Apple, Adobe and the Phoney Flash Wars

Even if you don’t work in digital circles, you cannot fail to have noticed one of the big corporate spats from recent times kick off in ‘The Flash Wars’.

If you don’t know what we’re referring to, let me get you up to speed: Flash, a software owned by Adobe, is responsible for most of the attractive moving graphics on the web including adverts and games. This software is free to download and use, but whoever uses Flash to design needs to buy licensed software to create Flash applications.

Given that it is free, easy to embed, and a ‘one size fits all’ offering creating beautiful interactive treats, you would have thought that the Apple audience would be ideal users for Flash. Sadly, they aren’t given the option.

What initially leaked out from Apple as ‘the iPhone is not compatible for Flash’ reason last year (let’s call that ‘Episode One’), then became ‘we don’t want Flash because it isn’t Open Source’ (Episode 2), has now grown into a corporate mud-slinging match (Episode 3) with Flash ‘banned’ from all mobile devices and optional on laptop and desktops.

The irony here is huge. Because if there’s ever been a more tightly patrolled walled garden, then Apple is the curator. Every product they produce is policed. Every competitor pursued. If they really believed in Open Source then surely they would allow full access to their software, which, of course, they don’t and won’t.

Looking at this purely commercially¬† the real reason that Apple doesn’t want Flash on it’s phone is quite clear and is hidden in this ‘open letter‘ from Apple:

“Another Adobe claim is that Apple devices cannot play Flash games. This is true. Fortunately, there are over 50,000 games and entertainment titles on the App Store, and many of them are free. There are more games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.”

Though true, the reality is that with so many Flash games available free of charge, the revenues from the app store would shrink dramatically if Flash were readily available. By backing HTML5 Apple give the impression of being the good guys. But they know that there are hardly any HTML5 games available and most are of a poor quality and difficult to locate on the web… as most are supported by advertising and sponsorship using… yes, you’ve guessed it, Flash design!

Far be it for us to support Adobe, given that they’re masters of acquiring great software and then tripling the price. However this instance, for all the hot air from both sides, gives the impression of Apple protectionism.

As usual Apple, and teflon Steve, seem to come away from what amounts to a corporate mugging looking clean. However, their actions show that for all the words written and spoken, they are as commercially merciless as the competition, if not more so.