The iPhone and iPod touch haven't run Flash natively in the years since their respective debuts, and it's pretty clear based on Steve Jobs's presentation yesterday that the iPad won't run Flash, either. When scrolling through the New York Times's main page, for example, where Flash ads or video might have been there were instead broken LEGO icons, big as life on the screen at the keynote.
Predictably, Adobe isn't happy about this, and is accusing Apple of "continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers." They go on to say that without Flash support, "users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web."
Let's work backwards from this. First of all, I'd be very interested to see where Adobe got those percentages. Apparently YouTube now accounts for a mere 25% of video on the internet? As for Hulu and a few of the other specific sites mentioned in Adobe's rant, now that Apple is in the business of selling content, exactly how is it in the company's best interest to provide access to that same content, through another company's platform, for free? And as far as games are concerned, once again Apple has this covered, through the App Store. Far from being limited, content publishers and consumers will merely have to adjust to a new method of publishing and consuming content: one that doesn't involve Adobe in any way.
I know anecdotal data is the worst kind there is, but in nearly a year of using my iPhone to connect to the internet, not only have I not missed Flash, I've been glad it isn't there. Flash's performance on Mac OS X is so abysmal that when YouTube announced an opt-in HTML5 beta to replace Flash, I bounced up and down in my office chair in glee. I can only imagine the bag of hurt that would be introduced if Apple let Flash run on its mobile devices.
If you want to know why Flash doesn't run on the iPhone, the iPod touch, or the iPad, why Flash will never run on those devices, and why that's a really good thing, check out this piece by Daring Fireball's John Gruber. One of the key points of Gruber's argument is that Flash is, by far, the biggest source of application crashes in OS X. Flash crashes so often that Apple's engineers went out of their way to create a new mechanism for running plugins in Snow Leopard; in 10.6, Flash runs as its own process rather than being lumped in with Safari, meaning than when (not if) Flash crashes, it doesn't bring all of Safari down with it.
Considering Flash's poor stability and fan-blasting, CPU-hogging performance on the Mac, gee, why wouldn't Apple want it running on their mobile devices?
Want to see something that "imposes restrictions on content publishers and consumers?" Look no farther than Flash itself. According to the company's own (possibly made-up) numbers, 70% of games and 75% of video on the internet is all shuffled through one company's proprietary plugin.
I don't know about you, but that sounds awfully restrictive to me. It seems like a really bad idea to let a single company have that much control over the creation and delivery of the internet's content, don't you think?.
With the iPhone and iPod touch we already have tens of millions of mobile devices owned by tens of millions of highly satisfied consumers, and not one of those devices runs Flash. With the advent of the iPad, we can expect millions more mobile devices to hit the market, and none of them will run Flash, either. Thanks to YouTube and vimeo, HTML5's star is on the rise for delivering free video content on the internet,
and the App Store has gaming covered. There's no telling what the internet will look like in ten years, but one thing appears certain: if things continue as they have, Adobe will no longer have the stranglehold over video and gaming content that it enjoys today.