Could Adobe have just stepped over the line?

Yesterday, it was all about Apple’s justification for not having Flash on its mobile devices. Adobe responds:

However, as we posted last week, given the legal terms Apple has imposed on developers, we have already decided to shift our focus away from Apple devices for both Flash Player and AIR. We are working to bring Flash Player and AIR to all the other major participants in the mobile ecosystem, including Google, RIM, Palm (soon to be HP), Microsoft, Nokia and others.

Did I read that right? “Apple devices.” This is careful wording. They could have said “Apple mobile devices” or “touchscreen devices” but they didn’t. This appears to mean that they are stopping support for Flash and AIR on the Mac. This is a big punishment as they are an integral part of browsers and there are many developers using AIR for desktop applications (including TweetDeck; my usual twitter client).

Now I’m no expert in antitrust law … hang on a second, yes I am [old blogging disclaiming expertise habits creeping in], but this looks like foreclosure. Adobe, by their own admission, is a major part of the “full web” and installed on virtually every non-mobile browser. The idea that they would stop development for Apple mobile devices is natural given that Apple won’t let them on them. But to extend that type of plan to a historic product where Adobe arguably has a degree of market power is another matter entirely. What is more, it was exactly the sort of exercise of power that Steve Jobs was worried about when deciding not to support Flash on the iPhone and iPad. Adobe appear to have just proved his point.

Perhaps, of course, this is just poor wording and if Adobe clarify, I’ll update it here. It is also the case that given Apple’s computer market share, there may be lots of developers out there now worried about developing for Flash given its proprietary nature. So this might bite Adobe back commercially as well as legally.

6 thoughts on “Could Adobe have just stepped over the line?”

  1. Flash IS crap, as any web developer worth their salt will tell you. It creates many more problems than it could ever possibly solve.
    Real web developers use XHTML and CSS only. And I will not miss Flash, nor have I missed it on my iPhone.


  2. I’m no fan of flash and stopped using it a few years ago, but as someone working in design on a mac, Adobe has a lot of potential to make life difficult for the creative industries. Adobe’s CS sells about 50% to mac users and there isn’t really a robust competitor to indesign or photoshop and switching software or platforms is expensive. If they pull the plug on Adobe CS for mac then it’s going to get nasty. The quality of their software has  been deteriorating and they look like they are in a slow death spiral without the ability to reinvent themselves. They spent too much getting Flash and their adoption of Microsoft’s premium/ultimate/professional versioning is making them look like a company where marketing is calling all the shots. On the other hand Steve Jobs seems to be not so subtly intimating that Adobe’s strength is in print and if the future of print is on a devices like the iPad it’s going to be created in html 5 – where does that leave Adobe’s flagship postscript and pdf?


  3. I’m wondering what you think of this take on things.
    It also reminds me that I think there’s a slight irony in cloud computing. I’ve spent years noting how in old SF novels they could only extrapolate computers as they existed then, and had futures with a few central computers with innumerable terminals rather than a web of innumerable computers . Now we seem to be entering an age when the devices are less computer than terminal.


  4. Flash has it niche. Some people abuse it which becomes overkill but hey car manufacturers still produce way too many V8s and people buy them.

    Jobs’ reasons are almost an insult to users. Just let the users decide!

    I  think the following comment by Adobe  is a throwaway “we have already decided to shift our focus away from Apple devices for both Flash Player and AIR.” Even if its not they are saying shift their focus but not end development. I don’t think Adobe would stop developing their applications and tools for Apple but the flash player might not be a primary focus.

    I have no doubt that HTML5 will supplant the need for Flash when it comes to most web projects (as HTML4, CSS, Javascript, etc…  does today) but it will continue to have a niche to punch out ad campaigns. 

    I think its important to remember that Adobe makes applications for designers and mix of web development authoring tools – ie. Dreamweaver and Fireworks comes to mind (I recall being able to animate in Fireworks and have it export with some Javascript and yes the output code was messy). It’s been a while since I used Adobe stuff but I’m sure their busy working in the background to export or author to HTML5. I don’t think it will be easy to make Flash export smoothly to HTML5 but definitely not impossible.

    In some respects Apple is taking us back to the computing dark ages when it comes to applications that must have the Apple seal of approval. Well they’re trying to but they will fail. Viva Android!


  5. Jobs will remove the browser from iPhone OS within 12 months to improve the user experience on iDevices.  When it happens, Joshua Gans will defend the decision.
    Lets review the history of Jobs “War on Flash”:
    Apple bans Flash from their platform.
    Apple dictates which development tools developers can use to prevent Flash generating native iPhone apps.
    Jobs launches weekly attacks on Adobe and its product (lazy company, buggy, slow, crashes, drains batteries, closed and proprietary … did I miss anything?)
    Mate, I’ve worked in these companies.  Adobe employees use Macs almost exclusively.  They love their frickin’ Macs.  They still line up for iPads even though Apple threatens their livelihood.  You couldn’t pay an Adobe employee to use Windows box.  These people are not going to abandon the Mac even if Steve Jobs eats their first born.
    Exercise of power from Adobe?  Adobe has gone too far?  Seriously, WTF are you smoking?
    I’ve read some truly out there stuff from fanboys in recent weeks but this takes the f*cking cake.


  6. @carbonsink: ‘WTF are you smoking’ – I’m sorry but i find that absolutely disrespectful. Please show respect to ppl even when you disagree with them.


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