by Tom Kaneshige

Apple Stares Down Adobe Flash

Feb 09, 2010
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Who will win the Apple-Adobe slugfest? Apple looks unbeatable.

Is it too soon to write the epitaph of Adobe Flash? Apple CEO Steve Jobs has marked it for a digital death. Yet Adobe claims that 85 percent of the top websites contain Flash content.

It’s pretty much a given that the iPhone and iPad could support Flash—that is, the underlying technology is there. But Apple has chosen not to support Flash.

Make no mistake, this isn’t about you or what’s best for the consumer. This brouhaha has all the trappings of a strategic fight between longtime love-hate business partners Apple and Adobe.

“They are lazy,” Jobs recently said about Adobe, according to Wired. “They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it.” Later, he told Apple employees that Apple does not support Flash because “it is so buggy” and that the main cause of Mac crashes stems from Flash.

Jobs believes Flash will be replaced by next-generation HTML5.

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch counterpunched in a blog, leading with this side swipe: “Some have been surprised at the lack of inclusion of Flash Player on a recent magical device.”

Already iPhone apps like FickleBox and Chroma Circuit render Flash on the iPhone, and Adobe is ready to enable Flash in Safari. “But to date we have not had the required cooperation from Apple to make this happen,” Lynch wrote.

Adobe has some heft to back it up, too.

Lynch writes: “We are now on the verge of delivering Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones with all but one of the top manufacturers. This includes Google’s Android, RIM’s Blackberry, Nokia, Palm Pre and many others across form factors including not only smartphones but also tablets, netbooks, and internet-connected TVs.”

That’s a lot of Adobe heft to overcome, but let’s not forget Apple wears the heavyweight belt.

We’ve seen the iPod (and iTunes) force the hand of powerful music labels. Then the iPhone (and App Store) changed the way giant mobile tech vendors and software developers looked at the market and developed products. Now the iPad has the potential to disrupt the publishing industry.

Will Adobe Flash, merely a component of the web, survive Apple’s proven ability to change consumer behavior and move entire markets? Unlikely.

When I wrote about the iPad’s whiffs with no support of Flash being one of them, a software developer from Hawaii responded with a simple prediction: “Nobody is going to miss Flash in three years.”

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