A good problem to have

Through much of the late 90s and early 00s, I remember having the same conversation over and over again about Apple and Microsoft. I had it with my friends, I had it with my colleagues, and I had it with anyone else who was interested in computers. It went something like this:

Other person: “When are you going to give up already and start using a PC? The war is over. Apple lost.”

Me: “They still make the best stuff and I want to support the company that makes the best stuff; not a company that uses their monopoly to sell products.”

Other person: “Don’t you think Apple would do the same thing if they were in charge?”

Me: “Yes. They’d probably be even more ruthless, but at least they’d make great products.”

From there, the conversation would tail off in another direction but I always remember thinking wishfully to myself that if Apple ever did rule the world again, what a fantastic problem it would be. Instead of having our future dictated to us by a company who didn’t even care enough to fix a broken web browser for over five years, we’d have our future dictated to us by a company who produced the most wonderful products in the world. The dream seemed so far-fetched, however, that it was easy to miss the potential for nightmare in it.

Trading places

Apple will probably finish this year a larger company than Microsoft, from a market capitalization perspective. That would mean the world values the sum of future cashflows into Apple more than any company in the United States besides Exxon-Mobil. God forbid the terrible BP oil disaster gets worse and has cascading effects on other oil companies, we could see Apple at #1.

So in a sense, we’ve now admitted — as investors at least — that Apple owns our wallets, many years into the future. This actually feels good right now, though, in a way. Not only am I using a great operating system, but lots of other people are too. Not only do I have a phone that keeps me connected, but I really enjoy using it too. Not only can I craft richly designed web experiences for geeks with good browsers but a good majority of people can finally view them too.

Most things are great so far. The reward we’ve reaped as a society for shoving greenbacks into Apple’s bank account for the last decade is that we have much better stuff now. It’s the exact opposite effect we got from making Microsoft big.

Those who are following the situation, however, have noticed a few things change recently, the most obvious being a move towards an incredibly closed operating system in iPhones and iPads. Many believe it’s only a matter of time before most of Apple’s products run on a similar OS. There are many definitions of “closed” vs. “open” but here is mine:

A closed system is one where a single organization has absolute control of everything that goes into it and everything that comes out of it.

Adobe ignores fire, gets burned

Steve Jobs wrote in his mostly reasonable letter condemning Flash that it was Adobe whose stuff was closed and Apple was the one using open technologies, but Adobe’s CEO — despite saying very little of substance — was right about one thing: this is a smokescreen. In order to use the Flash format, all I need to do is either buy a single copy of it (if the IDE is useful to me), or use any number of other, free compilers out there. In other words, Adobe never even needs to know about me and never needs to approve what I’m doing or selling.

In order to get my stuff onto an iPad or iPhone, however, I must receive explicit approval by a human being working for Apple after this human being has manually reviewed my work, derived my intentions for the product, and made a value judgement on what my creation brings to the device. As long as that process exists, there shall be no arguments that the iPhone or iPad are more open than just about anything we’ve ever seen before… including Flash. To claim that because Apple is pushing open standards like HTML5 (really for their own benefit) means they are somehow more open than Adobe is folly.

Adobe’s problem in this mess is that they’ve painted themselves into a corner with the public. They used to be loved by everyone who used their products. Ask a designer ten years ago whether they’d rather switch away from Apple or switch away from Adobe and I’m sure most would have stuck with Adobe. Today, not only has the situation reversed itself, but I find myself actively trying to move away from Adobe on my own. They’ve shipped nothing but bloatware for the past five years, each version of CS being slower and buggier than the previous and offering very little important utility in return. $700-$1000 for Photoshop CS5 and it still can’t even print a tiled document. Adobe Creative Suite, in many ways, has become the Microsoft Office for the creative design and development industry. Somehow I bet that was a company goal in a presentation at some point. Mission accomplished. So when Apple stiffarms Adobe by changing section 3.3.1 of their iPhone OS developer agreement, it’s no wonder people aren’t exactly rushing to Adobe’s defense.

Flash has taken a slightly different path towards public distaste and I actually don’t blame Adobe for most of it. When Flash first came out, only the most talented design visionaries used it. When a new Flash site came out in 1999, each one was like a new DaVinci… beautiful works of art that moved the web from a tame, ugly typographically poor medium to a center stage for creativity.

Then the advertisers got ahold of it.

When most people speak ill of Flash, they are actually speaking ill of ads. Watching Flash video on YouTube doesn’t crash your browser; visiting a news site with five annoying Flash ads all trying to synchronize with each other does.

What most of these people don’t realize, though, is that it’s other “open” technologies that play a part in making this happen and will continue to, long after Flash is history. The OBJECT tag which spawns Flash movies is an open standard. The javascript that popped open that window with the screaming Flash ad is an open standard. And the HTML/CSS that slowly sashayed that 300×250 div right the fuck over that paragraph you were trying to read is an open standard too.

When Flash is gone, this overly aggressive marketing will simply be foisted upon you using more “open” technologies like HTML5. And guess what? It’ll be harder to block because it looks more like content than Flash does.

Here is when I digress just a little bit…

It also amuses me when people talk about two things in particular with regard to the iPhone and iPad. First, how much better some companies’ iPhone apps are than their web sites, as if the company is somehow so much more gifted at creating iPhone apps than web pages. It feels better because it’s designed for you to do things quickly. Most web sites are actually not designed for speed of task completion at all. They are designed to maximize page views or at the very least, time on site (and hence, maximize revenue). ESPN.com doesn’t want you reading one story about the Mayweather/Mosley fight and then moving on with your day. They want you to read ten more stories after that, check your fantasy teams, and buy a Seahawks jersey. Mobile.espn.com, on the other hand, is more concerned with getting you in and out quickly because they know you have less tolerance for distraction and extraneous clicks when you’re on your phone. The second thing is when people talk about how great content looks in some of these iPad apps. Again, this is a reaction to the lack of distraction, not the tablet form factor.

Content that is free of distractions and potential crashes looks and feels better. Period. It’s not the hardware; it’s the environment.

… and then try boldly to pull it back in

… which brings us back to Apple and their role in the way we experience information moving forward.

With the iPhone and the iPad, Apple has either smartly or stupidly drawn a line in the sand and declared themselves no longer just the arbiters of hardware and system UI but arbiters of content and commerce as well. If you want to develop or produce content for Apple’s ecosystem, you will do exactly as Apple tells you to do. If you want to enjoy Apple’s products as a consumer, you’ll enjoy every freedom Apple provides and live with every limitation they impose. It’s like a country club. Apple isn’t saying you can’t play golf with your pit-stained t-shirt and denim cutoffs. They’re just saying you can’t do it at their club. Apple wants to run the most profitable country club in the world, with millions of members, but they don’t want everybody; and therein lies the difference between how their resurgence is playing out and how Microsoft’s dominance ultimately played out.

Microsoft wanted 100% share in every market they entered. The thought was that once you dominate a market, you can impose your will on it via pricing, distribution, bundling, and all sorts of other methods designed to maximize profit. To Microsoft in the 1980s, a monopoly was a great problem to aspire to have, and since antitrust laws weren’t routinely applied to software companies, the threat seemed immaterial. The problem with this thinking, however, was that the law eventually caught up to them and crippled their ability to continue operating as a monopoly.

Apple, on the other hand — while in danger of eventually suffering the same fate — seems determined to avoid it. What’s the best way to avoid becoming a monopoly? Make sure you never get close to 100% market share. What’s the best way to temper your market share? Keep prices a bit higher than you could. Keep supply a bit lower than you could. Keep investing in high margin differentiation and not low margin ubiquity. Remember how Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple in 1997 in order to keep them around as a plausible “OS alternative” in hopes of avoiding the antitrust knife? Well Apple already has that in Android, in Blackberry, in Windows Mobile, in Palm, and in Nokia. They are fighting hard right now to make sure they are one of the two or three that will continue to be relevant in 5-10 years, but their goal is clearly not to be at 100% or even 90%. That level of success would get the company trustbusted.

It is this prescient and necessarily restrained motivation that reveals the true reason why Apple has closed up tighter over the last few years: it’s not to take control of the world. It’s specifically to separate themselves from a pack of companies they need as their competitors but want relegated to the lower margin areas of the market. Apple will stay closed as long as being closed is a net positive to their business. Until people either start abandoning their products because of this or the do the opposite and adopt their products at a rate which creates a monopoly, they will continue operating at their current clip: high innovation, high profits, and high control.

