Does Apple Have A Blind Spot About Flash?

I think the news that Flash is coming to smartphones over the next year is a big deal. Most of the rich media experiences I have on the web are in flash. YouTube's success had a lot to do with its choice of Flash for its video player. Now almost every video site on the web uses a Flash video player. The same is true of audio. It used to be that when you wanted to listen to streaming audio, you had to use windows media player, the real player, or a link to iTunes, but all that's gone, thanks again to Flash. Whether its, Pandora, most radio station web streams, or hypemachine, you are listening via Flash.

I have been able to port most of my web activity pretty seamlessly to a smartphone, either iPhone or Blackberry. But the one thing I've not been able to replicate is the seamless experiences of watching video or listening to streaming audio on my phone (downloading an app to listen to music is not seamless). I realize that the mobile networks may not yet be ready for hundreds of millions of people watching or listening to streaming media on their smartphones, but they will be someday and getting Flash onto smartphones is going to accelerate the demand for this.

It's also true that a lot of the interesting new desktop apps like Twhirl and Tweetdeck are written for AIR, Flash's runtime cousin for the desktop. I'd love to have apps like this on my smartphone too.

So it's very exciting to me that Flash is making a big move over the next year onto smartphones. I'm also very excited to see Nokia and Adobe creating the Open Screen Project and Open Screen Fund to promote an open and consistent experience for web browsing and mobile apps across mobile devices. The mobile web needs to be just like the web for innovation to flourish and capital to flow.

Which takes me back to the title of this post. I believe Apple is making a mistake by snubbing Adobe's desire to get Flash on the iPhone. And I believe Apple doesn't share in Adobe and Nokia's vision of an open and consistent experience for web browsing and mobile apps. It seems to me that Apple is interested in replicating its iTunes/iPod strategy it used to dominate digital music to dominate the mobile web.

I don't think that will work. In fact, I don't think the iTunes/iPod strategy has much life left in it. Things like Pandora, MySpace Music, music blogging, and other forms of streaming music will eventually chip away at that franchise. But leaving the digital music situation alone for the moment, the mobile web is not going to be dominated by a single device and a single app ecosystem. I don't even think an app ecosystem is the long term solution for the mobile web. It's a bridge enviroment that allows for rich experiences on devices that don't have reliable high bandwidth connections yet.

But the mobile web will eventually just be the web. And a big part of getting it there is to get the tools that allow us to seamlessly consume rich media on the web onto mobile devices. To me that means Flash. I'm rooting for Adobe and its allies like Nokia and Palm (and hopefully Blackberry) to win this game. If they do, we'll all be much better off because of it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
#stocks#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Zach Bass

    I do believe Apple believe in the open web, but they’re also guarded of there revenue stream with iPhone Apps. And until they can figure a way to control the marginalization of the App store, Flash won’t be in the cards.

    1. fredwilson

      The open web and marginalization of the app store are the same thing

  2. cyanbane

    It is a tough decision for Apple. If you did allow Flash, I honestly think would be SO much more of a viable option for people buying itunes tracks. The cost is two fold for them, people quit buying music via iTunes and opt for streaming media that also increase AT&Ts bandwidth costs for the streaming time.Regardless, the day I get on my iphone is a pivotal day in my life (with music). When I truly have one place where I store my music (cloud or my home) and stream to my car/phone/work (with good quality and reliability) it will be a good day.The second best day will be when I an walk down the street and listen to other people’s music as they walk by me. Musical ease dropping just sounds sexy.

    1. fredwilson

      Agreed that its a tough choice but its no different than the big mediacompanies faced five years ago and most made the wrong call

    2. phoneranger

      Really what’s the big deal. I listen to lots of internet radio, Mundu, Last, iPlayer, Lala on my N95. Through my speakers. Hang on. Let me turn up my speakers. Can you hear the TemulatorX? Oops my wife just asked me to turn that noise off.

  3. AndyFinkle

    We all know that proprietary (closed) always looses in the end (Witness AOL’s demise as just one example) but it doesn’t mean it’s a failed strategy. Apple should (from a business perspective) keep a lock on all their franchises until they can not. It is only at THIS point that they should “eat their own lunch before someone does it for them”.Does this mean I do not want Flash on an Iphone? No, as a consumer I like everyone else want open/cross platform/etc But if I were in Jobs shoes, I would not do it any differently.htttp://

    1. fredwilson

      I think you have to embrace open well before the tipping point or you won’t be able to make the switchIts time for apple to move now or they risk making the same mistake aol did

      1. AndyFinkle

        I guess the question of ‘when’ is subjective. I do not think they will wait to long. Nor do I think it is time yet. I do not believe that Apple looks at Nokia as a threat (whether they should or not). Apple more likely has RIMM in it’s war room today – and likely Android in the future. Today, (mobile browser fully supporting flash) works on Nokia, and the once dominant Windows mobile platforms. I believe it will be only a matter of weeks before skyfire is available for RIMM’s blackberry phones. Then Apple will have a quarter’s worth of market share data to chew on before it needs to decide anything.

      2. Craig

        Last time I checked, flash is not an open standard. HTML 5 is open and handles 95% of what flash is used for.In addition, flash usually uses software rendering for audio and video which drains the battery far faster than the dedicated hardware built into the iPhone.Picking up your phone to make a call and having a dead battery is the worst user experience, and that is what it is all about.

        1. fredwilson

          I’ve gotten that comment a lot. And I’m curious why we don’t see streaming video and audio on the web coming through HTML5 based players

          1. Tim F.

            Why is that relevant? The question is: why do you think the “open web” constitutes features you like?

          2. fredwilson

            i don’t understand your question. it’s relevant to me because i’d like my mobile web experience to be identical to my web experience.

          3. Tim F.

            Yes, but all of the criticisms (and your replies) boil down to: I want my Flash apps on my iPhone. They do nothing to explain how Flash is open, how it is the standard, how no other mobile platform should exist or thrive, how Apple is ignorant or vulnerable or exposed, how the industry is going to Flash, how Flash is indispensible, etc, etc, etc. It’s just misinformed whinging.So I ask why is it relevant that things are not being built with HTML 5? It seems like a far more sensible question to ask why you make up a thesis with no basis in fact, no supporting evidence, little connection to reality… all in order to say you wish you had 4 lame video upload sites available on the iPhone. In other words, explain why it’s Apple’s problem that 5 stupid entrepreneurs are too lazy to develop their own web-based video platform so they use Adobe’s canned version but still get millions out of you and others?

          4. Robin

            Surely the answer to that is basically because IE doesn’t support it:… (scroll to the bottom for a summary). Flash is the only way around it on the desktop.

          5. Craig

            As others have stated, you will see it when more browsers support it. I’m sure it will be adopted quickly as adding a/v tags is dead simple. No extra developer tools needed.

      3. Ken Berger

        Why shouldn’t Adobe adopt open standards and make their dev tools support HTML5 and Ajax? Adobe is the one making the mistake of trying to keep their hold on a market that is passing them by.It is everyone against adobe – Google reluctantly supports it . All the open source world hates Flash, they are into open Ajax, HTML5, RUby etc.Image how bad Google Maps would be if it was a flash application!!!! Of how slow and buggy and cumbersome to develop Google Docs would be in flash. And have you tried iWrok online – a truly amazing user interface and NO FLASH!Adobe’s demo aps in Air are pretty in a old style non-standard video game style but their are SLOW and marginally functional as you have to build your own UI and you will not do it as good as even windows let alone the UI work that apple does.

  4. howardlindzon

    agreed. plain and simple.

