10.05.2009

iPhone Too Awesome For Flash

In an exciting move for mobile phones everywhere, Adobe announced today partnerships with nineteen smartphone makers worldwide in an effort to get their Flash player 10.1 on to mobile phones in 2010. This is good news for everybody, consumers and advertisers alike, as Flash is the program used to display complex ad banners, as well as every video on YouTube. As big as Flash is, it will effectively usher in the next generation of mobile web content delivery, as well as the next era of productivity-crushing free games sites.

However, one company is staying away from the agreement. Apple, in a completely predictable and un-shocking statement, has effectively deemed it's flagship iPhone too technologically advanced for Adobe's juggernaut of content delivery. The basic gist of the argument is that the iPhone's ARM architecture, which optimizes battery life and heat distribution, will buckle under the strain of Flash's resource consumption. Which basically translates to "Adobe will not be able to optimize their product to the standards  of the iPhone." This is the same elitist box-out of third party market penetration for which Apple is infamous. It's why iPod only works with iTunes, and why you can't upgrade the hardware of an Apple computer without pulling teeth and voiding your warranty. It's what the business types call "customer lock-in." The practice is both a blessing and a curse for Apple, as it allows them to build tight, controlled, efficient devices using proprietary technology, while the same practice is a crushing restriction on product saturation and market share.

But restricting flash is going one step too far. For one, the whole point of Flash 10.1 is battery life efficiency and resource consumption efficiency using the innately under-powered graphics chips of mobile platforms. If nineteen other big smartphone firms think it's worth a try, do you really think you're that much better? I would understand Apple's decision if they came out and said that it goes against their policy of in-house development with proprietary coding tools. To claim technology dominance seems elitist and downright false.

I would say that this is an ultimately business move on Apple's part, but I've read various news sources saying that Apple has an ulterior agenda regarding the future of web content delivery. Many believe that Apple's excuses regarding Flash are just a smokescreen for a new delivery platform that Apple will eventually release to compete with Flash. I don't know how feasible an option like that would be, but it would be a huge undertaking if anything. More probable is Apple's backing of HTML 5 as the content delivery standard, as it would allow them to stick with their proprietary systems while investing in a stable, consumer friendly platform that will eventually grow to encompass the entire content delivery industry.

Whatever happens, I have always had mixed feelings about Apple's stance on third-party component compatibility. Sometimes I wonder if they're taking it too far, but they always manage to come out ahead. I wonder how they're going to keynote themselves out of this one.

1 comment:

Eli said...

I love my phone but Apple is a jerk =(

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