It’s scary to people because they remember the harm other companies have done when they reached monopoly status, but with Google, Microsoft, Nokia, RIMM, and now HP all keeping the market healthy with different alternatives, there is no excuse for not voting with your feet if you’re unhappy. Apple’s not going to take over the world because — if for no other reason — the laws of the United States won’t let them. If you don’t want to contribute to their success because their behavior is distasteful to you, then don’t; but don’t forget how fortunate we are to have such a ruthlessly innovative company at the helm of the ship at this point in time. Either get on it or just pick another boat and draft in its wake. When the biggest problem in personal technology is that the leading company is getting a little too exceptional, it’s a good problem to have.

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93 Responses:

  1. There’s a real problem in your argument about “openness” – you’re conflating using Flash (the plugin) to developing for iPhone (the SDK). This is obviously not a fair comparison. While anyone *can* make their own flash plugin (but let’s be serious – nobody does, and nobody would want to use it), nobody is going to even try making their own iPhone OS device (to consume iPhone apps).

    In addition, you’re neglecting the fact that you don’t need Apple’s approval to write or use certain kinds of apps – I use Google Voice on my phone with VoiceCentral all the time:

    http://voicecentral.riverturn.com/

    You’ll note that VoiceCentral uses HTML5 (and related web tech) to provide an identical interface and user experience to iPhone apps while retaining control of distribution, payment and design.

  2. [...] a smart article about Apple’s design and business philosophy, Mike Davidson pauses to discuss the frustration we all feel regarding the intersection of what we [...]

  3. Great piece, Mike – I especially like the analysis at the end. That makes everything make sense for me. As a Flash Platform consultant who loves both Apple and Flash, watching this conflict unfold has been very frustrating. At times, it felt like Apple simply wasn’t interested in a huge segment of the developer community – and of course, in light of the anti-trust stuff as you lay it out here that makes perfect sense. What better defense against monopoly can they provide than “We don’t have a monopoly, we’ve done everything we could to encourage people to vote with their feet against us.”

    It’s still frustrating at times, though. I really, really don’t like coding in ObjC. I suppose it could to some extent just be platform bias – AS3/ECMAScript just make more sense to me – but it’s irritating that my deployment options are limited by these corporate shenanigans.

  4. [...] When the biggest problem in personal technology is that the leading company is getting a little too exceptional, it’s a good problem to have. [...]

  5. Mike D. says:

    Jemaleddin: The conflation is the point. Adobe is telling Apple “you’re closed” and Apple is telling Adobe “Oh yeah? Well YOU’RE more closed than us”… and they are both talking about different things… and what I’m saying is that Apple is indeed more closed than Adobe, in the general sense of the word. So when Apple makes the argument that they are using open standards, it’s a bit of a smokescreen.

    With regard to Google Voice on your iPhone, the VoiceCentral non-app app is a clever hack, but it was made necessary by Apple’s refusal to let a native Google Voice app on the iPhone. It’s great that it works but its subversive design is a reaction to Apple’s policy against a Google Voice app. It will be interesting to see what other sorts of weblications (as they call them) spring up to get around App Store policies.

  6. kerry says:

    Well thought out and well said. The sense of entitlement and bitching some folks do never ceases to amaze me and this is the worst kind of example. You don’t like what Apple is doing, then don’t buy their products.

    You’ll simply miss out on what is the best digital experience going. Between the iPhone, iPad and their actual computers we’re living in the prime of computing.

  7. Stu says:

    I still haven’t heard anyone, especially on the Adobe/Flash side, explain why Apple can’t have a competitive advantage and allow only their tools. Much less why this is an anti-trust issue. All the way until they’re a convicted monopoly abuser.

  8. The reward we’ve reaped as a society for shoving greenbacks into Apple’s bank account for the last decade is that we have much better stuff now. It’s the exact opposite effect we got from making Microsoft big. via mikeindustries.com [...]

  9. SubGenius says:

    I don’t understand why people have such a problem with the iPhone OS.
    Apple has created a simple dichotomy that keeps things really simple(which is a good thing).
    1) Create a native app and play by their rules.
    2) Create a web app – anything goes
    3) Take your ball and go home

  10. Fred says:

    Good points here, but I wouldn’t be so sure that Apple won’t ever have the market share to face antitrust risk (putting aside the important point that market share itself isn’t particularly critical in an antitrust examination). Keep in mind that in the MS case, the Judge defined the relevant market as “operating systems for personal computers that are based on an Intel-compatible Central Processing Unit.” That was an incredibly narrow and static view of the market, and excluded many viable substitute products (i.e. Macs). One could make a reasonable argument using this analysis that Apple already has a monopoly in iPhone OS.

  11. > I really, really don’t like coding in ObjC. I suppose it could to some extent just be platform bias – AS3/ECMAScript just make more sense to me – but it’s irritating that my deployment options are limited by these corporate shenanigans.

    I don’t think it’s just a corporate thing that limits iPhone apps to Objective-C though. Apple’s big in terms of revenue and profit, but I think people overestimate the number of programmers it employs, or the feasibility of what they’d like Apple to support.

  12. I esp agree with the statement of folks moving away from Adobe on their own. I used to be a major Adobe fanboy and have sense moved away because its been easier to the past few years. I don’t program ColdFusion anymore now that I’ve moved to Java and Python, and I don’t work in Flash (Flex) anymore since I’ve moved to alternative Ajax platforms (such as GWT and Dojo).

    From the graphics design perspective, I’m still on CS3 and if I ever “upgrade” it will likely be to something like Pixelmator, for photo stuff, to support the small business. Plus is less than $100.

    I’m seeing less need to support Adobe, I’m sorry to say.

  13. I agree with the reasoning of the article and the explanation about the anti trust is brilliant. To be honest I never thought it from this perspective but now that you mention, it all makes perfect sense as to WHY Apple is doing whatever that it is.
    As far as Flash is in question, it is only being phased out like Floppy Disks were a few years ago, so that is the last of my concerns.

  14. @Paul d. Waite:

    No, you’re right – I should be more clear. I believe in native code for native apps generally. I don’t think Apple should be beholden to support the development tools of other companies. I think it would be nice to publish simple .ipa files from Flash, but I understand why they don’t allow it from a product lifecycle standpoint.

    What does irk me, though, is the lack of Flash Player runtime support in the embedded browser. It means that if I create some kind of online experience using Flash/Flex, and even if I have a mobile version, I still need to rewrite the whole thing in ObjC to allow people on iDevices to see it. Or I need to rewrite it in HTML/JS/CSS, which is frankly all kinds of nightmares from where I’m standing.

    The reason I got into Flash development to begin with was for platform agnosticism. The fact that Apple is intentionally taking that away from me and complicating my deployment options is what bugs me. Flash player works on mobile devices. Will there be flash sites that crash? Sure. Flash is more powerful than HTML/CSS/JS and as such mistakes are more costly. But the answer isn’t to eliminate the runtime altogether and claim there’s a technical reason – the answer is to sandbox it so as to preserve the majority of flash content which would run fine on the device.

    The fact that flash runs in-browser on Android devices is really all the evidence anyone should need. If you still want to have the option to disable all flash, more power to you! That can be handled as a user option, not as an absolute. That particular aspect of this entire situation is not being talked about, and I think it’s because Apple has been very successful in controlling the terms of the discussion.

  15. [...] A good problem to have | Mike Industries. Tweet [...]

  16. hoppo says:

    @mykola bilokonsky

    “The fact that flash runs in-browser on Android devices is really all the evidence anyone should need.”

    Actually it’s coming in the “second half of the year”. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    The simple fact is that Apple will run their platform as they see fit. If they detect that its “closed” nature is hurting sales then they may change their strategy. Right now, it’s not – apart from, perhaps, a tiny minority of super geeks who like very high level of control over their device. The thing to remember about Apple is they are interested in designing the best user experience for 90% of people. If you’re one of the 10% get an Android phone and stop complaining about the iPhone being closed.

  17. @hoppo You’re missing my point – it’s not about my experience as a user, it’s about my experience as a developer.

    I have no problem admitting that Adobe completely dropped the ball with respect to optimizing for mobile platforms. It’s embarrassing that Flash Player 10.1 has a 50% performance boost – they have not been prioritizing for the emerging market, and were very slow to react. And you’re right – it’s not out yet, but it has been in beta doing quite well. I think the big announce is going to be at Google IO this year, but I could be wrong.

    FP10, though, still works just fine on many Android phones (2.1 if I’m not mistaken, right?) and that’s not even optimized. So I guess that’s what I’m getting at here – there’s no technical reason you can’t run the flash player plugin on a mobile device.

  18. “Watching Flash video on YouTube doesn’t crash your browser” – yes, actually it does (I have a bug filed against 10.1 RC2, but the only reason for trying the 10.1 betas was because it was happening to me with the released versions.)

