Maybe Steve Jobs was right about Adobe


Last week, after reading about Steve Jobs' stinging criticism of Adobe, I wrote a spirited defense of Adobe Flash in my DaniWeb blog. I'm here today to say I was wrong. I should probably have known better than to challenge the wisdom of Sir Steve, but after getting comments from several knowledgeable people and reading some follow-up posts, I'm convinced that Flash is dying a slow death and HTML 5 and other technologies could finally drive a stake through its heart.

The original comment from Jobs about Adobe being lazy and uncreative around Flash seemed overly harsh to me and not completely accurate--at least from some of the ways I've seen Adobe use the Flash platform, such as Adobe AIR for instance. But a post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog, a publication I have a great deal of respect for, made me rethink my position once and for all.

The bug won't die

The TUAW reported about a bug that one programmer, Matthew Dempsky, has been complaining about for 16 months. In spite of Adobe's assertions that the Flash Player was bug free, this programmer insisted there was a bug. The TUAW post even included a link that crashes Firefox (it really does, so you have been forewarned, if you try it). Turns out, that Dempsky was right, and after all this time, Adobe finally fessed up to the issue. Seems like, instead of publicly denying it for all those months maybe they should have in the words of the Oscar Rogers character on SNL, just FIXED IT!


What can save flash?

Kaz Thomas, a CMS Watch analyst, suggests a radical solution on his assertTrue() blog: Make Flash totally open source. Thomas says that will solve a pair of large problems for Adobe:

"Flash finds itself at a crossroads now: It has two huge hurdles to overcome if it is to survive as a mainstream platform. One is Apple: Steve Jobs has made it quite apparent that he doesn't want Flash on the iPlatform. The other challenge is HTML itself (specifically HTML 5)."

Thomas also suggests that Google may create its own video format, but he points out that it will take 90 percent adoption to declare anyone a winner. I will point out that Flash currently boasts 98.9 percent penetration on a billion computers worldwide. It's hard to unseat that, and it won't happen over night, but open sourcing Flash opens up a whole new opportunity for Adobe, one they would be wise to consider.

Open source worked for PDF

I like the open source idea. It will allow the community to clean up after Adobe (and it won't take 16 months to FIX IT) and will ensure that Adobe stays relevant for years to come. If you look at what Adobe did with the PDF, this approach makes a lot of sense. Anyone can use the PDF format and there are tons of low-cost and free uses making it a standard for moving documents. Adobe continues to make money by developing a more sophisticated Acrobat product than most of the rest of the market.

Flash could work the same way and if Adobe's smart, I think they should start listening very carefully to this idea. Otherwise, they might not like Steve Jobs' decisions about Flash, but they will have to live with the fall out if they try to take him on. - Ron