    1. David Burrows

      Ahh, loving this thread, all the old flash vs. standard arguments which I’ve seen a million times.It’s true that Ajax, DHTML and Javascript have most of the web app market sown up, but what everyone misses is that it’s not the plugin that makes the experience, it’s the content, and for the talented people that make the videos, games, dynamic sites and interactive experiences that make the web interesting Adobe are their main tool vendor. Flash & Photoshop are the key tools that are used to develop 99.9% of the visually interesting sites on the web and Adobe have a workflow that lets ideas flow from brain to browser. While Adobe own the workflow, Flash will be dominant.Open Source has made little to no impact in professional design shops (Processing is the honourable exception) If you want to see a previous debacle that went nowhere research the continued failure of SVG to get any market share. Until someone stands up and give interactive designers Adobe level tools to produce content for open formats the above argument is just noise, Flash will remain dominant.Why are Apple blanking Adobe? Remember, Apple are probably the creative industries number 2 tool vendor at this point. With their acquisition of Final Cut & Logic they directly challenge Adobe in the video & audio areas and are encroaching on other areas with their Pro apps (Motion v After Effects, Aperture v Lightroom etc.) I doubt there’s any love lost between these guys. Apple will make Flash work on the iPhone when the market tells them and not before, Adobe aren’t going to make them do anything they don’t want to.p.s. I’m no Adobe apologist, some of their software both sucks and blows so I’d love someone to come up with an workable alternative – unfortunately i doubt they’d last long before Adobe made them the proverbial ‘offer they can’t refuse,’ even Macromedia succumbed eventually.

      1. Luis Antezana (luckylou)

        Great point about the authoring software. What’s funny is that Adobe could have just built into that authoring software easy ways to post native or optimized audio/video content (which is what the original poster ultimately wants to view in iPhone) that played fine through QuickTime and thus on iPhone, but they choose to wrap that A/V material so that the Flash plugin is required to experience it. It’s Adobe that is making the user go through extra steps to hear A/V sources.

  5. ErikSchwartz

    I suspect this is an artifact of iPhone power issues.Flash is a processor hog. Use a CPU monitor and watch how hard your laptop or desktop machine have to work while flash is running. A CPU that is working hard chews through much more power. The iPhone’s battery is marginal as it is. If Flash is allowed on the iPhone battery life will be noticeably impacted. You’ll then have a handset that goes from making it through the day to making it through half the day. Apple will take the blame for that, not Adobe.

    1. @colin

      Yup, I agree with you. Without a more efficient version of Flash, you can kiss the idea of mobile Flex/AIR apps goodbye.I also believe Flash’s garbage collection (or lack their of for their mobile version), is why Apple is still on the fence. Until it’s a quality consumer experience (true to Flash desktop), then Apple has no interest in supporting the red-headed step child of Flash, IMO. For the time being I think they are making the right decision.Until I read more convincing evidence, I think this is whole Flash fiasco is mostly a fault of Adobe – not Apple. I could be wrong.

    2. fredwilson

      So why can nokia, palm, and others make this work and apple can’t?

      1. @colin

        Mobile flash is nerfed (I believe Steve called this out), and I’m about 99% positive that the version of flash on Nokia and Palm will not support Flex/AIR apps. I could be wrong and my memory is based on research from late 07 – early 08 when we were using Flex at a former startup. Perhaps mobile flash has changed since.*edit*”Adobe wants everyone to know that its fully-featured Flash Player, not the dinky lite version, will be available on many mobile phones . . . in 2010. “TechCrunch is reporting fully-functioning flash in 2010.

        1. fredwilson

          I am sure you know more than I do about this stuff. I am also sure there are technical issues involved. But what I’d like to see apple do is engage with adobe the way the others are

          1. @colin

            I’m eager for it too but I want it to be done right — I’d like Flex/AIR to be our solution for the niche mobile phones. We’ll write uniqe code for iPhone / Android (and possibly Blackberry) but use Flash/Flex for everyone else. Palm Pre is exciting too but not making any firm decisions yet. However, Adobe definitely has some challenges to deal with to make it more usable at the mobile level.

          2. Gerald Buckley

            What if Apple’s WAY under the sheets with Adobe RFN? A) Wraps are on it tight and B) Still won’t come out in the open ’til it’s good and well-baked (to Apple’s satisfaction anyway). Apple’s still feeling the sting of the belly flop that was Mobile Me (without much of the Mobile to it). Not sure they want another blast crater emanating from El Jobso.

          3. Ken Berger

            I hope not Adobe flash is going down – Apple has no use for it. Microsoft want to do the same closed environment with Siliverlite. And Google doesn’t not want Adobe make sites that their ads can reach and search cant track.They are dead you simply don’t know it yet. It takes a long time to kill something with an installed base the size of flash (how long did it take DOS to die?).The world would not be adopting the iPhone / iPod touch a the rate it is if the web experience was not better than anything else out there.Apple has real stuff to work on like giving iPhone Safari and Webkit the power to do more than Flash and adding copy and paste (I do not think they every thing right) but there are improvements that will continue to increase the Apple iPhone / i Pod market share and eliminate the viability of flash.I am waiting for apple to break Flash on Mac OS X safari!

      2. phoneranger

        Flash is indeed a pig. Watching the Inaug killed my battery in about 40 min. Our Symbian bespoke codec can go for several hours continually.

  6. Jay Parkhill

    Yup. It’s deja vu all over again. Apple changed the way people thought about computers in the 1980s but blew their early lead because they insisted on controlling everything. It worked out for them with the iPod/iTunes store so they think they’re going to avoid making the same mistake again, but they are heading down that path with phones. Damn shame.

  7. kidmercury

    precisely why i dont use apple products. not only will it prove to be a poor strategy for them, but it’s also insulting to the customer, essentially an attempt at holding them hostage via a standards war than through the creation of additional value (rounded corners on hardware is nice but not enough to make up for waging war on interoperability). the good news is that it will result in more opportunities for everyone else.thanks for hatin’ on apple, boss. keep up the good work and dont be discouraged when the apple fanboys begin crying and wetting their diapers over the truth you dropped in this post.

    1. fredwilson

      They are going to drop their truth on my truth

      1. kidmercury

        lol, well i hope for their sake that they do not attempt to put their money where their mouth is and invest in their “truth” in the (formerly) free market….because if it’s your truth (apple is pursuing the wrong strategy) vs their “truth” (rounded corners trumps all else) you are going to give them a capitalist beatdown….looks like yet another win in your victory column, boss!

  8. ErikSchwartz

    Speaking of openess….Will Adobe allow the development of an open source Flash Compatible Media Server?It’s not like Flash is an open standard, it’s just locked down at the other end.

    1. im2b_dl

      totally agree. same as most of the stuff on the web… it’ll take some time…but a lot of other technologies coming…

    2. fredwilson

      Great point erik

    3. Darren

      Adobe’s announced plans to publish the RTMP specs, so does this mean the answer to your question, once the specification is published, is ‘yes’?

    4. Dan Kantor

      Not Adobe sanctioned, but check out RED5 – Adobe knows about it.Adobe did open source Flex Data server.

  9. im2b_dl

    it’s about open standards for all hypervideo and video linkage. Flash will (I think) be eaten predominantly by browser based video delivery)… watch what comes out of the next year.and I really think the “industry” is 50% off on this mobile and on demand issue…It ignores the family and home structure. Event television became “event Television” for a reason…and reaped the monetary rewards as such.

  10. cyanbane

    Is this a golden opportunity for Silverlight to make headway?

  11. David Semeria

    I think Apple would love to have a version of Flash which was limited to audio/video.They can see (quite correctly) that a fully functional version of flash on the iPhone would kill the app store.

    1. fredwilson

      The app store should die if its getting in the way of a truly open web

      1. David Semeria

        Tell that to APPL stockholders!

    2. nottafanboy

      Wasn’t that “something” Called Quicktime …LOL

  12. vadadean

    Apple is brilliant at defining a user experience and holding our hand through all the “verticals” involved. As computing power and bandwidth increase, Apple will continue to innovate around the user experience to make computing more human-like. The 17 years between Mac and iPod tells us this will not be a smooth transition.After the user experience and associated markets mature. we no longer want big brother holding our hand. We want control. We want customization. We want to involve our friends. Apple and iPod will soon have to reckon with digiital media entering “adolescence” and I can’t wait to see their next “infant”.