    Strictly speaking I’ve been experiencing lockups (tight CPU loops) rather than crashes, but it does happen.

  19. @Mykola:

    “What does irk me, though, is the lack of Flash Player runtime support in the embedded browser.”

    Adobe, and Macromedia before that, has been trying to get Flash to work well on mobile devices for *ten years* now, still without success. It’s finally announced now and there are even a couple of phones and tablets out there that actually run it—and all have terrible battery life when doing so.

    Unless Adobe fixes that problem first, I feel really delighted about the lack of Flash on my mobile devices. I’m lucky, though, in that there’s no content in my life I have a need or desire for that I have to use Flash for.

  20. @Faruk but how does that lack of choice help you? I mean I’m fine with a “turn off plugins” options, hell it can even default to Off. But there’s never, ever been a time while browsing the web on your iPhone that were unable to view some content because it was Flash-based? Never? I don’t think I believe that.

  21. hoppo says:

    @mykola bilokonsky

    Sure, I agree, if Adobe can get Flash working well on mobile devices that’s great for them and potentially a fair few developers. But the simple fact – and even Flash advocates admit this – a Flash app, or even a Java app for instance, is never going to give the same user experience as one developed using any platform’s native tools. Even if the interface looks native there will still be a performance hit and the app will likely not take advantage of everything that the platform has to offer technology wise.

    Apple is saying, and I think Jobs explained this quite well the other day, is that they don’t want their platform or their users beholden to a development platform that Apple doesn’t control. That it’s taken Adobe so long to get Flash out for mobile devices is indicative of the fact they will unlikely to be able to keep up with the frequent developments under the hood Apple make to their platform – especially if they are going to be maintaing versions for Android, Windows mobile, RIM, etc. Apple make a point of testing their APIs to the very extremes before deploying them, because they know once it’s out there and apps are using it then that’s it.

    Now, what Apple are doing is betting that keeping a look down on their platform, and maintaining the best user experience, will keep users buying into their platform, even if that inflexibility costs them a few developers in the process. The other aspect of the bet is that because at the moment their App Store is by far and away the most successful, those reluctant developers will bite the bullet and develop for the iPhone anyway seeing the profit potential there. It’s about building platform momentum and leaving no potential hostages to fortune.

  22. @hoppo all of your arguments are more or less a reasonable explanation of why Apple doesn’t want to allow flash devs to compile Apps in Flash for sale in the app store.

    But I’m not talking about that – as I said above, native code for native apps makes sense to me. I’m talking about my work that lives on the web being inaccessible to people using iPhones and iPads. It complicates my life. That has nothing to do with player lifecycle and and locked down platforms – we’re talking explicitly about enabling the full web in Mobile Safari. In that regard, the points you’re reiterating here from Jobs don’t really make any sense.

  23. @Mykola:
    Oh, I’m sure there have been a couple of cases here and there where I ended up following a link on Twitter to a video that was done in Flash, and couldn’t watch it, but it’s never been of something so seemingly important that I had to remember it for visiting on my laptop later.

    @hoppo:
    Also something to keep in mind: chipset switches. When Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel, all that Xcode-ObjC developers had to do to support Apple’s sudden move was check a checkbox and right away, their app was compatible. If Apple were to do the same with the iPhone or iPad, switching from ARM to whatever, then Flash developers would have to wait for Adobe to figure out and support the new chip architecture first and push an update out to developers. With Adobe’s track record, that’s something that might take them 18-24 months, far too long for Apple to risk that from happening.

  24. river says:

    some great points in here, mike. i have to take issue with a few things, though.

    first, aren’t you kind of doing the same thing apple and adobe are doing by comparing flash-open to iphone-os-open? the thing is, flash apps are generally created for the internet, and while they may crash my browser, they don’t take down my os, and i haven’t paid for them. apple is in a position where native apps for the iphone have the potential to ruin the user experience for people, and when people have paid money for the device, and then more money (in apple’s store) for the application, then those people are likely to get pissed and complain and maybe not by any more of those apps.

    that’s just to say i don’t think it’s a fair comparison to make, and i don’t see why anyone argues that apple should be expected to treat their iphone market like the internet, where people can throw anything they want at it.

    that said, i’m not a big fan of apple’s process for reviewing and approving apps. i would love to see them go more in the direction of opening up the options. at the very least they could publish and maintain a public record of the rules and process, in order to make it more transparent and consistent.

    second, your larger point about apple avoiding monopoly status doesn’t ring true to me. i wouldn’t be surprised if there are conversations about this sort of thing at high levels within apple, and maybe you have some inside info or something, but it’s certainly not the only way to interpret what they’ve been doing.

    i think it more likely that ultimately, apple (driven primarily by steve jobs) cares *a lot* about the quality of the products they make and the user experience they offer. let’s not forget the young idealogue jobs was when he started apple. he’s older and wiser, probably more pragmatic, but i have no doubt he’s just as passionate and driven to change the world, at least the world of technology. he’s always wanted to create devices that everyone uses, that don’t scare off the non-nerds. at the same time, he combines that with extremely high standards for quality of hardware and software.

    combine those goals, and i think apple is more than happy to have their products at the higher end of the market (which is partly just a perception thing). it does limit their market share in some ways, but it also keeps profits very healthy for the company. and that, in turn, allows them to make big bets on what comes next, and do it their way. they don’t have to flood a market to make a profit, they can make the device *they* believe in, and take time to get it right, before and after it launches. in the long run i don’t think they have any problem with owning a dominant share of a market. they were very aggressive with extending the ipod line and lowering prices. there are a number of other players splitting a portion of the market, but i don’t think apple cares. and i don’t think they feel it’s worth it to kill them so they can get a bigger slice.

    the problem with getting that 90% slice of the market is you have to be willing to sell a lot of cheap stuff, which is usually crap. and then beyond that i think there’s a certain ruthless approach to killing up-and-coming competitors required to maintain such a position. i just don’t think they’re interested in selling volume crap or running around and stomping all the innovative startups in order to dominate. i think path has too many distractions from what jobs cares about–creating the greatest products that are truly appreciated by their users. he’s never had that vision for apple, and his other business endevors reflect the same approach.

    so i think it’s more philosophical and deep-seated than strategic, though it is strategic in the sense that it keeps the company highly focused. it’s all just my conjecture, but it seems to fit the history better and be more compelling than the idea that they’re just trying to avoid a fight with the feds. if apple could own huge shares of these markets, without losing their focus or high level of fit and finish (which they’re already struggling to maintain, imho), then i think they’d do it. but i’d suggest that those things may be incompatible.

  25. @Mykola:

    ” I’m talking about my work that lives on the web being inaccessible to people using iPhones and iPads.”

    Is your Flash content accessible to people using screen readers? (honest question)

  26. river says:

    oh, also, watching flash-based youtube videos absolutely crashes my browser. and if standards-based advertising is less of a load on my browser, that sounds great to me. and i don’t know that it will “look more like content”. it will look more like markup, and maybe the fact that the content of the ads will be more exposed can allow us to use more subtlety in determining what we want to pay attention to. flash blockers are a pretty blunt instrument, after all.

  27. garden says:

    So what you’re saying is, you’re excited to get your Kin.

  28. @Faruk It’s a fair question. Honest answer? It depends on the client and on the nature of the flash experience, but generally no.

    It’s not really relevant to the point at hand, though. The point is that my work CAN be accessible to screen readers if it’s built into the scope. But nothing I can do can make my work accessible on an iPad.

    Again, it’s about limiting choices.

  29. hoppo says:

    @Mykola

    I agree to some extent. It’s important to note that part of the reason Flash came to prominence on the web was because of Microsoft’s intransigence in supporting pushing forward web standards. It’s ridiculous we’re only just realising video support in HTML. And I understand what you mean about Flash being platform agnostic but devices like the iPhone, iPad, as well as all the web-browsing smartphones out there which don’t have and will never get Flash, are increasingly eroding that position – rightly or wrongly. Many sites now are producing HTML5 code for modern browsers and only serving Flash for the trash that is IE.

    Certainly part of Flash’s popularity as a web platform (and I’m not saying this is the case with you) is that it’s accessible for designers. You don’t need to have background in code to work with it. Clearly, there’s a gap in the market for a software package that makes it as easy to do everything that Flash does but in HTML5. And I wish it was Adobe making it! Alas, I fear that’s unlikely…

    @Faruk

    Exactly. After all, it took Adobe nearly ten years to move their apps to Cocoa.

