Image credit: issaco
As HTML 5 gets closer to fruition some are beginning to question whether it finally removes the need for Flash altogether. None are fighting the battle to banish Flash to the annals of history more than Apple and this week the conflict between Apple and Adobe (who produce the authoring tools for Flash files) flared up again.
Historically Apple and Adobe have had great relations; Adobe is responsible for producing the graphics programs that drew creatives to Macs for many years when they weren’t quite mainstream yet. No one (not even Adobe) expected a phone to run full Flash – Adobe tried to make a stripped down version called Flash Lite but it never really took off – so it was never questioned that the iPhone should be able to run it.
The debate started when Apple released the iPad. Most predictions expected it to run a modified version of OSX, instead it ran an uprated version of what is now called iOS. When Apple announced it was “the best way to experience the web” many could not help but notice the absence of Flash. What followed was a very public debate between the two companies: Apple arguing that HTML 5 now offered everything that Flash could do but that it’s more ubiquitous, open-source and efficient; Adobe arguing that Flash is ubiquitous, that it’s very capable of being used on smart-phones and that they are very open-source (the last statement being a little bit of a lie, but Apple is hardly a pioneer of open source code).
The debate didn’t really go anywhere but over the last few weeks it has hotted up again with two important announcements.
Unlike the browser Google Chrome, which includes Flash functionality by default, Apple’s browser Safari only includes Flash as a separate plug-in. Last week they announced that they would no longer be supplying it with their new computers. This is clearly a move designed to force developers to create alternatives to Adobe Flash content but until this happens it means that a brand new Mac, which always made a point of working straight out of the box, will not show videos on let’s say the BBC website until Mac users download a separate plug-in from a third party. I have to say I don’t think that Apple are putting their users first in making this decision.
The second announcement perhaps makes it a little more clear as to why Apple are being so aggressive towards Flash. Last year Adobe announced that it has done a deal with TV chip manufacturers allowing them to ship “Flash applications” to televisions and opening up a huge new area of the market. This week they announced that Adobe AIR 2.5 is out which will enable Flash based applications to run on Google Andriod, RIM’s blackberry playbook and Samsung’s latest TVs.
It is yet to be seen how this conflict will pan out, whether it will just be a messy confrontation between companies with no real winner or whether Apple will succeed in sinking Flash. Ultimately it seems this will rest on whether Adobe and AIR 2.5 can successfully break into the App market and retain its development community, perhaps this in itself is an interesting insight into the software market in 2010.