  13. phoneranger

    “I believe Apple doesn’t share……. ” Taken out of context but true. True. I can get Flash on my N95 via Skyfire now. I have to use Wifi but that’s the way it’s going to be for quite a while. Carriers won’t have enough infrastructure to handle the demand for mobile video for several years…they may never get in front of demand. That’s why we are going with TVoIP

  14. jon

    Apple is a clock stocked at 12; its right twice a day. Privilege of “close” technologies so far have helped. Moving forward, they either open up or they will be toast.

    1. Ken Berger

      Don’t you mean Adobe? They have to get their tools to support open standards or someone will build a better development tool than Dreamweaver / Flash combo.CLosed technology does not work across multiple platforms that is the down fall of Flash.Apple needs to open many thing (better access to the App Store) but flash is not one of them.

  15. jquaglia

    Agreed. It just seems like they are leaving the door open for someone to swoop in and easily create a better mobile web experience because they have flash available. And, as more sites adopt flash, this will become even more of an advantage. I’ve also heard reports of iPhones crashing/freezing when they try to enter a flash site.

    1. Jeff DiStanlo

      I think Apple TV is an illustrative example. Apple won’t put flash on the Apple TV and severely limits access to sites outside Apple’s influence. Boxee seizes the opportunity and with a simple patch I now have flash web sites playing through Apple TV (, hulu, etc.). Openness is inevitable, to a certain degree. If I were Apple I would rather implement it on my terms than have a 3rd party encroach on the opportunity.

      1. fredwilson

        I agree (obviously)

  16. matt schulte

    Why is Apple, or for that matter Google, exempt from the same forces that are rocking the music industry (pun intended) or the film industry? They are not. Creative destruction is not limited to the uncool. I don’t know of a single person..flash developers, mobile devs, Mac Fanboys, Mac haters, neighbors, baristas…that I’ve talked to that can come up with a single reasonable reason why Apple should not be on the flash wagon…I would love to hear one. Even ridiculous rationalizations. It is probably simply that they wish for the same itunes strategy that you point out..The “they don’t want to lose market share” is NOT a good argument. The record industry got their ass handed to them for not adapting, despite many people pointing out the cliff ahead…the film business is in the process of same…

    1. Ted_T

      @matt schulte: “a single reasonable reason why Apple should not be on the flash wagon..”Because Flash is a proprietary technology, while HTML 5 is an open standard. When it comes to the Web, open standards will prevail. Flash is the past, HTML 5 is the future.For more info on HTML 5:

      1. fredwilson

        I asked this question in another reply but why is it thay most streaming audio and video on the web comes through flash players and not html5 based players?

        1. George

          Because most people aren’t using HTML 5 browsers yet on the desktop. But on the phone, with WebKit being the predominant browser, HTML 5 is readily available. Plug-ins like Flash were designed to provide features not available in earlier browsers. But with WebKit and HTML 5, Flash really is no longer needed.Also… unless you are browsing with your phone over WiFi, forget about trying to get a good experience streaming audio and video with Flash sites that were designed with broadband/desktop assumptions. For example, most of these audio sites using Flash are streaming 128kbps MP3. That’s way too bandwidth-intensive for mobile. So, unless these sites all start throttling down their bitrates when they are being accessed on mobile, they’re essentially useless anyway when trying to stream over the air on cellular.

          1. Dan Kantor

            So far Apple has not enabled the HTML5 audio and video and tags on the iPhone. The latest Safari on the Mac enabled these and they can be scripted with javascript. They can even be animated with css3. Not the case with the iPhone.While the iPhone has enabled many HTML5 features including SQLlite, they have yet to enable the ‘rich’ media aspect of it. Maybe it is because they want to standardize the way audio and video is presented. Either way, developers like Pandora cannot build their application in the browser alone. They have to build a native app.

          2. JoobsAreDelicious

            Some thoughts:1) Tailored apps are usually the best user experience. They also cost a lot more to develop. Using a single platform like flash makes you more capital efficient.2) The ‘seamless’ experience. As a user, Fred doesn’t care whether the music he’s listening to from the artist he just clicked on is being processed by Flash, HTML5 or tiny German conductors. He, like me, just wants there to be a one-click distance between interest and tunes. This is an issue of how we browse content – as long as the WEB BROWSER is our primary interface, then a seamless experience necessitates a browser based solution. HTML 5 would do the job, but so would Flash. And the latter with better capital efficiency for companies with *existing* IP investment in Flash. And any startup deciding to focus on JUST the standards deals with this:3) Flash vs. Open standards – even if it is destined to die a horrible death (with spitting and jeering from the standards zealots), and HTML5 was 100% battle-tested and ready to go, does anyone have any good projections for how long it’s going take for the open standards support to get to 85%+ of desktop users?I’m in like with open standards, but Flash will continue to reach a lot more people for a lot longer, so unless your target market is tech dorks (love the dorks), Flash is going to be your happy space. You’ll know the time has come when YouTube ditches its flash player. 2011? 2012?Mmmm… joobs.

    2. Ken Berger

      You are right new media outlets can not play by the old rules if they are going to be disruptive. Flash is more like the old record companies than like the game changers. Remember it was Apple that figured out how to present music in a ay that people were happy to buy it on the web. They did it by making it seamless and fun.Apple is doing the same thing regarding web experiences on mobile platforms. What every you think of flash (I think it is an outdated legacy environment) no one is close to Apple web experience in a mobile device. And they are taking market share at a rate that will simply make Flash irrelevant (a very good thing in my book) and moving the world to web 3.0 Ajax HTML5 along with Google. The question is if and when will Adobe start optimizing their content creation tools to support where the world clearly moving. If they don’t someone else will and they will loose their real cash cow!I hope flash and all the trojan proprietary systems fail quickly so the experience improves on the web. AAVOID FLASH sites AND email the webmaster to update to something open that encourages clean consistent UI design. Get flash OFF THE WEB ASAP!

  17. Ted_T

    As a number of commenters have pointed out, Flash is a hog. Examples of must have Flash sites given like Pandora and YouTube are of course fully supported on the iPhone through native apps. Lastly, considering that most of the obnoxious ads on the Web are Flash based, not supporting Flash gives the iPhone a nice ad blocker, which also helps greatly with bandwidth issues for Edge users.Flash killing the App Store? In some Adobe exec’s wet dream maybe, but not in the real world. HTML5 will kill Flash in the long term. By keeping Flash off the iPhone, Apple is hastening HTML5’s victory. And lastly let the competition, fully support Flash — their phones batteries will drain in no time, their web browsing experience will be clogged with ads, and their bandwidth will be hogged. The iPhone will come out looking even better.

    1. matt schulte

      “a nice ad blocker” never heard that one before! Brilliant. “HTML5 will kill Flash in the long term”…now see, that’s the kind of thing I wanted someone to point reading:

  18. Will

    There already is an “open and consistent experience for web browsing and mobile apps”. It’s called HTML, JavaScript & CSS.AIR is a dreadful memory and CPU hog on the desktop, and the Flash plugin isn’t much better. It’s the last thing the iPhone needs. I agree that a standard embedded video format is a good thing, but brainless page-filling Flash pop-ups are not welcome on my system.

  19. Someone

    “And I believe Apple doesn’t share in Adobe and Nokia’s vision of an open and consistent experience for web browsing and mobile apps.”That could just as well be phrased the other way around. “Adobe does not share Apple’s vision of an open and consistent experience using HTML and CSS.”