  30. @hoppo personally I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Flash CS6 came out and they announced that you could now publish as HTML/CSS/JS or as a .swf – that seems to be the direction that web-based RIA’s are moving, and there’s no reason why Adobe wouldn’t move with them. They’ve already demonstrated that they’re willing to spin out alternate compilers with the iPhone compiler, and they’ve already laid the groundwork for that with Dreamweaver CS5 with their SmartPaste stuff, though it’s pretty rudimentary. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

    At the end of the day, Flash is a really useful tool and people can do some pretty amazing stuff with it. It just frustrates me that we’re having all of these silly little conversations and at the end of the day it IS because of market maneuvering.

  31. @Mykola:

    “It’s not really relevant to the point at hand, though. The point is that my work CAN be accessible to screen readers if it’s built into the scope. But nothing I can do can make my work accessible on an iPad.”

    …except use HTML, CSS and JS and the various frameworks for those, or simply use Objective C.

    Just because you don’t *like* programming in Obj-C doesn’t mean you *can’t*. You just said it yourself already: “if it’s built into the scope”

    My point is, I get really annoyed by people talking about accessibility when they have, ever, put Flash content on the web that wasn’t accessible to screen readers and Google, because doing the latter revokes your privileges of complaining about accessibility.

    Also:

    “It just frustrates me that we’re having all of these silly little conversations and at the end of the day it IS because of market maneuvering.”

    No, it’s not “market maneuvering”, it’s called business strategy. Apple protects its own business for the foreseeable future by doing this. Any smart company would do the same.

  32. Chaz Larson says:

    @Mykola:

    “But there’s never, ever been a time while browsing the web on your iPhone that were unable to view some content because it was Flash-based?”

    I don’t know that there has “never, ever been a time” that I haven’t been able to view some Flash thing while browsing on my iPhone. I honestly cannot recall this ever having happened, but it probably would have been something like a link to a Flash game on popurls.

    I can say that in the last year of browsing on my iPhone, I have not once found a case of this that prevented me from doing something I wanted to do. I have never thought “I’m missing out” while browsing on my iPhone.

  33. hoppo says:

    @mykola

    “at the end of the day it IS because of market maneuvering”

    I totally agree. I’m just saying I see why Apple are doing it. Ultimately, they think it’s in their interest in the long run to block Flash. We’ll see. But Adobe are just the same. While Apple’s interests are obviously wedded to the success of the iPhone platform, Adobe’s aren’t. They just want to sell more copies of CS5, CS6 etc. by tying people to Flash one way or another.

    I think I’ll call it a day there.

  34. @Hoppo:

    Indeed, Apple and Adobe are just the same, in that they both want their company to succeed. But Adobe made the unwise decision to bet its farm on Flash (by polluting every app in their suite with it), without first fixing some of the glaring issues with it.

  35. river says:

    @Mykola

    “I’m talking about my work that lives on the web being inaccessible to people using iPhones and iPads.”

    apple is betting that web content and apps are moving away from flash, and keeping the flash runtime off their mobile browser speeds that process. it also protects them from dealing with support issues caused by a poorly performing plugin or adobe being slow to address problems.

    as a web designer and developer, i have to say that i agree with apple and applaud them for the move. the sooner we get content and web functionality away from flash and into standards-based development (html5, css3, js), the better off we’ll all be. it’s more portable, it’s more flexible, and it’s open. we don’t rely on one company controlling the runtime for our content.

    the most compelling uses of flash on the web these days are video and games. html5 video is arriving no in fits and starts, and combined with js and css3 it’s looking very capable of doing great stuff. on mobile devices the best gaming experiences are native apps, right now. but there have been some good demos of the capabilities of html5/css3/js. things like your basic flash games can be created using these open standards, and the tools will only get better.

    flash provided some breakthrough stuff when it was new, as mike pointed out in the post, and inspired us to think about how rich the web can be. but those things came at a high price, one which we don’t have to pay any more. i’m glad for that, personally.

  36. @Faruk First of all, almost all of the flash on the web that I’ve been involved with has been google optimized. That’s not hard to do, you just drop the content in nice semantic html underneath the .swf – and in fact the google spider has been crawling flash itself for years now.

    That said, in many cases Flash serves not to organize and display textual information but to provide a multimedia experience. When these experiences live on the web, of course you SEO around them but how do you SEO a data visualizer? How do you make it screen-reader accessible? It’s audio and video in many cases, with dynamically generated content that interacts with the user in a variety of complex ways. That’s what it is, that’s what it does.

    In some cases (but not all), it lives on the web at a specific URL. That’s how this works. I can’t rewrite it in Objective C because I’m not interested in selling an app and I can’t rewrite it in HTML/CSS/JS because I have two gigs of SVN history caching an extensive source library that I’m intimately familiar with and which has taken me years to create.

    Now I explain that it frustrates me that Apple is going out of their way to make it impossible for specific growing and popular demographics to access my content, and the response from your quarter is a unanimous “Well that’s just great, Flash sucks, glad it’s gone, why don’t you learn HTML LOL n00b!” I find that attitude to be short-sighted and frankly silly, but it goes with the territory of my job and I know I have to accept that.

    But it doesn’t make it any less juvenile and frustrating. I’m just trying to make useful, interesting and beautiful things. Why does that make me a second-class citizen to Apple, whose products I love? That’s the point here, I think.

    I’m rolling with it, but it sucks. That’s all I’m saying.

  37. river says:

    @mykola

    “I’m rolling with it, but it sucks. That’s all I’m saying.”

    i absolutely hear that in your position it sucks, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. that’s frustrating, no two ways about it.

    i don’t think people here are being juvenile, but maybe i’m missing the tone or you’re talking about responses you’re getting elsewhere. that said, we’re going through a major seachange here, and there are always people in your position that bear the brunt of the change, because they’re invested in something that’s being devalued or phased out in certain markets. it sounds like you get that, but from that perspective i’m sure you can understand some of the reaction.

    it’s not apple’s job, nor any specific company, to support a given technology because there are people invested in it or still using it, no matter how great the end products are. they think they see a better way forward, and they’re trying to move things in that direction as fast as possible. if we want to deliver our content to their platform, we have to adapt.

    anyway, it sounds like you get that. neither side of this conversation is more right, but i think there are a few different lenses being used to examine the issue, and maybe that’s why you feel like some people aren’t getting what you’re saying.

  38. bVs says:

    There is a very old saying that a bird in a golden birdhouse is still trapped.

  39. @river Hey, look, if there’s a better way to do what I do beyond Flash I’m all ears. But HTML5 isn’t a spec and won’t be for another 10 years minimum. It’s supported in what, 10% of browsers?

    When it does get supported, how are you going to handle DRM in HTML-based video? Hell, how are you going to unify all browsers to support the same codecs? H.264 is great and has been, but it has licensing traps waiting to be sprung. VP8 is supposed to be pretty slick, but not available yet – so when that comes out, we’re going to have yet another format war.

    What I like about Flash is that it’s an effective way to skirt out of all of these conflicts – or had been until this conflict was brought explicitly to it.

    But, I’ve spent enough time in this thread today. I’ve got some amazing shit to build, so I’m going to go get to it. I’ll check back much later.

    Cheers,
    mb

  40. @Mykola:

    Four years ago, at SXSW, I was on an accessibility panel where we talked about accessibility at length. It led to me getting into a discussion with Thea Eaton ( http://www.flashgoddess.com/html/spotTEaton.html ) about Flash and accessibility, and she suggested I attend her panel later that week about this very issue. In it, they showcased a variety of ways to make Flash content accessible and highly usable by people with all sorts of disabilities. In many ways, Flash was capable of making interactive content accessible whilst HTML, CSS and JS just couldn’t so (yet, at that time). The only problem was, literally* 99% of Flash developers out there at that time simply never bothered to do this.

    “I’m just trying to make useful, interesting and beautiful things. Why does that make me a second-class citizen to Apple, whose products I love?”

    Because of a couple of reasons, I suspect:

    - the technology you’re using has gotten a bad reputation for the poor, buggy performance it has delivered in so many cases that it’s become the first and primary association people have for it
    – because you’re an exception among your peers; I have no experience with any of your Flash work, but the impression I’ve gotten from many Flash people over the years hasn’t been a focus on “useful, interesting and beautiful” things so much as “flashy and easy to make”. Good stuff is never easy to make, and I suspect you know that just fine—but it’s not something I’ve felt to be part of your industry’s culture. On the other side, it’s deeply embedded in the Cocoa culture, amongst all people who did Mac OS X development. The iPhone has muddled that culture with money grabbers, true enough, but Apple’s own examples still do a good job at keeping that culture alive; Adobe… well, as Mike’s piece above pointed out, not so much anymore.
    – because you are, kind of, treating Apple as a second-class citizen yourself: you’re the one saying to Apple “No, your tools are not good enough for me” just as much as Apple is replying with “No, your tools are not good enough for our platform.”

