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The Flash saga continues: Adobe responds to charges of "laziness"


Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe, has posted the latest riposte in the ongoing fencing match between Apple and Adobe concerning the lack of Flash support in Apple's portable products, including the iPad. Apple's latest word on the subject reputedly came from Steve Jobs himself at the recent Town Hall meeting with Apple employees, where he characterized Adobe as "lazy," condemned the plugin's poor performance on the OS X platform, and predicted a future where HTML5 would supplant Flash. Presumably in response to those comments, Adobe's Lynch has argued in favor of Flash, citing the plugin's ubiquity, flexibility, and Adobe's commitment to "focus on enabling our customers to do their best work, and helping them reach people effectively and reliably around the world across operating systems, browsers, and a variety of devices."

Lynch acknowledges the rise of HTML5 video in his post, but he notes that he sees the two technologies as co-existing rather than "one replacing the other." He also claims that since no standard implementation of HTML5 video exists, widespread adoption of HTML5 in place of Flash would lead us back to the "dark ages of video on the Web with incompatibility issues." He also re-affirms Adobe's commitment to bring Flash 10.1 to mobile platforms like the Nexus One, and he claims that 10.1 provides enhanced performance across a variety of platforms. His claim is true -- our own testing showed substantial improvements in Flash 10.1's performance on OS X -- but whether those improvements are enough to enable it to run well on iPhone OS is another story.

What's most interesting about Lynch's post isn't within the main body of the post, but rather in the comments that follow. Read on to find out more.

[Via The Register]

In the comments section on Lynch's post, he makes the following statement: "I can tell you that we don't ship Flash with any known crash bugs, and if there was such a widespread problem historically Flash could not have achieved its wide use today." That's an interesting statement. Let's consider the particulars of it.

Lynch claims Flash is installed on 98% of computers on the internet. If we're being extremely generous, we could say that OS X makes up 10% of those computers, and we could say Linux runs on an additional 1%. So, out of all the computers hooked up to the internet that run Flash, 89% of them are running some flavor of Windows. If Flash runs just fine on Windows but has middling to terrible performance on other platforms (which is usually the case), it's all too easy to dismiss these problems as not being "widespread" -- even if millions of OS X and Linux users are experiencing poor performance from Flash, many millions more Windows users aren't.

Lynch himself admits that "given identical hardware, Flash Player on Windows has historically been faster than the Mac, and it is for the most part the same code running in Flash for each operating system." You know what? That's exactly the problem right there. That's where the accusations of laziness are coming from. If Flash is optimized for Windows but doesn't run well on Unix-based platforms using the same hardware, it's Adobe's job to modify its code to improve performance. It's not Apple's job, it's not Linus Torvalds's job, it's Adobe's job. Even Microsoft knows better than to expect Office for Windows to run in Mac OS X with the same code; that's why Office for Mac exists.

As for Flash's commitment to mobile platforms? The writing is already on the wall for that one: Firefox for Maemo disabled plugin support for its latest release because "the Adobe Flash plugin used on many sites degraded the performance of the browser to the point where it didn't meet our standards." Remind me again why people are bashing Apple for keeping Flash off the iPad?

Oh, yeah: Hulu. Many people are coming out in defense of Flash because they want to view videos from the site on their iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads, but until or unless Hulu moves away from Flash to HTML5 or some other solution, they're unable to do so. Mike Schuster of Minyanville summed up the anti-Apple side of the argument pretty succinctly by saying, "Effectively blocking the site comes solely at the customers' expense and directs them to Apple's pay content in the worst way possible, and it's in direct opposition of net neutrality and an open Web."

Hang on. Did he really just use the words "net neutrality" and "open Web" in the same paragraph as the word "Hulu"?

This is what an open Web looks like?

Yeah, fine, it's not Hulu's fault the site is useless to the billions of people who don't live in the US. It's the US entertainment industry's fault, with its Byzantine copyright laws and its insatiable thirst for cash. But if you're going to bash Apple over "net neutrality" like Schuster or "open access to content" like Lynch, it's pretty foolish to continue citing access to Hulu as one of your linchpin arguments. If you're really championing for an open Web, how about advocating for a site that is actually open to all?

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