    1. fredwilson

      I feel like most of what I use flash for on the web feels very open compared to the app store

      1. Eytan

        Open? You mean copyrighted video (TV shows)? Websites for movies? Games full of ads? How are these any more open? “Feels” open is a subjective term – sine i can get almost any app I want for the iPhone, many free, it seems open to me…

  20. chuckboycejr

    I though Apple would have been smart to put Flash on the iPhone and I thought Microsoft would have been smart to buy Adobe (as I recall some blogger suggest – I don’t know how serious he was).I knew that neither was going to happen, of course – but I also knew that the inevitability of Flash video coming to phones could not be stopped.Like it or not,web video = Flash…for now, anyway.

  21. jblakeh1

    Wow, look at all the conspiracy theories. This has nothing to do with the app store or iTunes store, or Apple trying to take over the world.Flash isn’t designed for touchscreen devices. Flash is all about mouseovers, clicking and dragging while the iPhone responds to taps and zooms. I hope they work something out, but it looks like quite a challenge.You can’t fault Apple for wanting the user experience on the iPhone to be seamless.

  22. foolishchild

    There always needs to be a time where old divergant technologies need to be examined carefully. Shockwave/Flash is a heavyweight plug-in and for the most part be replaced by newer lighterweight Web x.0 technologies. Backward compatibility is a great thing, but on the otherhand… are you also lamenting the lack of a 3270 interface on your smartphone? Token Ring? Sometimes backwards compatibility has to be challenged, if for nothing else to get the object to be reengineered to a workable model.smartphones need to just work. Apple is trying to ensure that and any application platform that may sacrifice stability for ubiquity (which is what flash is notorious for), is not welcome to a ‘it just works… all the time’ phone environment.If Apple’s effort spawns a stable flash platform for smartphones, I’m all for it… however, to just ‘jam’ flash onto everything to make a ‘seamless’ migration from bloated PCs to soon to be bloated smartphones, just propagates a bad technology model.Yes, I think Apple’s decision is partly due to Adobe’s not playing nice with Apple, which is likely due to Apple not playing nice with Adobe in years past. But flash is truly a behemoth technology, buggy and not tight. If apple owned it, they may have pushed it out under the guise of really reengineering it on the fly… but even Apple isn’t doing ‘it works sort of’ Push messaging until they truly get it to work. So, we have to consider this part of an architectural plan, and not just snubbing the adobe camp.

    1. Brian

      Well said.Until it works, Apple will not put it out there. Not all of us are engineers. We want simplicity and stuff to actual work.As a former pc user, I appreciate apple’s dedication to making sure their products work for everybody from we developers to my technology illiterate parents. My family can now use stuff like video chat and movie sharing sites because of Apple simplifying the user experience.I am paying apple to keep the system somewhat closed.

  23. charlietuna

    Look at the use cases: Seamless video, and seamless audio. Apple has been working on this in the open web standards groups (see video and audio in HTML5) for a long time now, and taking their time to get it right, power efficient, fast loading (aka seamless) on their devices.Yes, Adobe announced Flash 10 for smartphones, but as with lots of things mobile, how it performs, how seamless the actual experience (and not how seamless Adobe’s announcement is) determines Flash’s success and whether Apple is right or wrong. And if Apple guessed wrong, they’ll adapt.Apple doesn’t have a blind spot for Flash, Flash is directly in Apple’s line of fire.Time for me to blog something, gotta set those pundits straight.

  24. OS11

    No, you and others need to learn that Flash is not an open standard, and since Apple won’t touch formats that aren’t open, Flash is a dead end until Adobe sees the light. Apple is looking at SVG among others to cement the true standard going forward.

  25. Rob

    Flash isn’t ready for the mobile environment. When Flash performs to the capacity that it does not embarrass Apple and frustrate the rest of us, it will be on the iPhone. Right now I see as a Beta+ technology. Keep plugging at it, Adobe. You’ll get it right, eventually. Generally, when I surf the web, I turn off Flash.

  26. AdamC

    Let see what kind of battery life the other phones will have when Flash is running in them. Presently the other phones open to the web experience is very very small and negligible. Everyone is talking about how great Flash will be in the phones so we will see in a few months time whether you be eating crow or Apple.

  27. jameskatt

    Web Music Streaming uses MP3 or HE-AAC. Both do not depend on Flash at all.Pandora uses HE-AAC streams for music. Pandora doesn’t use Flash on the iPhone to deliver its music.Last.FM uses MP3 streams for music. Last.FM doesn’t use Flash on the iPhone to deliver its music.AOL Radio uses HE-AAC streams for music, not Flash. AOL Radio runs on the iPhone.Flash IS NOT AN OPEN WEB STANDARD. Adobe can change the Flash specifications ANY TIME IT WANTS. And Adobe has done so for years.Adobe programs Flash so POORLY that it runs TEN TIMES SLOWER on a Mac OS X than Windows ON THE SAME HARDWARE.Why would Apple tie its future to a CLOSED PROPRIETARY STANDARD that makes it dependent on ADOBE, which descriminates against Apple? Apple does not and will not.The Web is about OPEN STANDARDS and Adobe Flash is NOT an open standard. Clearly so.CSS Animation is an OPEN STANDARD that can do everything Flash can do.This is where web browsers will head.

  28. jameskatt

    Apple does not have a blind spot about Flash.Rather, Apple has its eye fully on Flash and it realizes that Flash sucks big time.Flash sucks because:1. it is CLOSED AND PROPRIETARY2. it is DOG SLOW on handsets and Macs.3. it is a RESOURCE HOG.4. it QUICKLY RUNS DOWN THE BATTERYHTML5 with CSS Animation kills flash and will be built into every web browser – FREE, OPEN, and STANDARD.

  29. watchdog

    Simply put, Fred, you have a blind spot about open standards such as HTML5 and CSS animation. Flash, as many have said, is not an open standard.But more directly, why do you so easily discount what Jobs said when he was asked directly about Flash? Paraphrasing, he said the Flash found on PCs is too slow and too power hungry on mobile processors, and the Flash lite found today on many cell phones, just doesn’t do enough for the web environment. So he challenged Adobe to get something in the middle that works well on mobile. No conspiracy, no lock-in, nothing. In some cases, Apple is using corporate-speak but in this case, it seems the argument they put forward was very reasonable.

  30. Dan Cornish

    Flash is old tech. H.254 video is an open standard. Flash supports it, but H.254 can be played without Flash. HTML 5 is an open standard. Both are supported on iPhone/iPod now. Streaming audio is supported now in an open format on the iPhone now. Fred I argue that you are making a case for old outdated technology. I liken Flash to the floppy drive. Remember when Apple did away with the floppy? There were howls of derisive laughter, but they were right. You are living in the past.

  31. michael

    Flash opens a number of uses in a web browser, but the Pandora experience delivered by the App Store is better than having a mobile Flash plug-in.I agree that the richer iPhone app experience may give way to an all-around rich browsing experience for all smartphones, but…the article seems to ignore this particular presence Pandora has on the iPhone.(Pandora’s user registrations doubled with the opening of the App Store… )

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t want to have to download an app to listen to music. I want to find something on the web (mobile included) and hit play

  32. monoclast

    I don’t know why you would think Apple is intentionally “snubbing” Flash for iPhone. I guess you haven’t read that Adobe’s CEO announced quite recently that Apple and Adobe are working together to bring Flash to the iPhone? And it’s likely not to be the watered-down, light version of Flash most other phones will have, but something much closer to what we get on the desktop.See:

    1. Elia Freedman

      Thanks for posting. I can’t believe your post is buried way down here. Here’s another report:http://www.fiercemobilecont

    2. Dabbler

      if the iPhone Safari browser is any indication it’s going to be a loooong time before working Flash emerges on iPhone.. I’ve had several updates and Safari still crashes way too often

  33. Tonio Loewald

    I think Apple is very wise to snub Flash so long as it doesn’t hurt iPhone sales. If it becomes an issue, Apple should allow Flash onto the iPhone, but right now Flash represents both technically bad (just watch what happens to your CPUs when you load web pages with Flash stuff in them — now consider the effect on your phone’s battery life) and strategically bad (Apple’s QuickTime is a strategic competitor and alternative to Flash).The longer Apple keeps Flash off the iPhone, the more opportunity there will be for alternatives to achieve critical mass. If Apple has to allow Flash on the iPhone at some point for strategic reasons (e.g. a serious competitor with Flash support emerges) then it should definitely do so, but it would be stupid to let Flash in when it doesn’t need to.It seems like Apple’s decisions thus far have already forced Adobe to embrace H264 video compression (until now, Flash only supported bizarre proprietary codecs).