    Don’t forget that even Mac OS X developers had to learn almost everything from scratch when the first iPhone SDK came out. Their advantage was only their familiarity with Objective-C and the Xcode IDE, but they couldn’t use (virtually) any of the code they already had.

    Lastly, I understand that it sucks, and I’d hate to have a similar thing happen to me. You’re the innocent bystander in a corporate gunfight on the street.

    - F

    * Yes, I really do mean literally: they did a survey and a bunch of research and that was their own saddening conclusion. No idea if it’s changed since then, 4 years IS a long time.

  41. [...] founder and CEO Mike Davidson writes that Apple’s sys­tem can be just as closed and pro­pri­etary as [...]

  42. Nhantanu Sarayen says:

    Didn’t mention how much of a LIAR Shantanu Narayen is, saying if his plugin crashes its the fault of the OS; what nonsense.

    Shantanu Narayen is a liar

  43. river says:

    @mykola

    “But HTML5 isn’t a spec and won’t be for another 10 years minimum. It’s supported in what, 10% of browsers?”

    actually, quite a bit more than that. http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/05/04/internet_explorer_web_browser_use_drops_below_60.html

    it’s not a completed spec yet, but browser makers are implementing the features at a rapid clip. and with iphone os and android sucking up so much of the mobile browsing share, it makes sense to start using these technologies now. the audience is there.

    “When it does get supported, how are you going to handle DRM in HTML-based video? Hell, how are you going to unify all browsers to support the same codecs? H.264 is great and has been, but it has licensing traps waiting to be sprung.”

    i’m not claiming all the questions are answered, or all the issues resolved. but the fact that youtube and plenty of other big media players are switching to html5 video in order to support the iphone and ipad shows that these issues can and are being resolved. they wouldn’t do it if they thought it presented a huge risk. as for h.264, a huge amount of online video is already encoded in it, and it’s being delivered now but in a flash wrapper. so i find the claim that licensing traps are waiting to be sprung rather questionable. they should have been well sprung already. plenty of people smarter than me have argued that this isn’t a serious concern.

    “What I like about Flash is that it’s an effective way to skirt out of all of these conflicts – or had been until this conflict was brought explicitly to it.”

    understood. but this conflict has been brewing for a long time. apple may have brought it to a head, intentionally or as a byproduct of the iphone os gaining so much popularity, but make no mistake, this was coming sooner or later. i’d rather face it sooner, figure these things out, and have a more flexible, robust, open platform (web standards) going forward.

  44. Mike: Great piece. I agree with every word.

    Mykola: You said earlier that the reason you adopted the Flash platform was that it was ubiquitous and platform-agnostic. But here’s the problem: it’s not, and it never was.

    Flash seemed to be platform-agnostic and ubiquitous, because it was widely installed on the platforms that were commonly used. But it was never available everywhere. It didn’t run on mobile OSes five years ago. It didn’t run in the Nintendo Wii’s browser. It didn’t run on Palm Pilots or other PDAs. There have always been a lot of devices that had web browsers that didn’t run Flash — you just didn’t care, because your target audience didn’t use them.

    When you chose Flash, you made a decision that was based very much in the “now.” You knowingly decided, “Flash isn’t a web standard and may not be installed everywhere, but it seems to be installed everywhere that matters today, so I’m going to use it.” You probably assumed that, in the future, Flash would continue to be installed all over the place. If I were you, I would have made the same assumption. But, it *was* an assumption. Using web standards would have provided you something of a guarantee that your coding technology would be available in future web browsing devices, but instead, you went with the platform that couldn’t make such a promise, based on your hunch that it would continue to be installed on the platforms that mattered to you.

    I feel bad for you, and others like you. You’ve put a lot of time in learning a platform and now it’s starting to look like it’s not going to continue to be very useful to you, going forward. That sucks. That said, I can’t help but feel that you took that risk knowingly, and are now getting bitten in the ass for it. The iPhone and iPad aren’t the first web browsing devices to skip out on Flash — they’re just the first you care about.

    My general feeling is that people who chose Flash over web standards did so knowing that they had no guarantee of forwards-compatibiity, and I don’t feel very sorry for them. The one exception is those who chose Flash for things web standards didn’t provide a solution for (such as video). I do feel bad for those folks, because they didn’t really have a choice.

  45. river says:

    if only i could say things as eloquently as jeff croft.

    hear, hear.

  46. @JCroft

    Well, you’ve got me there. That’s a really good point. The first time I started using Flash was because I was doing a pretty complex video project and doing some kind of wacky-ass JS+QuickTime voodoo was not cutting it for me. A few weeks of Flash study and building and I realized I hadn’t once had to sit there and make it display right in IE6 and that was the last time I seriously thought of myself as a web developer.

    As it stands I’m not worried about my future – most of the Flash I’m doing these days isn’t even on the web, it’s closed-loop Tablet based or AIR-based for various side projects. But yes, you really put your finger on it – the sense of betrayal here is because Flash was always an “honorary” web standard. You’re absolutely right that not every browser supported it, but it was always okay to look at those browsers as “not really browsers” – they were gimmicky half-browsers.

    The reason this is so frustrating now is exactly as you say – finally there’s a “real browser” that doesn’t support Flash. For the first time it matters, and because it’s Jobs and he has a track record of destroying the world where ever he looks it’s a bit intimidating to find myself and my profession locked in his crosshairs.

    That doesn’t change the fact that Apple is making a choice, and I don’t agree with it. But, as I think everyone in this discussion knows, I don’t really have a leg to stand on if I disagree with Apple. They’re intentionally excluding a large faction of some of the most creative and innovative developers I know, and that sucks. But at least reading Mike’s piece I feel like I understand it a bit more.

    Ah well. The man can’t keep me down. I’m gonna go back to my mad scientist lab and build something amazing. :)

  47. river says:

    @mykola

    the thing is, they’re not “excluding a large faction of the most creative and innovative developers,” they’re excluding the tools those developers use because they see them as detrimental to the platform. if these people are as innovative as you say, the tools are secondary. their creativity–your creativity–still has great value.

  48. Jay says:

    @mykola bilokonsky: The fact that flash runs in-browser on Android devices is really all the evidence anyone should need.

    But it doesn’t. One of the major issues is that Adobe has yet to prove that it can create a Flash runtime that runs satisfactorily on mobile platforms. And, crashing is only one factor in Apple’s decision to not allow Flash on the iPhone OS.

  49. [...] A good problem to have | Mike Industries – A well-reasoned and thought provoking, albeit lengthy, article on the current Apple vs Adobe spat. [...]

  50. Stefaan H. says:

    I can’t program a better UI for my DVD recorder. Sony owns it all.

    Developers should start getting use to the fact that the iPod, iPhone or iPad are not computers with an OS. Apple sees them as devices with an API – a very very rich and stable API.
    They let you build apps against this API.
    As long as you play nice with the API, the device’s resources, the users and the evolution pace at Apple, you are pretty much safe. The only thing is, Apple approval process was and still is not always transparent, and that frustrates developers. So they should start getting use to the fact that…

  51. jz says:

    First, nice post, with a lot of good points. I would disagree with your final sentence, however. The biggest problem isn’t that the leading company is getting too exceptional, it’s that that company is acting in ways that should give people pause — such as censoring apps based on content (not just blatantly offensive stuff like porn but also other things such as satire of public figures). That Apple is putting out great products is nothing to fear; it’s what Apple is doing with the power it has garnered by building great products that should be cause for concern.

    Also, while Apple may never achieve a monopoly in terms of market share, I think it is possible for it to gain enough clout to control the mobile space as a monopoly would. Isn’t that why it’s such a big deal that Apple mobile devices don’t support Flash? Because one company in the mobile devices field refuses to support _____ (fill in the blank with any technology, not just Flash), it can severely cripple, if not flat-out kill, that technology’s future in mobile computing, even as other mobile device makers are trying to make it work. That sounds close enough to a monopoly to worry me. Of course, the only way to fix that situation is for other companies to get their act together and provide legitimate competition. Until then, Apple is going to do what’s best for Apple, and rightly so.

  52. paul in kirkland says:

    I’ve always felt that if you were able to guarantee Steve Jobs that he could either have all of the market or all of the control, he’d take all of the control 100% of the time.

    I think the fact that Apple isn’t a monopoly is a conscious business decision, and one they actively manage, so they can maintain control of their ecosystem.

  53. eddy says:

    What I read is a lot of entitlement.

