Adobe's Flash is slow, drains batteries, isn't suitable for touchscreen devices and poses security problems, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in an unusual missive today.
In a lengthy open letter titled "Thoughts on Flash," Jobs spelled out why Apple doesn't allow Adobe's popular technology on its iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads. Jobs' epistle is the latest in the quarrel between Apple and Adobe over Flash, bickering that reached new heights two weeks ago when an Adobe evangelist told Apple to "Go screw yourself."
Jobs' counter: Apple doesn't need Flash.
"Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of Web content," Jobs categorically stated. "And the 200,000 apps on Apple's App Store proves that Flash isn't necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games."
"This has been the big elephant in the room," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. "Jobs has stated very eloquently why Apple doesn't want Flash on its platform. And for the most part, his reasons make sense."
Other analysts agreed. "[The letter is] unusual, but it's a strong move, leveraging Apple's control of the narrative," said Ezra Gottheil, analyst with Technology Business Research. "The audience is primarily content owners, and secondarily the developer community."
Jobs started by refuting Adobe's contention last week that Flash is an "open" platform while Apple's technology is "closed," and hammered the media format and its widely-used player for reliability, performance and security issues. "While Adobe's Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe," said Jobs. "By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system."
That was a direct rebuttal to comments made last week by Mike Chambers, the principal product manager for Flash developer relations, when Adobe announced it would stop development of a tool that lets programmers port Flash applications to the iPhone and iPad.
Chambers had accused Apple of creating a "closed, locked down platform" with its iPhone operating system and associated App Store, and claimed that Flash was one of the "open platforms" that would eventually win out over proprietary technologies.
"Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven -- they say we want to protect our App Store -- but in reality it is based on technology issues," Jobs said.
"The open/closed issues surround the content owners' fear of lock-in," opined Gottheil. "It is, of course, a business issue, but it is based in technology. Apple isn't out to hurt Adobe, which is the accusation Jobs seems to be contradicting, but it wants to control the user experience."
Apple has made most of today's arguments before, but Jobs went into more detail than any company executive has done in the past. On Flash's performance, for example, Jobs blasted Adobe's inability to create a media player up to his standards. "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," said Jobs, adding that Adobe had first promised Flash suitable for smartphones in early 2009, but then delayed it several times. "We think it will eventually ship, but we're glad we didn't hold our breath," he said.
Jobs went to even greater lengths to explain the company's recent move to ban software built using Adobe's cross-platform compiler, and called it the most important reason why Apple can't stand Flash.