  34. Ken Berger

    I hope you are wrong and that flash goes away as quickly as possible. I can listen to Pandora and watch Youtube on my iPhone and it is a better experience than using a browser with a totally non standard closed architecture Adobe controlled black whole on the page called flash.Not all use of flash is bad only most of it. Forcing web developers to build great site an use Ajax or other open and expanding technologies that integrate into the the browser / HTML environment is the best thing that can happen. And having 10’s of millions of iPhone is forcing companies all over the world to dump their flashy (and bad interface designed) sites to redo them using open standards and hopefully in most cases make them much more useable.Flash breeds bad interface design! As a web video player it is relatively harmless as a development environment it promotes bad design that is slow and hard to use.Adobe owns the graphic tools market and in doing so they have become more draconian than MS or Apple. They price their tools (CS4) beyond the reach of most independent young artiest. They have an activation systems that takes hours every time I switch computers. They no longer innovate since they bought out their competitors (Aldus and Macromedia). They used to be on of the software great companies building the future, now they are trying to conner markets.If they actually made their tools great they would be building tools for Ajax and other open standards and people would use them because they were great.I wish I could turn off Flash on my work computer but too many sites require it. I try not to visit flash sites – unless I have too.

  35. qwang

    Apple is most certainly not betting on an open standard such as HTML/CSS/AJAX, instead it wants all apps to be native iPhone. They’ve built up a considerable lead in application ecosystem that will not be forwards compatible with any competing ecosystem that enters in the near future, which to me is a huge deal. Imagine if big hits like YouTube or Facebook were actually applications written in native Mac code and didn’t work on Windows without a substantial port, that is the state of mobile applications today.If Flash or another open standard wins on mobile, then all of those iPhone apps which enrich the competitiveness of the device are likely to go cross-platform, thus commoditizing the hardware and advancing the smartphone market structure closer towards the PC.

    1. Coleman Foley

      good point, but iphone “apps” are more like mobile UIs for web services. i would imagine it wouldn’t take much to port them.

    2. Eytan

      You’re dead wrong. Apple ONLY wanted to embrace that before being forced into opening up the API for apps, and has been adding much more energy to WebKit then to furthering the API of the Phone OS X. Adding features in 2.1 allowing web pages to appear without URL bar and toolbar, adding yet more CSS animation features in 2.2, many of them before the desktop, making it so as ANY app can embed flown blown WebKit browsing ability, including a full blown WebKit app development tool with Dashcode.

  36. Ken Berger

    Flash is closed. Flex/Air is bad you can do most or all of that using HTML5/ Ajax.Flash is closed. Flash is difficult to search and is bad fro google and access perspective.Flash is closed. It takes over the browser and can not support ads or other web standards such that it’s wide spread adoption locks down the ad supported model of the internet – it is an attempt to use old technology to add features and take control of the web. The way to improve the user experience and add a more immersive environment to the web is through expanding HTML and Java both open.

  37. Roger Dodger

    HTML 5 includes new standard tags for video and audio. Animations can be done with standards like JavaScript and CSS, with all the major web engines (including Apple’s open source WebKit) racing to improve JavaScript performance. So there are multiple open source projects competing on bringing Flash functionality to open standard web browsers and there is Adobe, a single company with a proprietary technology called Flash. If the open web is what will win in the end, and there’s something more open than Flash out there, why would you think Flash has a chance in the long term?

    1. fredwilson

      This post wasn’t about the long term viability of flash. It was about the fact that video and audio that is readily available in flash on the web won’t play on the iphone

      1. Jim

        And why do you think Apple should, or would want to, help shore up Flash when it’s so clearly on the way out? Half the sites on the web today that would have been designed with Flash 5 years ago are now using AJAX and CSS. Those open standards are the future, and that’s what Apple is clearly targeting with the improvements they’ve made to WebKit. Apple’s building the Model T and you’re scolding them for not investing in horses? I thought VCs were supposed to be forward-looking.

        1. fredwilson

          I am talking about audio and video players on the web that I can’t access on the iphoneI am not suggesting that flash is better than ajax for web interfaces

  38. Noflash

    I do not want flash on the iPhone if it means tolerating flash ads in mobile safari.

  39. PXLated

    It seems part of the Apple objection is that Flash is a resource hog (certainly is on the Mac). This announcement is for 2010. Until we see how it works on those phones it’s a none issue for Apple. Apple may just be watching, they may know it sucks now and way too early to commit. The others need to work the geeks into a frenzy 🙂

  40. Edwin Khodabakchian

    I think that Apple is making the right decision for the long run: Video and Audio are becoming a native part of the browser (similar to how you do not need any plug-ins/extensions to view images). With Javascript, canvas and CSS animations having made tremendous progress in the latest versions of firefox, webkit and opera, I believe that flash, AIR and silverlight will soon start to fade away as closed proprietary alternatives to a more open web approach. Apple’s iphone update model means that they can push new version of safari out at much faster pace and browsers will evolve on those device much faster than they have on the desktop. In conclusion, I think that this is a case where apple is doing the right thing to protect their business on the short term and the right thing to open up in the long run.

  41. Robin

    I have to go as far to say – you’re dead wrong, Fred. Apple is clearly aware of the issue and is already pushing the open web harder than anyone else.MobileSafari actually supports more of the HTML5 standards that will displace flash than any other browser:…The code was developed by Apple, and is in WebKit, which is free for anyone to use in their browsers. Webkit is used by the Nokia’s browser, and the Palm Pre browser, and Google Chrome.How much more open and ‘before the tipping point’ could they be? They are the ones driving us towards the tipping point.Flash is a proprietary format with an implementation that is weak on mobile devices so far. Obviously it makes sense for Apple’s competitors to include it as a marketing bullet point, but its window is closing fast.

  42. jbb

    Wait, did you seriously just write that Adobe has a vision of an “open” experience? I don’t believe you have any earthly idea what that word means, good sir.

  43. Phyllis Stein

    “And a big part of getting it there is to get the tools that allow us to seamlessly consume rich media on the web onto mobile devices. To me that means Flash.”Here’s a way to think of it: The vast majority of Flash apps are banner ads, so by ignoring Flash, Apple saves bandwidth AND protects its users from these craplets.AJAX offers true interoperability and platform independence *without* all of Flash’s baggage.*That’s* the future of the mobile web.

  44. Eytan

    I am a flash developer, and I cannot imagine a good flash experience on an iPhone. I also know that many concepts that work well in Flash (like rollovers) just do not translate to the iPhone. Lastly, the products you mentioned that have risen because of flash – YouTube, Pandora,, etc. – are all on the iPhone, with better performance and none of the overhead associated with Flash. If anything, your examples lend an argument to the lack of need for Flash on the iPhone.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes, but I have to download an app to use all of themThat’s not seamless, the way they work on the web

      1. Eytan

        Which means I can run a better implemented app designed SPECIFICALLY for my device taking better advantage of it, and better optimized for the device than Flash could ever hope to be. How is that a negative? Why do I need to download the Flash App every time I want to run it, and then worry about how well it works with the browser? How is opening my browser, going to the Pandora site, waiting for Pandora to load that particular time, navigating an interface designed for a specific computer resolution, and then selecting the channel I was in last, and providing limited interaction with the system be better than a Pandora that opens up immediately, right to what I was playing last, and provides me links to apps built into the iPhone because the App “knows its surroundings”, unlike the web App? How is the former, the flash based solution, “seamless”? Your response holds no water…

        1. George Nimeh


        2. George Nimeh

          You’re both right: Apple has a blind spot, but it doesn’t matter.Fred makes a good point about Apple’s closed-minded architecture and business model. I think it will hurt them over time.Eytan’s point about the user experience is spot-on. At least for now, tailored apps are much better than one-size-fits-all.