    I was there in the early nineties when Apple went to their developers to explain what they could do to help Apple move to an OS that offered preempting multitasking and protected memory. Apple employees got shout at and even cursed. Every developer in the room then seemed to feel that the effort was entirely Apple’s burden. They wanted Apple to come up with a solution that was 100% backward compatible.

    Apple learned then that it is all about the API. Carbon offered abstraction from the direct memory access and private calls. Only those who moved to Carbon could move to OSX.

    What I see Apple doing now is protect against a situation where whiny developers can’t move forward anymore and stall the platform. Giving in brought Apple to the brink of extinction once. I hope that won’t happen again.

  54. Really well-written piece, Mike. Two points I’d like to make, one having been made by others here is that the very existence of an HTML5 browser that isn’t crippled to prevent geo-location or local storage defies the idea that Apple controls all that goes in or out of the iPhone OS experience.

    Second is what Flash has done that has driven me away from it, which is the perpetuation of non-standard UI elements. Scroll bars, especially, but other elements don’t behave the way they do in the browser, and while Flash does bring certain advantages, it robs so much of the consistent experience a browser can give that I ended up avoiding Flash-based content altogether. That, along with the workout it gives my Macbook fans, drives me bananas and has me rooting for its death.

    Thanks again for a forward-thinking article.

  55. Watts says:

    @mykola: My suspicion, from reading your comments, is that no matter where the focus of RIAs may lie two years from now, you’ll be there. You seem pretty clear-eyed on the subject.

    (I’m kind of agnostic on it, personally; I think Flash has a lot of potential it doesn’t often get credit for, but that’s because it’s potential which mostly goes unused. It seems to me that a future where HTML5 and (hopefully) Javascript engines based on the recently-finalized ECMAScript Edition are commonplace, though, is a future where ActionScript and the Flash runtime is fairly superfluous.)

  56. [...] From there, the conversation would tail off in another direction but I always remember thinking wishfully to myself that if Apple ever did rule the world again, what a fantastic problem it would be. Instead of having our future dictated to us by a company who didn’t even care enough to fix a broken web browser for over five years, we’d have our future dictated to us by a company who produced the most wonderful products in the world. The dream seemed so far-fetched, however, that it was easy to miss the potential for nightmare in it. via mikeindustries.com [...]

  57. Justin says:

    You said:

    “In order to get my stuff onto an iPad or iPhone, however, I must receive explicit approval by a human being working for Apple after this human being has manually reviewed my work, derived my intentions for the product, and made a value judgement on what my creation brings to the device.”

    This is false, unless “your stuff” is impossible to accomplish in Mobile Safari, and it makes you look ridiculous to claim that it’s true.

  58. Well said sir, well said.

    This reminded me of the time when we were out and a friend of yours, who I believe worked at Microsoft was giving you shit about Apple. He was saying something about how you were just following Steve Jobs taste and didn’t have any taste of your own. Your response was basically, well as long as he’s got good taste, I don’t see why I wouldn’t use his products.

  59. [...] An interesting blog post I found via Gruber’s blog. [...]

  60. Hamranhansenhansen says:

    > In order to get my stuff onto an iPad
    > or iPhone, however, I must receive
    > explicit approval by a human being
    > working for Apple

    Fundamentally untrue.

    You ignored the fact that this very Web page is running on iPads and iPhones right now, without any approval from Apple.

    You ignored that open apps go onto the open iPad and iPhone without any approval from Apple. These are apps written to the world’s open application programming interface, which can be written with any toolkit on any platform, deployed to iPhone OS from any server in the world, installed to local storage, appear on the user’s home screen with their other apps, and run in an open source application environment, without any approval from Apple. Apple has done as much as anyone to make this happen. All of the vapor promises of Flash with regards to cross-platform mobile development were all realized already with HTML5.

    You made the classic mistake of focusing on iTunes Store and forgetting that iTunes also features a music, movies, and book library that is completely independent of Apple. So all of these things are easily purchased or created yourself and then easily loaded onto an iPad or iPhone without any approval from Apple:

    * MP3/MP4 music downloads, or music CD’s, or music you create yourself, perhaps in the free GarageBand that came with your Mac

    * MP4 video downloads or movies you made yourself and may have edited in the free iMovie that came with your Mac

    * standard ePub eBooks, purchased from any bookstore, or again, books you made yourself

    Most of the storage on my iPad and my iPhone and my iPod is filled with bits that Apple did not approve of, and had no part in.

    There is absolutely *no reason* to use iTunes Store if you don’t want to. Everything can be put on there without it.

    > To claim that because Apple is pushing
    > open standards like HTML5 (really for
    > their own benefit) means they are somehow
    > more open than Adobe is folly.

    Again, fundamentally untrue. If Adobe open sourced FlashPlayer today they would still be 7 years behind Apple WebKit. WebKit is on every platform because Apple opened it. FlashPlayer is on Mac and PC and nowhere else because Adobe kept it closed.

    > If you want to develop or produce content
    > for Apple’s ecosystem, you will do exactly
    > as Apple tells you to do.

    No. If you want to develop or produce content for Apple’s *store*, you will do exactly as Apple tells you to do. Same as all stores. If you don’t want to, you sell open apps, open music, open movies, open books, and so on, in competing stores.

    The fact is: you can write an app, publish a song, publish a movie, publish a book, and they all run not only on iPad, iPhone, iPod, but also on *all* of the other devices. All the mobiles, all the personal computers.

    When it comes to native apps, yes iPhone apps are proprietary, but so are Android native apps and Windows native apps. You may not think approvals are good, but consumers and businesses (non-techie people) thinks approvals are really, really great. They are a feature for non-techies because they enable users to install their own apps without I-T support before, during, or afterwards. They get rid of the terribly unprofessional malware that plagues Windows and Android. And this creates a huge market for developers, since there are many more users than I-T. If developers have to walk on coals to enable consumers to have a safe, managed native app platform, the that is awesome.

    Consider that nothing gets into the Linux kernel that Linus Torvalds doesn’t like. If Adobe wants something in the kernel that helps Flash but Linus thinks that does more harm than good, it’s not going in. Just as Linus is kernel hacking so that his users can hack at a higher level, at Apple they are taking responsibility for *all* of the tech so that their users can hack music, movies, books, Web pages, Web apps, documents, conversations, and so on at the level where they do their hacking.

    Finally, I think your comparisons of Apple and Microsoft are strained, like all comparisons of these 2 polar-opposite companies. You confused being forced to use Microsoft because they illegally monopolized a market to *feeling* forced to use Apple because they built by far the best product in a market. Apple did not kill HP Slate by cutting off its sales channels by saying to Best Buy “if you carry iPad, you can’t carry HP Slate”. HP Slate died its own legitimate death because iPad was so good it changed the market, it altered consumer’s perceptions of what a tablet should be. That caused HP to get into mobile chips and software, which improved competition in tablets, not reduced it. That is a functioning market. Microsoft even today makes all of their profits from their 2 illegally obtained monopolies. It is irrelevant to the discussion.

  61. Mike D. says:

    Fred: Yep, good points. I’m not sure Apple will never face antitrust scrutiny or levels of dominance that lead to it… I’m just saying the avoidance of it is definitely part of their strategy. It has to be these days for any company whose power has risen as high and as fast as Apple’s.

    James R. Grinter: Yep, I’m sure YouTube causes crashes from time to time… I was generalizing a bit. It’s usually much crazier stuff than what YouTube tries that tends to crash browsers. Many of these terrible Flash remnant ads you see on media sites commit all sorts of crimes like using ridiculously high frame rates, running endless script loops, communicating with other elements via buggy conduits, and more. My contention is that it’s poorly written Flash that generally causes problems, although the mere fact that that’s so possible and prevalent is a legitimate knock against Flash.

    river: Yes, I’m definitely doing the same thing as Apple and Adobe are doing… in order to illustrate why neither of their statements are precisely right. Each are calling the other “closed” while not acknowledging that they themselves are closed as well. I’m not saying either is wrong in their decision to be closed in the ways they have chosen to be. I’m just pointing it out. As for the rest of your comment, I think you’re right in that Apple cares intensely about great products and that is the driving force behind everything they do, but if Apple thinks these products are as great as you say, they have to also think they are going to dominate the market eventually… and when you dominate a market in technology these days (and stiffarm potential competitors), you enter a completely different zone than the zone Apples’ been operating in for their entire life as a company. I’m just saying they are wary of this and they quite intentionally will try to avoid it.

    bVs: Yep, the golden birdhouse analogy is interesting. Could prove prescient or irrelevant. We’ll have to wait and see.

