What is a business reason?

Steve Jobs writes:

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. Adobe has characterized our decision as being primarily business driven – they say we want to protect our App Store – but in reality it is based on technology issues.

So their decision is based on “technology”? Jobs then lists the issues with Flash on mobile devices. Three of them are technology reasons including (i) reliability, security and performance; (ii) battery life and (iii) touch. But the others are (i) that Flash is closed and proprietary; (ii) that consumers don’t need the ‘full web’ and (iii) that it introduces another layer of technology that is cross-platform. None of those seems technology based.

First, Apple prefers the stuff it doesn’t control to be open. Join the club. But there is nothing special about the web. You have to acknowledge that there are a ton of people who would like that of operating systems too.

Second, consumers can apparently do lots of things on their iPhones and don’t need the Flash ones. OK. Good for the iPhone. But for anyone who has used one, it would be nice not to get the little blue lego bricks. So this is a cost to Apple in terms of reduced demand and customer satisfaction that it trades off because of the other technology issues so that most of its consumers, whether they know it or not, prefer it that way. But that is a business decision. If that wasn’t the case, Apple would make a different choice.

Finally, because Flash is cross-platform that means that it will operate at a lowest common denominator. Apple want to be able to make its mobile devices upgrade at its own pace but to allow Flash might hamper that if Adobe doesn’t play ball. This is an issue because Apple doesn’t own Adobe and so can’t control it. So Apple has traded off a short-term loss (not giving developers an easy port) with a potential long-term gain (being free of Adobe). Again, that is a business decision, not a technology one. If the business conditions were different, holding constant the technology, the decision would be different.

If Steve Jobs wants to explain what he is doing he shouldn’t dress it up this way but assert his (a) opinion to do what he thinks is best and (b) his right given that he has no market power to do that. End of story.

5 thoughts on “What is a business reason?”

  1. You are arguing that Jobs should be truthful in his public relations statements, rather than spinning a line.
    But why should he?  Surely a similar argument applies.  It is a business decision as to whether to tell the truth in PR or not.
    Perhaps Jobs feels that Apple users are typically not particularly tech savvy (although they think they are), but are big on “doing the right thing”.   So, better to spin them a tale about technology, rather than boldly assert: “I can do the wrong thing, and nobody is going to stop me.”


  2. Could not comment on the merits of the flash vs iapp’s but,
    Apple has been  successful  in part because its products are not over featured. Most teckie types thing that the more bells and whistles a thing has the better; but most users like things that just work and dont confuse you.
    good elegant  design is actually mostly about  the difficult hard work of simplifying  .


  3. The technology reasons are nonsense also.
    (i) Reliability, security and performance: Adobe certainly dragged their heels on mobile implementations of the Flash Player, and the OS X implementation has always lagged the Windows implementation.  This is largely because the drawing API in OS X sucks.  (please read the link, you will learn something).   Apple waited until last week before publishing an API that allows the Flash Player to access the GPU on OS X for hardware decoding of H.264 video streams.  Its been available on Windows forever.
    (ii) Battery life is determined by how hard the CPU is working.  If the Flash Player can access hardware decoding of H.264 video content battery life would be identical on the iPhone.  Of course, a poorly-coded Flash animation will gobble CPU cycles and eat your battery.  It is equally easy to write bad code in HTML5/canvas/Javascript, actually easier because Javascript is interpreted and HTML5/canvas provides very few services for creating animation and games, so you have to roll your own.
    (iii) The multi-touch and gesture APIs in Flash Player 10.1 are comprehensive and well-advanced.  Here is a great example.  Amusingly they had to use Windows 7 because OS X doesn’t support touch.
    Jobs doesn’t like Flash because it was designed for mice.  The web is built for mice too.  Should we abandon the web?  Actually, that’s probably what Jobs has in mind.  Apple’s vision of “There’s an app for that” has no place for a browser.  There’s an app for every website, every website worth viewing anyway.  The wider web with all its messy information and stuff detracts from the user experience inside Apple’s walled garden.  Time for that to end.


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