      2. Sheila

        It is so trivial to download an app to the iphone. It is not at all like downloading and installing an app on a computer. It is also trivial to get rid off. I don’t buy the seamless argument at all.

        1. fredwilson

          Think of it this way. I hear about a new musician. I google them. I find avideo of them playing a song. On the web I hit play and I can listen. On theiphone, I have to download an app to listen? That’s not seamless

    2. alvin

      There are lots of short animated films created using Flash and exported as SWF online. Without Flash, this content is locked out on the iPhone.

  45. Chris Dodge

    Apologies if this has been articulated already, while I can understand and sympathize with your desire for a more level and open playing field for iPhone apps, my technologist side of my strongly disagrees – for purist reasons more than anything else.Short and sweet: Flash is a complete disaster from a structured developer’s point of view. Flash really just a huge kludge of a framework that has its origins in sprite animation and has continually been passed off as a viable platform for other types of applications . Flex has helped to mitigate some of the architectural problems of Flash, but it’s still not very deep from someone who is coming from a more traditional OO language like C++, Java, C#. While perhaps that’s not a reason to diss Flash/Flex as a platform, I think it’s really just an environment for surface-deep media applications.While there’s probably business/strategic motivation for not allowing Flash, I could imagine the rationale being:1) Objective-C/Cocoa for structured apps. (e.g. if a developer wants to make a “serious application”, then he/she will learn these well-structured frameworks)- or -2) Web-based frameworks for less-structured apps. All they need to solve is the offline problem (e.g. like a Google Gears like solution) then that is viable for any appsI know my comments smacks of elitism – and I apologize – but Flash is not for real applications.

    1. Dan Kantor

      Chris – Actionscript 3 is as structured as Java or C#. It’s just wrong to claim otherwise. Most Flash developers these days use Eclipse as their IDE. Adobe did an amazing job of cleaning up the APIs from AS2 to AS3.

  46. hypermark

    Fred, this is a toughie, as you hit the nail on the head wrt why most media players aren’t built on HTML/AJAX; the reality is that Flash is more mature and more ubiquitous in terms of rich media content and applications built around the runtime. As others have pointed out, the open part is a misnomer in this case.Apple’s decision to ignore all of this ubiquitous rich media content proliferating on the web is the real issue, inasmuch as iPhone/iTunes/App Store ecosystem is a device specific strategy that is effectively a parallel universe to the rich media, multi-device web.Apple’s push is that Flash is a slog and that they are trying to deliver an integrated robust user experience where no one app or runtime can degrade the performance of the device.There are trade-offs to this, and many of them are less than ideal, as you note, but it’s hardly clear (to me) that the issue of embracing whatever is ubiquitous versus being optimized on a service by service basis (YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, et al) is the wrong approach.As to why Nokia and others are claiming to support the mobile Flash approach, the answer is two fold. One, they have utterly failed to develop their own software and service base ecosystems to compliment their hardware businesses. Two, just because a dog can walk on its hind legs doesn’t mean it should (i.e., the fact that technically it works in a lab doesn’t mean it works well, as mobile flash has been imminent for a couple of years running, and is a complete hog on PC/Mac).

    1. fredwilson

      This is helpful.

  47. Anonymous

    Apple and Adobe have a hate fest going on. Some of it has become personality and some of it is contradictory objectives of the two companies. Apple has criticized Adobe for not being ready to move to Snow Leopard and Adobe does not like it. Not only that, but Adobe’s customer base has moved away from Apple products which now make up a much smaller portion of their sales and so, it would appear, development of Adobe products form the Apple platform have not received the resources necessary to maintain development equal to that of the Windows platform.Neither company appears to wish the other well.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s too bad

  48. Tom B

    The subscription services aren’t nearly good enough yet to compete with iTunes. As for Flash, I hate it; I think the iPhone will hasten its demise.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s your opinion on the subscription servicesI use them all way more than iTunesTo each his own, but your assertion has the sound of absolutism and it’sreally just your experience

  49. Tim

    Both Apple *and* Adobe have admitted that getting Flash to work on the (current) iPhone platform is technically tough, and this is clearly because of the large Flash resource requirement. The announcement that the full Flash client will be available in smartphones in 2010 tells me one thing only: that Adobe is expecting it will be able to deliver Flash on projected hardware available in a year’s time. There will be some big steps in hardware and memory performance for all smartphones over the next 12 months (iPhone included) so we’re not talking about current models.Personally, I lament the pervasiveness of Flash on web sites when it’s not necessary (notably, for simple navigation). Flash is not an open standard, and I hate the idea of the web being tied to proprietary formats.

    1. fredwilson

      I absolutely hate flash for navigation. It’s god awful. Someone shouldoutlaw flash for websites.But for rich media players (audio and video), its pretty good

      1. Eytan

        So what, you think there is a way you are going to control which you are going to get? You think that if you get flash video, you are going to be able to selectively disable pages with navigation? Seems like you get it now – Flash is god awful (back to my rollover argument from before, etc)

  50. Tim F.

    This is stupid on so many levels. Why is Flash equated with the open web when there is so much about it that is not “open” or “web”-like about it — even if they have opened the development process to third parties? Why is an “open web” the only mobile platform? Why can’t you support two models? By the same logic, shouldn’t all desktop apps be replaced with the open web? Why is it assumed that Apple is missing or ignoring or failing at something when they’ve repeatedly stated their case on Flash: the Lite version doesn’t do anything and the full version is a hog. Who really pretends that AIR is important? There are about 5 apps developed exclusively for the Web 2.0 crowd — for applications that have more full-featured compliments. Who acts as if Apple is missing all of this god stuff when Apple made most of this “good stuff” mainstream with the iPhone using alternatives to Flash?Someone in the bag for Adobe and/or someone obsessed with really lame, crappy web 2.0 apps. Either way, neither is worth taking seriously.

    1. fredwilson

      My point was simply this. I use a lot of flash players to consumer streamingaudio and video on the web. That is the open web in my view. I can’t usethem on the iphone. So that’s a bad experience for me. Apple doesn’t seem tohave any interest in helping to address this.It may seem stupid to you. That’s fine. It didn’t seem stupid when I wroteit and it still doesn’t.

      1. Robin

        At the risk of engaging in a thread that’s tainted with negativity (I don’t think you’re stupid, or that the comment wasn’t thoughtful – even though I do think you’ve missed a few salient facts in your analysis)…If the central issue is the streaming audio and video, then there are many ways for Adobe to address this completely within the restrictions of the app store, and without needing to deal with the technical challenges of a full flash port.Solution: 1. The video and audio components of flash are just codecs, and they are already written in C and run on OSX. There’s nothing to stop Adobe releasing them as components for content providers to drop into their iPhone applications. This should not take a lot of effort, and would let existing sites leverage their flash audio and video within their own iPhone Apps. Obviously developing an iPhone app is more work than many sites want to do so…Solution: 2. Adobe could provide an Adobe Media Player app in the app store. This would not have to break any of the app store guidelines. It wouldn’t run flash applets, but it would be an optimized user experience for playing flash audio and video. It would have its own URL scheme, and so existing sites would have to make only minimal changes to their HTML to enable it.The iPhone APIs and the App store guidelines already fully support both of these models.The second model would almost certainly be a better experience than somehow ‘simply enabling the flash plugin’, since the player would have a high quality mobile optimized interface – akin to the youtube player.A straight port of the flash plugin would leave you controlling an audio stream on your iphone by leaving a browser pane open and stretch zooming some fiddly little controls, whereas a url handling application would give you a fully native experience with history and bookmarking for the streams and content etc, as well as the ability to be interrupted e.g. to take a call, and go back to where you were in the stream, or even to switch to another application etc. It could provide fancy multi-touch scanning across the timeline etc, and content providers would get these features for free.As far as I can see it would be straightforward for Adobe to implement solution 2, and trivial for content providers to leverage it. I speculate that the reason that Adobe are not doing this is because it would undermine their proprietary application platform.As far as I can see, Apple is the one being open here (see my comment about Apple’s contribution to open web standards earlier), and Adobe are the ones who are trying to leverage their proprietary position to control web application development.

