar Binks of the Senate Republic stupidly voting for our own enslavement. (Okay, no more Star Wars references.)
Apple has made some devious maneuvers lately, wielding the iPhone like a, um, red sword-like thingy. Is there a master plan in place? Let's break it down:
Three years ago, Apple launched the iconic iPhone whose mobile Safari did not support Adobe Flash. Nor does the present-day iPad. At first, Apple said it was because Flash was poorly written and drained precious battery life. Jobs even went so far as calling Adobe developers lazy.
But there are reasons to believe that technology isn't to blame. Jobs embraces the still-evolving HTML 5 browser standard as the alternative to Flash. Yet there are still technical issues surrounding HTML 5. Technologists I've spoken with tell me that Flash isn't bad software.
If "bad technology" was merely a smokescreen, was there something more sinister at play? Perhaps Apple is seeking to control mobile video. Maybe. But Apple's support of HTML 5, which is an open standard, and approval of Slingbox on the iPhone and Netflix on the iPad suggest otherwise.
An InnerDaemon blog post says the epic battle between Apple and Adobe stems from a grudge. In 1996, Apple was on the ropes. Its core customers—creative types—depended on Adobe software. That's when Adobe turned its back on Apple, declaring that its primary development platform would be Windows.
After the return of Jobs followed by the new hope, OS X, Apple reached out to Adobe only to be rebuked again. Now that Apple holds the mobile power, the saga apparently continues. But all of this sounds a little too petty, a little out of this world. After all, this is business.
Last week, however, the veil may have been lifted. Apple announced iPhone OS 4.0 for the iPhone and iPad that will have, as its centerpiece, Apple's own mobile advertising network, called iAd.
It's the Death Star of mobile advertising that strikes at the heart of Google's browser-based search business model. (That Star Wars reference just slipped out.) Mobile advertising on the iPhone and iPad is going to be huge. All iAd ads must be built on HTML 5, not Flash.
Hold on, it gets worse. Check out this wording in the Apple developer contract concerning iAd, uncovered in an AllThingsD story:
"Notwithstanding anything else in this Agreement, Device Data may not be provided or disclosed to a third party without Apple's prior written consent. Accordingly, the use of third party software in Your Application to collect and send Device Data to a third party for processing or analysis is expressly prohibited."
Device data translates into consumer analytics from an iPad or iPhone. Without analytics, it's impossible for third parties to sell ads on iPhones and iPads. Sorry, Google AdMob. Sorry, Adobe Omniture, which sells analytics for advertising. And there's no recourse for Adobe because Flash won't be anywhere near an iPhone or Apple's iAd network.
As Yoda would say, "Powerful you've become, Apple, the Dark Side I sense in you. " (Okay, that was really the last one.)