My Thoughts on All Things Apple/Flash/HTML5

Over the weekend I was involved in several discussions regarding Apple, Flash, and HTML5. I was quite opinionated on the subjects to the point of getting marginally upset at times because I feel that some people don’t understand the influence that Mr. Steve Jobs has on Apple fan boys who then spew his half truths around the internet without really understanding what they’re saying and how much they don’t really know.

Steve Jobs is a Business Man

To begin with, Steve Jobs is a business man.  A very good one too.  He is the master of the keynote and an expert marketer.  He knows how to announce, release, and talk about his products and competitors.  He’s very articulate and excellent at getting his ideas across.  Because of this, a lot of what he says is taken as fact, and many don’t look at things more deeply than his word and repeat his thoughts.

Steve Jobs is also king of telling people when they need something and when they don’t.  A great example is 3G.  When the first iPhone was released someone asked him about 3G and he said “Edge is good enough, people don’t really need 3G” and then one year later, he announces the iPhone 3G with 3G connectivity.  He’s done this on more than one occasion (just on the iPhone: multi-tasking, flush earphone jack, native application development, etc).  So when Jobs says that we need to move away from Flash, people listen.  The problem is, that when you talk about his little diatribe against Flash, it’s filled with half truths on both Flash and H.264 (and competing video codecs).  You can read one flash developer’s break down of those half truths.

The point here is that Steve Jobs is going to point out things that will only help his business long term.  Flash is destructive to his iPhone app business so he’s blocking it and giving his reasons.  Now granted he is posting his reasons to the public which not every CEO would do.  And he is attacking Flash and fighting for open standards and getting people to talk about and become aware of those standards, so that is a very good thing.

Video on the Web

I agree that Flash has problems that need to be addressed.  But I will also admit that most video on the web is displayed in a flash player.  The reasons for this are mainly due to the need to lock video down and protect the stream.  The current HTML5 video implementation does not have a way for people to protect the video stream, this is why you don’t see companies like Hulu or Netflix utilizing HTML5 for their streaming videos.  Those kinds of things need some form of DRM to prevent the leeching/downloading of the stream.

Also, the issue of H.264 versus Theora when it comes to which video codec to use for online video is filled with lots of nice half truths and misinformation as well (from all sides).  But one main difference is that H.264 is not free as Mr. Jobs would like you to believe.  Also the issue of patents and that Theora infringes on others’ patents is a slippery slope that has yet to be actually proven.  For further reading on the issue of H.264 and Theora I advise reading the following articles:

There’s lots of things some people would like to keep from the public to push their own agendas (on both the Apple/Microsoft and Open Source sides of the argument).  So I would advise becoming educated before simply repeating what’s said by anyone.

Conclusions

I’d like to conclude by saying that I think that getting people to talk about open standards and open technologies is a good thing and for that I think Steve Jobs is doing a great thing.  However, I wish he’d not put so many half truths into his writings about doing so.  By not talking about the whole picture he’s doing more harm than good (for the general public, not his business).  In the end, H.264 will probably win the codec war for HTML5.  I’d rather Theora take the crown, but so many people are scared due to possible patent issues (which again, have yet to be proven).  The patent issues are a different argument which I’ll write about later this week.

I’d be more than happy if we could move away from the requirement of Flash to do video on the web, I’m all for moving to open standards and open protocols to get things done.  So if nothing else, Steve Jobs should be commended for taking the stand to move towards that general direction, even if some of statements aren’t 100% correct.

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8 Responses to My Thoughts on All Things Apple/Flash/HTML5

  1. stephenpace says:

    I agree there is no black or white here. There are many reasons why Steve doesn't want Flash and/or cross-platform generated apps on the iPhone. But as a programmer, I believe he is correct when he says that a cross-platform application is going to be worse than a native application. It doesn't HAVE to be, but most will be. Adobe says their customers want to write a program once and have it run everywhere. Of COURSE they do–who doesn't want to minimize development costs? But Steve is well within his rights to say 'sorry, if you want to do that (because I believe most applications will be subpar, and potential make your phone unstable and/or or cause an issue with battery life, or not work well with multitouch, etc.), you should write for the Nexus One instead and someone else will come around and write a better, native version of your app type. Not to mention that Apple doesn't want to be beholden to any toolkit maker before putting out future iPhone OS (e.g. if one were to suddenly break 100k new flash-based applications). Especially since Adobe as a company that hasn't had a great track record in keeping up with Apple OS updates.Most people complaining about Apple's draconian policies are not the target market for iPhone–more often than not, that person is going to be running an Android phone.Most people in the mobile phone business were SHOCKED at how Apple could make such a dent in their market so fast. That is because for so long, those mobile phone makers neglected the user experience, and their customers jumped as soon as they could. And speaking as a Blackberry user with an absolutely crappy web browser with a phone that crashes at least once a week, the fact that Apple has raised expectations is a good thing as all phones are starting to get better now that Apple has shown what is possible.

  2. Michael Koby says:

    I have to disagree, I think that Apple's decision is a poor one. Imagine if Microsoft told you “You can only develop in an approved .NET Language on Windows” the anti-trust people would be up in arms over such a play. You'd hear all manner of complaints and the internet would be telling Microsoft they are following draconian business practices. This idea that it's okay when Apple does it just plain hypocrisy. A substandard developer will create substandard apps regardless of the tools they use. Granted I can understand the flash argument. But the SDK changes could potentially, block things like MonoTouch which is extremely useful as well as Unity for building games. Apple can dictate to some extent what is allowed on their platform. And they do this with the App Store approval process. To dictate the tools you can use goes too far, again imagine if Microsoft had done something similar on Windows, the geeks the world over would be up in arms.

  3. Michael Koby says:

    I have to disagree, I think that Apple's decision is a poor one. Imagine if Microsoft told you “You can only develop in an approved .NET Language on Windows” the anti-trust people would be up in arms over such a play. You'd hear all manner of complaints and the internet would be telling Microsoft they are following draconian business practices. This idea that it's okay when Apple does it just plain hypocrisy. A substandard developer will create substandard apps regardless of the tools they use. Granted I can understand the flash argument. But the SDK changes could potentially, block things like MonoTouch which is extremely useful as well as Unity for building games. Apple can dictate to some extent what is allowed on their platform. And they do this with the App Store approval process. To dictate the tools you can use goes too far, again imagine if Microsoft had done something similar on Windows, the geeks the world over would be up in arms.

  4. stephenpace says:

    The difference is, Microsoft was declared to be a monopoly and had a lock on the desktop market. Apple does not have a monopoly on the mobile phone (or even smart phone) market. And they aren't even preventing you from developing on their platform–just dictating how you can do it. Their way or the highway.

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