        1. fredwilson

          Thanks. That’s helpful.But I feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t like the idea of having to download an app to get functionality that runs in the browser on the web

          1. Robin

            Well, the ‘solution 2’ example would only involve one download for all sites which is no more than you have to do to get the flash plugin when it isupdated.Running in the browser is fine when you have lots of space for tabs or background windows etc, but the idea of having to zoom in and interact with flash apps on my iPhone just seems too fiddly.One of the issues with ‘flash’ on the phone, is that most people interpret that to mean whatever runs in flash right now, running on the phone exactly as is.Irrespective of whether the flash player/vm is portable, most of the applications themselves are likely to be just plain unusable on the phone and need to be redesigned.

      2. Tim F.

        And my point is: that’s not the open web. And your individual experience doesn’t matter to me — as a mere individual experience without a logical argument. But why is someone in your position so satisfied in being so technologically misinformed and using completely individual meanings for words other people in your industry are using?

  51. Brad

    Life would be better if people would jump on the Ajax band wagon with Apple. Apple does not control Ajax and emerging technologies. They are all open standards, have the potential of doing the same thing as flash but with higher quality. Apple has the correct solution and Adobe is worried that they won’t be able to control their destiny if this happens. The Apple solution is better… not as advanced yet but in the long term the best solution for the web period… Go Apple! Adobe should jump on Apple’s bandwagon and run with it. Flash sucks.

  52. Joel Fagin

    One question you skipped is: What, exactly, is in it for Apple? iPhone sales are not badly affected and I don’t get the impression that average people are complaining about the lack of Flash. I do know my students aren’t. I’m an IT lecturer at college and many of the students have iPhones and Touches. They have their complaints about the devices but Flash never seems to come up unless I mention it. They don’t even seem to notice it’s missing and once they do, they don’t seem to care.

  53. mbrosen

    From David Pogue’s Ultimate iPhone FAQs List, Part 2http://pogue.blogs.nytimes….January 13, 2007Markoff: “What about all those plugins that live within Safari now, like Flash or like Java or like JavaScript?”Jobs: “Well, JavaScript’s built into the Phone. Sure.”Markoff: “And what are you thinking about Flash and Java?”Jobs: “Java’s not worth building in. Nobody uses Java anymore. It’s this big heavyweight ball and chain.”Markoff: “Flash?”Jobs: “Well, you might see that.”Markoff: “What about YouTube–”Jobs: “Yeah, YouTube—of course. But you don’t need to have Flash to show YouTube. All you need to do is deal with YouTube. And plus, we could get ‘em to up their video resolution at the same time, by using h.264 instead of the old codec.”Insert Hulu and the like for YouTube and you’ve gotten around the Flash web A/V content issue.Flash is simply a container format, a la Quicktime .mov or Windows Media .wmv. Early on, Flash adopted and was a wrapper for low-bitrate h.263 video and MP3 mono 22kHz audio. For reference, the original h.263 spec was finalized way back in 1996, mp3 — 1991! The modern MPEG-4 spec, based around h.264 and AAC (essentially “mp4”) audio was finalized in 2003.[Side note: Now that the “big four” music labels have agreed to provide DRM-free tracks to iTunes, why would anyone buy major-label content from another store? Same bit-rate/file size, but MP4/AAC vs. MP3 = higher quality, more efficient codec (read: increases battery life) for the same price. Just about all music players can handle AAC audio now. It is an open standard, like MP3. It is not “proprietary” to Apple devices.]In this era of bits vs. discs, the marginal cost of serving one format vs. another is near zero. Adobe quickly came around with h.264 support within Flash soon after YouTube and Apple announced their “work-around” for the iPhone, lest they be cast aside for another container format, like, say the standards-based QuickTime.Macromedia/Adobe happened to have gotten out to wide lead in the last decade by getting box-makers to agree to pre-install the Flash plug-in at time of purchase. I’ve often wondered how and why Microsoft and Apple were not as successful in getting their respective multimedia software embedded on the web the way Flash was. Both have been successful recently on the desktop, Microsoft with the Windows Media Player tie-in to Windows, and Apple with the iPod/iTunes/QuickTime “trojan horse” for non-Apple PC users. I know Microsoft for a while priced its streaming licenses well below that of MPEG in an effort to grab market share. Perhaps content providers learned/were hesitant to get in bed with Microsoft after the trail of blood from their “partners” left behind in the prior decade? Was Apple’s iPod/iTunes/QuickTime juggernaut what counteracted their success? For whatever reason, with both companies focused on growing their “embeddedness” of content, I’m not sure how assured Flash is on owning web content in the future.To review some reasons why:As all the others have stated, Flash is a resource hog. It just is. Open an Activity Monitor on your machine. and watch what happens to your browser’s CPU usage when Flash is enabled/running vs. when it isn’t. On my machine, with a browser and lots of tabs open, I can lop 50% of the CPU usage of Webkit/Safari/Firefox off by disabling Flash. I recently installed the ClickToFlash plugin (prevents Flash content from loading automatically, simply requires a ‘click’ to expose) and it has been a dream. Get it here:…As for AIR apps, I can appreciate the cross-platform development it allows, but much like Java, it doesn’t take advantage of the native OS’s optimizations, resulting in a slower, more bloated experience than apps actually written for the host OS. I use and enjoy TweetDeck, but next to my browser, it chews up more RAM and CPU than any other app on my machine. Twitteriffic had a much smaller footprint. While on a desktop, resource utilization/optimization is welcome, but not a deal breaker (i.e. Tweetdeck beats Twitterific on features, hands down), on a portable or mobile device, where CPU power is limited and battery life is a concern, it is.Fred, as for audio, a lot of the “embedded” Flash audio you speak of often isn’t Flash at all, but just a script wrapped around an mp3 file for usability/interface. Nothing that couldn’t be usurped by HTML5/JavaScript and MP3/AAC — even more standard and “universal” than Flash.As for video, again, like YouTube, why doesn’t Hulu,, etc. offer streams in non-Flash h.264 like YouTube? Or standalone iPhone apps like Joost or Ustream or? NBC has a mobile site for the iPhone that provides a few compatible clips and full episodes. Why stop there? They have the power. If tomorrow, either site put up a big banner that said “On June 30th, 2009, we will be converting our entire site’s worth of content and moving exclusively to [QuickTime-based h.264 MP4 or Windows Media]. Older, Flash-based content will no longer be available. In order to view our content going forward, download the latest version of [xxx] here (link) if you do not already have it installed. Thank you for your cooperation,” Flash would be EOL’d.As for Flash-based sites? Does anyone like them? Really? Those frickin’ splash pages? Come on. They’re slow. Text/Content veiled behind “dynamic” Flash containers isn’t searchable. How backward is that? (I believe v10 was meant to improve on that, but there’s a lot of old content out there). These sites annoy/slow down more than they serve any practical purpose. Go to the Apple Downloads page:… to see how “dynamic” navigation can be done with just JavaScript. Roll-over the columns on the left-hand side of the page to get the idea.Flash ain’t that necessary to the future of a dynamic, seamless mobile web.An analogy: Think of how many sites you still come across that were “written for IE 5.x or 6.x” years ago that are broken in FireFox, Safari, Chrome, etc. They were written for a non-spec browser that was “the standard” simply because of penetration, not merit. How simple would it have been for any of those site publishers to write a page in proper, standard HTML vs. “IE-optimized” code at the time? That I can’t pay my health insurance premium online because of a dated site is pathetic in 2009.I’m all for a standard, open web. Flash need not be at the foundation. If anyone has proven recently to be able to push the industry forward despite of itself, it’s Apple.

