posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 19th Feb 2010 17:28 UTC
IconIn case you've been living under a rock: Apple isn't particularly keen on Flash. They can't control it, and the company claims it's the number one cause of crashes on Mac OS X. Now that Steve Jobs is busy promoting the iPad to content providers, he's also on the offensive against Flash.

Fail or win for the iPad will in part depend upon the amount of content Apple can deliver to its customers through the tablet device. As such, Jobs is making the rounds, talking to major content providers - print, mostly - to get them to publish their stuff on the iPad. The problem? Many print media like Flash and have invested in it. The iPad, obviously, doesn't do Flash.

So, Jobs has a tough job ahead of him. He has to convince content providers of a number of things. First, that Flash is bad, evil, and will step on little kittens. Second, and probably much more troublesome, he has to convince the print media to invest a lot of money into switching from Flash to producing content in other ways - h264, HTML5, you name it.

Jobs was in full force in his dismissal of Flash while pitching the iPad at The Wall Street Journal, according to ValleyWag. He made the usual claims - Flash is slow, a resource hog, major attack vector, all things that are hard to disagree with. He also called Flash a dying technology ("We don't spend a lot of energy on old technology."), and compared Flash to floppy drives, old data ports, CCFL backlit LCD, and even the CD (what, CDs are dead technology now? I must've missed that memo).

Jobs also reportedly said that the iPad's battery performance would degrade from 10 hours to 1.5 hours if it had to spend its time decoding Flash. However, as ValleyWag rightfully notes, the iPad wouldn't reach its advertised 10 hour battery life when decoding regular video either. Still, Jobs' point is valid: Flash is a resource hog, which hurts battery life. No secret there.

Where things start to get a little sketchy, however, is when Jobs said that leaving Flash would be "trivial". ValleyWag explains quite well why ditching Flash would hardly be "trivial" to a publication the size of the WSJ:

That's just not right; even assuming the Journal could duplicate its Flash slideshows, infographics and other news apps using iPad-friendly technologies like Javascript, it would take a decidedly nontrivial amount of time and effort to create or acquire such a system, hire staff who understand it as well as Flash, train staff on how to use it, and integrate it into the Journal's editorial workflow. It might be a great way to advance web standards like HTML5, and a great way to get the Journal on more devices, but it would hardly be "trivial."

I'm all for Jobs using his influence to promote web standards, but my fear is that, knowing Apple, this is much more about locking content to the iPad and iTunes than about promoting web standards and destroying Flash to make the web a better place. In the end, Apple is a company, and just like any other company, altruism doesn't exist.

Still, if this brings Flash yet another step closer to the grave, then who are we to complain?

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