    Croftie: Well said. Also, with regard to encoded video, best practices would include always keeping a high quality master, so re-encoding might be a pain, but it should be something that is doable for a company/person who planned well.

    jz: Loved your duet with Alicia Keys. Good points. The “arbiter of content” part was probably not adequately discussed in this article, because I agree, it’s the most concerning behavior we’ve already seen from Apple, as opposed to worrying about if it will happen eventually.

    Justin and Hamranhansenhansen: Spare me the strawmen please. Why don’t we just say that since I can sell a $5 plastic case for the iPhone without Apple’s approval, then that means Apple is open and any arguments to the contrary are false. I’m talking about the ability to be a first-class citizen on the iPhone here… not the ability to do anything under the sun that is loosely related to it.

  62. [...] [Mike Industries] Categories: Commentary Tags: Apple, microsoft Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback [...]

  63. [...] A good problem to have | Mike Industries It’s scary to people because they remember the harm other companies have done when they reached monopoly status, but with Google, Microsoft, Nokia, RIMM, and now HP all keeping the market healthy with different alternatives, there is no excuse for not voting with your feet if you’re unhappy. Apple’s not going to take over the world because — if for no other reason — the laws of the United States won’t let them. If you don’t want to contribute to their success because their behavior is distasteful to you, then don’t; but don’t forget how fortunate we are to have such a ruthlessly innovative company at the helm of the ship at this point in time. Either get on it or just pick another boat and draft in its wake. When the biggest problem in personal technology is that the leading company is getting a little too exceptional, it’s a good problem to have. [...]

  64. Don C says:

    Loved your article “Good problem to have” Could you explain to me how people like Mr. Thurrott miss the “ease of use” that you are generally guaranteed when using Apple products? The frustration of using bad software seems to be a non issue. It doesn’t bother them at all! They don’t even get it. When it takes 2 or 3 times as many steps to accomplish a simple task, how do you not notice? The shortest distance between two points should be straight line. That’s the Apple HYPE we all follow? I don’t understand how they can only see it as drinking the Apple juice.

  65. Matunos says:

    The day Apple locks down Macs as they do their iPhones/iPads is the day I go back to installing Linux on my laptop.

    I see iPhones/iP{a,o}ds differently from my general purpose computing. These are consumer devices. When I want to hunker down and do some work, I will use my laptop. If I just want to browse the web, watch some movies on the go, or read an e-book, it seems the iPad is a better option. If I want to make phone calls… well.. um… well the iPhone has a lot of neat features too. I would put the iPad more in the category of my XBox than my MacBook. I don’t see a lot of porn games getting licensed for the XBox.

    I think there’s more to Apple’s strategies than just maintaining strawmen to keep the antitrust lawyers away. Apple has resurrected itself by offering extremely well-designed products that present a completely coherent and consistent experience. To offer that, you have to maintain a certain level of control over the entire platform, especially on these consumer devices. This is what separates them in a market dominated by commodity hardware and software. Sure, you can find a Wintel laptop with better specs at a cheaper price… but it doesn’t offer the same OS X experience. Sure, you can get an Android, or a Blackberry, or a Palm or a WinMo… but they don’t offer the same experience as the iPhone. The latter 3 all predated the iPhone, but they’re being left in its dust. This is why we always hear about the next ‘iPod-killer’ instead of the Zune-killer. This is why Apple has just single-handedly created a consumer market for tablets where the PC one was dead. The market is speaking. This can’t all be chalked up to Steve Jobs’ reality distortion field, or the unquestioning loyalty of Apple fanboys. Regular people love Apples products, and there’s little that all the haters of the world can do about it.

    Would I like to see Apple be a little bit more allowing with their AppStore? I sure would. But as HTML5 matures, running native apps will be a little less important, and Flash a little less relevant.

    Oh, and I’ve been waiting for Flash to die since long before I became an Apple user. It has nothing to do with web ads for me, it has to do with a proprietary format dominating rich media on the web.

  66. [...] May 5, 2010 · Leave a Comment It’s scary to people because they remember the harm other companies have done when they reached monopoly status, but with Google, Microsoft, Nokia, RIMM, and now HP all keeping the market healthy with different alternatives, there is no excuse for not voting with your feet if you’re unhappy. Apple’s not going to take over the world because — if for no other reason — the laws of the United States won’t let them. If you don’t want to contribute to their success because their behavior is distasteful to you, then don’t; but don’t forget how fortunate we are to have such a ruthlessly innovative company at the helm of the ship at this point in time. Either get on it or just pick another boat and draft in its wake. When the biggest problem in personal technology is that the leading company is via mikeindustries.com [...]

  67. alex kent says:

    hi,

    you can print tiled documents in Photoshop CS5 from Bridge (included with Ps).
    use the Output panel in Bridge and tick the ‘Repeat One Photo per page’ checkbox.

    as an aside, the output panel is pretty horrible (i’ve personally complained my ass off about it through the CS4 and CS5 beta cycles), but it does do what you need.

    rest of the article is an interesting read, thank you.

    alex

  68. [...] It went something like this: Other person: When are you going to give up already and start using a PC? The war is over. Apple lost. Me: They still make the best stuff and I want to support the company that makes the best stuff; not a company that uses their monopoly to sell products. Other person: Don't you think Apple would do thing? Me: Yes…Source:http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2010/05/a-good-problem-to-have [...]

  69. Notflash Gordon says:

    Watching a video on Youtube crashed my browser of choice two times today. So much for “Watching Flash video on YouTube doesn’t crash your browser”

  70. [...] Finally we need to look at why Steve is pushing this issue so hard.  They want to displace flash as a dominant platform on the web.  I have seen a number of interesting post looking at very holistic reasons. This one is especially interesting but essentially wrong. “A good problem to have“. [...]

  71. [...] Original source : http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2010/05… [...]

  72. [...] via A good problem to have | Mike Industries. [...]

  73. [...] A good problem to have | Mike Industries. A good problem to have | Mike Industries | Grab the Site RSS Feed Check out my latest project: [...]

  74. Mystakill says:

    @Kyle Hayes:

    You can generally pick up both Pixelmator *and* Acorn for less than $100 if you catch them on sale or in a bundle. PS is overkill for my needs, but now I have two great alternatives to use instead (and, no, the GIMP is not an acceptable alternative).

  75. [...] Davidson has written an excellent article regarding the whole Apple vs. Adobe stuff. Read the article for sure, but what I’m more interested in is the Quote of the Week [...]

  76. Jason says:

    ROFL: “..that slowly sashayed that 300×250 div right the fuck over that paragraph you were trying to read…”

  77. [...] A good problem to have (tags: article editorial technology apple history) [...]

  78. Joe says:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing it.

    While you might think the points Hamranhansenhansen made are a strawman, I had the same thoughts. The inclusion of a full-featured Safari browser with every iPaod should not be discounted.

    The platforms that will really suffer are those that don’t include a modern and full-featured browser, regardless of what happens with Flash.

  79. [...] Apple: Think similar Apple vs. the Web: The Case for Staying Out of Steve Jobs’s Walled Garden A Good Problem to Have [...]

  80. [...] Finally we need to look at why Steve is pushing this issue so hard.  They want to displace flash as a dominant platform on the web.  I have seen a number of interesting post looking at very holistic reasons. This one is especially interesting but essentially wrong. “A good problem to have“. [...]

  81. Eric Silva says:

    @mykola

    “It complicates my life.”

    “I’m rolling with it, but it sucks. That’s all I’m saying.”

    These things may be true. You seem heavily invested in Flash. It might be time to diversify.

    The decision to exclude flash from iPhone OS may indeed suck for you, but it’s good for Apple. And mobile devices sans Flash are good enough for users, because they’re flocking to the iPhone and iPad.

    “But it doesn’t make it any less juvenile and frustrating. I’m just trying to make useful, interesting and beautiful things. Why does that make me a second-class citizen to Apple, whose products I love?”

    Apple would love you to make “interesting and beautiful” things. They just want you to do it with tools (Xcode) and/or technologies (HTML5, Javascript, Objective-C) over which they have influence – or complete control. That is actually good long-term thinking for Apple – they don’t want to have to rely on anyone else the way they did in the past (Metrowerks, IBM, Microsoft, etc.)

  82. [...] The bearded wonder, Mike Davidson, made this point earlier in the week. [...]

  83. [...] – Mike Industries: A good problem to have [...]

  84. [...] A good problem to have | Mike Industries [...]

  85. smick says:

    Apple like a country club. Interesting analogy. Only I know a lot of members of some nice country clubs with more sense than to incessantly talk about their club as so much better than everyone else’s and act like complete hipster douchebags in the face of criticism. Not saying that Mike Davidson is doing that, far from it, this article was quite good.

