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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Flash unfit for iPhone, says Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a message Thursday for all those users of iPhones, iPods and iPads who are hoping their devices will one day support Flash: don't hold your breath.

In an open letter published on the Apple website, Jobs said Adobe's Flash platform, a widely used technology for video and games on the web, was "created during the PC era," and isn't suitable for touch-screen devices.

In the nearly 1,700-word post "Thoughts on Flash," Jobs outlined several reasons why Apple's handheld devices don't support Flash.

Jobs said Flash was designed for high-powered personal computers that use a mouse as their primary input device, "not for touch screens using fingers."

Because of this, Flash would represent a drain on the battery life of iPhone and iPad devices, Jobs wrote.

As well, many Flash applications rely on the "hover" mouse motion, positioning the pointer over an object on the screen without clicking on it. This gesture isn't possible using a touchscreen, he argued.

Double standard?

Jobs also said that Flash is a closed, proprietary standard, "controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe."

Jobs touted a new web standard, HTML 5, as the way to create next-generation websites that can display video and include the interactive features now being built in Flash.

"Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content," wrote Jobs in the letter.

"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," he wrote.

Jobs wrote that the most important reason to block Flash on Apple's touchscreen devices is that it places a third party between software developers for the devices and the device itself.

Some bloggers found this point - and the point about Flash's closed standard - to be particularly ironic coming from Jobs.

"While Jobs says he refuses to put his products 'at the mercy' of a third party, that's exactly what Apple asks of all its iPhone app developers," wrote Gina Trapani of the blog Smarterware.

"Jobs' letter could be rewritten from a developer to Apple, and I hope someone takes the time to do just that," she wrote.

Jobs seemed to address this criticism in the letter itself, writing, "Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open."

In the end, it will be up to consumers to decide whether they want Flash content on handheld devices and whether they'll use Apple's products.

"It doesn't mean this is the end of Flash," said Sheri McLeish, an analyst with Forrester Research. "Apple is not the only game in town, and PC and Windows devices continue to dominate the market."


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