Why Apple will not let Flash on iOS

I just left the following comment on Dave Winers blog. He was, once again, having a go at Apple over Flash. And this particular post was a response to Grubers’ response to his original post. I’ve lost you already, haven’t I?

Anyway, this is what I said:

I don’t have an iPad, so I don’t feel the lack of Flash as much.

In saying that, what Apple have to remember is that will millions of Apple Customers convince web designers to dump flash?

Adobe tried to get Flash running on iOS but Apple stopped them.

What we’re looking for here is for some sort of compromise. Would Apple allow Adobe to deploy a completely custom Flash build on iOS, one that removes some UI headaches (such as the mouseovers that Steve always talks about)? Would web devs actually use such a thing ( remembering that the whole premise of Flash is to write once, run everywhere)?

What if the whole reason that Apple is doing this is to give HTML5 a running start?

So, if we are going to ask if Apple is winning and losing, we need to define exactly what “winning” and “losing” actually is. Does Apple win when HTML5 becomes dominant? Does Apple win when Adobe shutters Flash? Does Apple win when iOS only Flash-less sites spring up everywhere?

OF course, for Adobe, they win when Apple lets Flash in any form on to the platform. Adobe even win when Apple lets Adobes translation tool run.
What we can say for certain is that thus far, lack  of Flash has not hurt Apple very much.

Later, it occurred to me, that there could be another reason for Apple to leave Flash out of iOS.

Consider. Most of the worlds advertising is Flash-based. And without Flash, there is no way for people to view those adverts.

So, what does Apple come out with, but their own advertising platform.

So, Apple just locked out most of their competition in the advertising space, giving their own platform a running start. So, this means that all those advertisers have to come to Apple (or Admob, but thats a footnote) to get their adverts some views.

Apple giveth and Apple taketh away (reverse that).

Also, when one thinks of Hulu and other sites that primarily use Flash as a delivery mechanism for content, not having that option means that delivery of said content to iOS users has to go through either the iTunes Store, or H.264 and HTML 5.

So, keeping Flash off the iOS platform is central to Apple’s business interests. And, as I said in my comment above, Apple has yet to see significant backlash. Unless you are  ageek or a web dev, nobody says “I ain’t buying Apple till they support Flash”.

In fact, until this back and forth erupted between Winer and Gruber, I completely for got there wasn’t Flash on iOS. Why was that? Because web designers and developers have been making thier sites iOS friendly for years.

Even if you take the view that Apple isin’t winning, it certainly isin’t losing either.

7 thoughts on “Why Apple will not let Flash on iOS

  1. Right On — there are many more who eschew the iPad and iPhone, due to Apple’s indefensible censorship of merely indecent material and sharp political commentary AND FLASH, than many in Cupertino realize.

  2. There’s a simpler, more sensible explanation: the one that Apple has given.

    Apple is boycotting Flash on the iPhone the same way they’re refusing to put Microsoft Office on iOS. They put up a crappy version of Office on Macs, hoping to convert people to their proprietary programs; the one-way converters sorta work. But not really. None of the Excel spreadsheets I author at work run on my macbook, because Apple has “boycotted” putting a compatible version that runs the custom functions I write. For that matter, all my (stock) research providers put stuff into Excel that is at best badly mangled on my mac.

    And of course, there’s no hope for anything halfway complex on my iPhone.

    Apple is giving the same cold shoulder to Microsoft that it gives to Adobe. People should wise up about how Jobs is being imperious and anti-competitive by refusing to put up the software.

    And don’t get me started about how Apple killed Internet Explorer 5.1, because it would’ve competed too much with Apple’s half-baked browser.

    1. Last I heard, Apple said no such thing about Microsoft Office on the iPad or iPhone for that matter. Indeed, they are working past competition issues in the App Store by allowing Opera Mini and the Kindle app in.

      The fact that the Kindle App is in the App store is interesting, since there is a an argument that says that the Kindle App and the Amazon bookstore is better than iBooks and its store. So, if its not in Apple’s business Interests why would they let it on.

      On the other hand, Apple has used its power over the App Store to leave Google voice out in the cold, while retaining the existing Google applications and integration in iOS.

      At the end of the day these are just applications. Flash is more than simply an application. Flash is a platform. And a platform is a whole lot more important than any single application that runs on it.

      While none of the above examples deal with platforms, they do speak to the fact that Apple acts decisively when it does.

    2. As far as I know, Apple hasn’t “boycotted” putting MS Office on the Mac, unless you are implying that Apple should bundle it, which would be absurd.

      Microsoft has traditionally dragged their feet, deliberately shipping crippled versions of their Mac software, no doubt to perpetuate their Windows monopoly. The good news (I guess) is that the upcoming version of Office Mac is supposed to be the most compatible ever.

      Or were you actually complaining about Apple’s iWork suite (also not bundled with the Mac), and presuming that it should be 100% compatible with MS Office. iWork was never intended to replace MS Office. Rather it provides a very nice set of simplified apps that satisfies the majority of people’s needs. I suggest that if you are reliant on specific features of MS Office, then buy the real deal.

      Regarding an iOS version of MSOffice, I find it hard to believe that such a bloated suite could be made to run on any of today’s memory- and processor- constrained devices. Even Apple’s iWork for iPad doesn’t achieve feature-parity with the desktop version.

    3. Everything I’ve read says that MS simply hasn’t bothered making an iPhone/iPad version of Office. Apple wouldn’t mind them having one at all. However, with Apple only charging $9.99 each for Numbers, Pages and Keynote, MS would have to undergo a radical profit-margin rethink. I personally think that MS is giving up a huge strategic market not developing iPhone versions of Office. First, they seem to need a little practice in recreating the Office suite for the mobile market. Second, those 100 million iPhone/iPad users are all getting used to the idea that Office is not really that important for a mobile device. (Just like Flash is proving to be irrelevant to the mobile space.)

      Once you sell 100 millions devices that don’t need Office or Flash and still have trouble keeping up with demand, it’s hard to argue that either is a strategic part of the mobile space.

  3. So, if we are going to ask if Apple is winning and losing, we need to define exactly what “winning” and “losing” actually is.

    From one perspective:

    “Winning” is making profit, and having the stock price go up. The name of the game is “Capitalism”.

    From Steve’s perspective:

    “Winning” is selling products that change the world. Capitalism, Computers and Innovation are the way.

    “Losing” is maintaining the status quo.

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