    Flash or Unity 3D or other plugins should be a choice of the device owner. And handled properly, made easy to turn on and off. Especially if said device is doing similar things (browsing the web) like other devices put out by the same company. If it’s gonna be slow or crash prone then make it easy for me to shut off. simple!

    Many or most Flash movies run well on Macbooks, Macbook Airs on different browsers. I actually can’t recall my Firefox really crashing at all with Flash. Probably it has, but not more than anything else. Very seldom. When Jobs says Flash causes Macs to crash? That’s a lie. Flash is NOT crashing entire computers, requiring a reboot. It MAY be the most REPORTED crash via the browser crash report, but Flash / Browser would also be the most used program too. Flash is overused on sites and the user doesn’t even know it, probably on their ESPN and news sites (I’ve never seen a news site with video properly implemented. It’s always shit.)

    Perhaps Flash should be allowed via an on/off switch, as Firefox can with an extension. But it won’t even be given that chance because Jobs knows all the great games and other special apps done in flash and Air will hurt his business. Why not tell the truth? I mean if he can do whatever he wants and people still buy, why not just say the f—ing truth then?

    He has been lying and/or telling the wrong story about Flash the whole time. He acts like Flash and video don’t go together when it’s been the major way video has worked over the past years. HTML5 shows up, what in the past few months on some of the most recent browsers and suddenly Flash is this horrible thing? I’m sorry, companies with investments in special playlist players, hyperlinked objects with ads and whatever need a little more proof that HTML5 can help them do everything the had been doing. Sure I hate ads, but the ads pay for the sites that show the videos. Tell them to do it without ads and see how long they want to pay for bandwidth.

    Who cares if Flash 10.X hasn’t been ready when they stated? iPad apps launching now weren’t ready for the device release. Why not allow the add-on later? Using Mike Davidson’s analogy, we could call Flash the taco stand that wants to set up at the country club in front of the elegant lunch buffet. The gaudy taco stand that would eat into the sales of the restaurant. BUT if the members either didn’t care about the taco stand or WANTED tacos once in a while, maybe the club MEMBERS should make that decision even if when the taco stand was in operation it might affect their battery life.

    My experience with Adobe for years. Sometimes slow, such as Bridge and Photoshop. I hate the way Illustrator works, but I have NEVER had Photoshop crash on Mac or PC. Only a couple times Premiere crashed and it appeared to be an install issue with an earlier version. As much as I want other programs to compete better, few do. Xara for Windows kicks ass, but Gimp, Inkscape, Scribus, Corel? Not doing it for me so much. Adobe is expensive. I think their pricing should be maybe 900 for the entire Master Collection and down from there, but the market still buys it.

    My main problems with Apple. My little nephew can’t take a programming class and make an iPhone game and let me try it on my iPhone while in progress. He can’t share his stuff that way, so he’s supposed to learn these superior lean programming methods HOW??

    Oh with only 10 times as many hoops to jump through at age 13. And the companies I work for can’t make on cross-platform app (like flash enables) with animation or certain features that will work on all devices. Yes FLASH does do things other web technologies can’t do. (some without requiring a lot of programming knowledge or compiling). From the perspective of many, FLASH JUST WORKS. Again I know the arguments, but I can beat all of them because well-done flash proggys are everywhere. That’s why it exists. It enables certain things that in fact just WON’T be there. You think it takes a long time for a new Flash player! We are just seeing partially completed HTML5 specs partially implemented. When were standards boards ever known for speed??

    This whole scene about Apple has opened up a big bitch session about Adobe, people saying, good riddance to Flash. It’s 99% hot air, people not knowing what they’re talking about. They narrow the discussion excluding the important things of Flash and cross platform development. Many are ignorant of the swf file format as well. And they take the comments of Scribd and Opera as reasons Flash shouldn’t be there. Hello, it’s worked well for a while now, so has Youtube. They can do what they want that way, but Flash has given the ability to make a completely cross platform identical look even down to font embedding. Now the CSS3 font stuff is sort of happening in 2010. Color me impressed! Can’t wait to pay those fees to use fonts on my sites, when a great number of people still can’t see them.

    See I’m the person who thinks Apple designs are just kinda good. The winning designs for me, the ones that really kill it are the magic mouse (might mouse sucked balls) and the big apple touchpad. I hear the airport is a great router too. Other than that, I’d rather have a different companies product, and I’d save money in most cases doing that.

  86. [...] [...]

  87. [...] I don’t know how much truth there is in these analyses, but this article, A good problem to have by Mike Davidson is a great read. It is this prescient and necessarily restrained motivation that [...]

  88. [...] that does not maximize their profits for the sake of the ecosystem?  That seems doubtful, though there might be exceptions to the rule.  While those doomsayers may be slightly overstating their case right now, when we even begin to [...]

  89. Travis Butler says:

    @ mykola: I’m sorry, and I’m trying not to be ‘juvenile’ about it. But I see developers like you as being as much of the problem as Adobe, quite frankly.

    You ask if I’ve never visited a site on my iPhone where there was Flash content I’ve wanted to view? There have been a few cases where I’ve visited a site where the content was locked away in Flash. But my reaction is never “I wish I had Flash so I could view this” – it’s *always* “I wish the developer would put this in standards-based HTML so I could view this.”

    Because I’ve never liked Flash as a web development tool, and this goes back to when it first started showing up in the late 90’s. Bugs and poor performance are part of it, but only a part. Just as important, if not more so, are the ways Flash-based design fundamentally breaks web navigation.

    If I see an item on a Flash-designed website that I want to point out, I can’t link directly to it; I have to use a ridiculously roundabout description, like “visit this URL, click button [Y], scroll through the resulting list, pick the 15th item, click OK, then look at the picture four rows down in the fifth column.” By the same token, I can’t bookmark a section of interest; I can only bookmark a homepage, then be forced to navigate back each and every time. (This was a real hassle when I worked at a wholesale distributor and had to maintain their specimen label and MSDS collection; one of our major suppliers had a Flash-based homepage that prevented me from linking directly to their label/MSDS page.) Flash navigation breaks the browser’s history cache – both for navigating and for searching. And to quote the often-used reducto ad absurdum, you can’t even use the Back button on a Flash-based website. Where you claim “useful, interesting and beautiful things,” far more often I see ‘developers more in love with their own elaborate stylistic vision than with making things simply accessible to users.’

    (Not to mention the problem of non-standard controls mentioned previously in the thread. Using non-standard controls, like custom scroll bars, means that things like mouse scroll wheels aren’t guaranteed to work – and if new behaviors/control methods are developed, Flash-based apps don’t get them for free when the browser is updated, but must wait until they’re implemented in Flash proper – or worse, have to be implemented by the developer in numerous inconsistent ways. Using native HTML elements, these things Just Work, and I’ve lost track of the number of Flash apps that use their own crappy control system. The screen reader issue is a perfect example of this; if you design your site well in standard HTML, screen reader support isn’t something you have to *add*, you get it for free. And the same will be true for anything new coming down the pike.)

    So yes, I’m cheering on the move to standard HTML5 and away from Flash. Because in the end, the users are more important than the developers.

  90. [...] Most of the bitching comes from people who, for whatever reason, think Apple’s lead in the marketplace obligates them to allow their competitors a handicap. Frankly, I think that is ludicrous. I want to see competition, and companies aren’t pressed to compete when they are given an unfair advantage just for being behind. If nothing else, Apple’s rise to dominance should be a clear sign that consumers are willing to pay for quality. As Mike Davidson said regarding Apple at the helm, this is a good problem to have. [...]

  91. [...] Most of the bitching comes from people who, for whatever reason, think Apple’s lead in the marketplace obligates them to allow their competitors a handicap. Frankly, I think that is ludicrous. I want to see competition, and companies aren’t pressed to compete when they are given an unfair advantage just for being behind. If nothing else, Apple’s rise to dominance should be a clear sign that consumers are willing to pay for quality. As Mike Davidson said regarding Apple at the helm, this is a good problem to have. [...]

  92. [...] facto monopoly through the App Store. That’s the grim version.  Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson offered a different take earlier this year on the ultimate goals of Apple’s app store.  He was talking about the [...]

  93. [...] Most of the bitching comes from people who, for whatever reason, think Apple’s lead in the marketplace obligates them to allow their competitors a handicap. Frankly, I think that is ludicrous. I want to see competition, and companies aren’t pressed to compete when they are given an unfair advantage just for being behind. If nothing else, Apple’s rise to dominance should be a clear sign that consumers are willing to pay for quality. As Mike Davidson said regarding Apple at the helm, this is a good problem to have. [...]

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