Adobe has gone on the offensive – big time. The company has started a rather massive advertisement campaign on the web as well as in print in various large US newspapers, in answer to Apple’s battle with Flash and Adobe. In the meantime, Adobe received support from an unexpected corner – Andy Gryc, product marketing manager at QNX, has written a lengthy blog post supporting Adobe.
The ads are headed by a simple and clear “We â™¥ Apple“, followed by a number of other things the company claims it loves – such as innovation, the web, applications, Flash, healthy competition, all devices, all platforms, touch screens, oh, and they also love HTML5. The ad then continues, “What we don’t love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the web.”
The advertisement campaign is backed by a website headed “We â™¥ choice“. This website contains “the truth about Flash“, in which the company debunks the points put forth by Steve Jobs in his open letter about Flash. The company starts with stating that Flash was actually originally created as a technology for tablets with touch screen interfaces. Furthermore, Flash content designed for the mouse will have mouse events converted to touch events, and, of course, you can also design Flash content with touch in mind.
Adobe also touches upon the hotly contended issue of performance while playing video, including a nice stab at Apple for being so late with providing a decent API for video acceleration. “Playing back high definition video can be a CPU-intensive task,” Adobe states, “This is why Flash Player 10.1 includes support for hardware accelerated video playback across devices from mobile to desktop environments. Now that the appropriate APIs are available in OS X 10.6.3, we are also implementing GPU accelerated video on the Mac, available as a preview release code-named Gala. This can significantly improve both CPU usage as well as battery life.” Still nothing about Linux.
On the topic of security, Adobe points to a Symantec report which states that “Flash had the second fewest number of vulnerabilities of all Internet technologies listed (which included both web plug-ins and browsers)”.
The most interesting part for me is the whole “open” aspect. Steve Jobs deriding Flash for being closed made me chuckle quite a bit, so I was very interested in what Adobe had to say on this one.
The core engine of the Flash Player (AVM+) is open source and was donated to the Mozilla foundation where it is actively maintained. The file formats supported by the Flash Player, SWF and FLV/F4V, as well as the RTMP and AMF protocols are freely available and openly published. Anyone can use the specifications without requiring permission from Adobe. Third parties can and do build audio, video, and data services that compete with those from Adobe.
There are no restrictions on the development of SWF authoring tools, and anyone can build their own SWF or FLV/F4V player.
Adobe Flex, the primary application framework for Flash, is also open source and is actively maintained and developed by Adobe and the community.
Finally, Flash has a rich developer ecosystem of both open and proprietary tools and technologies, including developer IDEs such as FDT, IntelliJ, and haXe; open source runtimes such as Gnash; and open source video servers such as Red5.
I didn’t know any of this, and sadly, my knowledge of all things Flash is quite limited, so I’m not sure if any of this is of particular use, or if more important parts, parts that actually matter, are still closed off. Maybe someone in the audience can shed some light on this?
The website also has an open letter by Adobe’s founders, Chuck Geschke and John Warnock, on the merits of openness. “We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs,” they write, “No company – no matter how big or how creative – should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.”
“We believe that Apple, by taking the opposite approach, has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web – the chapter in which mobile devices outnumber computers, any individual can be a publisher, and content is accessed anywhere and at any time,” they continue, “In the end, we believe the question is really this: Who controls the World Wide Web? And we believe the answer is: nobody – and everybody, but certainly not a single company.”
One of the major things Adobe could do is actually open source the Flash player. While there may not be a technical advantage to this, it would certainly create an immense amount of goodwill. John Nack, by the way, has some things to add to this discussion, too.
QNX sides with Adobe
Andy Gryc, product marketing manager at QNX, has also entered this debate. He explains that several customers have asked QNX is the whole Flash debate would have any impact on QNX’ “embedded system designs that use Adobe Flash or the QNX Aviage HMI Suite”. Gryc is clear: there is no impact whatsoever.
Gryc has his own list of counterpoints to Jobs’ open letter, of course written from the viewpoint of QNX, after which he concludes that Jobs’ letter is full of unsubstantiated and untrue statements. “The claims levelled by Steve Jobs towards Flash are either not substantiated or untrue,” Gryc concludes, “Flash is fundamentally a cross-platform tool, which is noted by Mr. Jobs himself several times, and as a cross-platform tool it enables leveraging development effort across multiple platforms.”
“This means that developers using Adobe Flash would not be locked into the iPhone or iPad development target, and would be able to use their software efforts across a broad base of devices,” he continues, “It would appear that Mr. Jobs’ stance against Flash is for business reasons, not technical ones.”
This debate is slowly but surely causing a divide in the technology community. Adobe has Google on its side, and Apple has, well, the Apple community on its side. I’d hate to be in front of either of these two partners.