    1. fredwilson

      Matthew ­ this is a great comment. Thanks for taking the time to lay allthis out in a reasoned way instead of calling me an idiot or stupid.

      1. mbrosen

        “Fred, as for audio, a lot of the “embedded” Flash audio you speak of often isn’t Flash at all, but just a script wrapped around an mp3 file for usability/interface. Nothing that couldn’t be usurped by HTML5/JavaScript and MP3/AAC — even more standard and “universal” than Flash.”From yesterday:…”Did you notice the little inline audio players on Apple’s iPod Shuffle web pages?…When playing, it animates with a circular progress meter.Very cool — and very much like the iTunes song preview controller on the iPhone. Even cooler: no Flash involved. It’s QuickTime with this JavaScript to draw the animation using the HTML 5 <canvas> element. Doesn’t work in MobileSafari (yet?), but at least MobileSafari can play the audio in its usual (full-screen) way.”

        1. mbrosen

          Link: 10 Creative & Rich UI’s and How to Create ThemAll javascript, Ajax and CSS. No Flash required.

  54. Real

    Idiot. YouTube is all H.264 / MPEG-4. This is the open source standard. Flash is not the defacto standard, neither is it open source, and it certainly is not the future.

  55. freebeer

    My anecdotal poll from online comments says half of the people hates Flash, so I guess Apple is painting itself into a terrible 50% of the market. After all, look how lousy their desktop and laptop sales are – they only have <10% of the PC market. What are they thinking!?

  56. julieallen

    like you, most of the rich media i consume online is flash based.that blue brick – aka the missing plugin – bugs me everytime. someone sends me a link to my favourite band’s new video… i can read all about it, view – and even get involved in a discussion around it – but i can’t actually watch it. frustrating.and as for pure flash sites, well i just get a black screen. Not a good UE.i look forward to the day apple for tweetdeck on my iphone – now that would be awesome. especially given the lack of sms support in the uk…

  57. Kontra

    Flash versus OpenPerhaps one thing we can all agree on is that the future of the web, mobile or otherwise, will be more or less open. That would be HTML, MP3, H.264, HE-AAC, and so on. These are not proprietary Adobe products, they are open standards…unlike Flash.In confusing codecs with UI, Wilson keeps asking, “why is it tha[t] most streaming audio and video on the web comes through flash players and not html5 based players?” The answer is rather pedestrian: HTML5 is just ramping up, but Flash IDE has been around for many years. Selling Flash IDE and back-end server tools has been a commercial focus for Adobe, while Apple, for example, hasn’t paid much attention to QuickTime technologies and promotion in ages. It’s thus reflected in adoption patterns.Hopefully, this summary will clear Wilson’s blind spot:Apple is betting on open technologies (as it makes money on hardware) while Adobe (which only sells software) is betting on wrapping up content in a proprietary shackle called Flash.From:Does “A VC” have a blind spot for Apple?

  58. Dorian Benkoil

    Fred, I don’t believe you’re talking about technology, here, though that is the tenor of many of the comments. I would guess that your real point is about open vs. closed systems — and that open is the ethos of the day. Closed systems have a more limited lifespan now.Whether the technology for going from one screen to another is Flash or AIR or anything else ( and I know people who make little distinction among screens) what you want is to be able to watch and listen to what you want, when, where you happen to be. If Flash is the current lingua franca for that type of experience, so be it, and that’s why (I’m guessing) you’re encouraging Apple to allow Flash.The point you make about Apple being closed has been a long-standing complaint and a reason it took me a long time to come over to using Apple computers. Even now, they’re more open than they were — one can, for example, use Windows on them, and there are various syncing capabilities with non-Apple products — but the system is clearly still built to create the preference for Apple’s closed ecosystem.That’s ultimately, i think, going to hurt — unless their strategy is to be a high-end niche product for very specific groups, and not reach ever-widening scale.(I could play devil’s advocate and talk about how Apple computers work, bug-free and the devices that ARE approved work fairly seamlessly together with minimum hassle, unlike PCs. But that’s a different discussion.)Disclosure: typed this on a Mac. A PC laptop is on the shelf over my shoulder in the kitchen.

  59. andyswan

    This comment stream is total revenge of the nerds. Thank goodness for the nerds, they tell us when our bright ideas aren’t exactly as bright as we thought they were.”Apple should be open and use flash!””Flash isn’t open, it’s closed””oh””HTML 5 is open””oh….what’s HTML 5?””ugh”

    1. fredwilson

      i agree andy

  60. ignace

    Hi Fred.Do you have a blind spot about standards?I understand the points you make, but perhaps your lack of web dev expertise is helping you make what seems to me as a big mistake. Audio and video playback are something for which Flash is not needed, at all. It is used for that purpose on desktops is for historical reasons, the industry has not been able to standardize on video (especially streaming video) as fast enough as it did with HTML, so Flash helps out by being a middleware that can bring in a common video player as the payload.As you might know, the main codec being used these days inside Flash video players is H.264 AVC. The nice thing about AVC, part of MPEG4, is that iPhones and many other smartphones and portable media devices can play it, it is like the mp3 of video. The fact that the iPhone can play MPEG4 video and audio -as well as other media codecs available through QuickTime- makes Flash totally unnecessary on the platform.

  61. AR

    I think this post is a classic example of a VC person that has no idea what they’re talking about.Mentioning Adobe and an “open…experience” in the same sentence, in a non-ironic way? Flash is as closed as you come with web technology, second only to MS ActiveX. His comment responses (kudos for having the bravery to stick around btw) refer to an even weaker second argument about wanting flash as believing in an unrestricted access to other sources of music or video. But then there exists the mostly open App Store, which the author dismisses with a bizarre hand wave of “not seamless.”Any 3rd party media source worth their salt and/or looking to get a piece of the iPhone pie is going to find it worth the extra expense to write a custom app as an access point. Added bonus – you can control the user experience even further than a flash plugin allows.If you had written this article a year ago, when there was no flash and no 3rd party iPhone apps, maybe you would’ve had a case. As it is, this article just smacks of a VC trying to sound smart or lazy.

    1. Edwin Khodabakchian

      AR: Fred comments about AppleStore experience not being seemless is right: you should be able to go to any web page both using iphone and Apple TV and play video and audio. From that perspective, the current experience is definitely not ideal.

  62. Kontra

    Fred Wilson: “…instead of calling me an idiot or stupid”I haven’t read all the comments here to see that but, clearly, this was a most ill-informed, snarky and arrogant post. And you might wonder why VCs get the reputation of impressionable techno-boobs. Hopefully, you have people advising you on platform choices on a strategic level, going beyond press releases. Disappointing.

    1. fredwilson

      kontra – i left you a comment on your post. i don’t understand why it came across as snarky but in any case the whole discussion was quite informative.

    2. fredwilson

      kontra – i used a part of this comment in my post today.

  63. tywhite

    very much agreed, as usual. playing media on phones seamlessly is also an issue for services like twitter that enable such easy sharing of everything else the web has to offer. one thing i did just learn to do on the blackberry is stream songs from opentape playlists that have mp3 links enabled. again, not perfect, and requires more bandwidth and buffering time than if flash were involved, but it’s something.

  64. Cliff

    What I got from this post/discussion is that while this may not be all about Flash it sure seems that Apple’s iPhone/mobile play initially thrived and may well soon suffer through the same closed practices. Here’s the full argument (gleaned mostly from the initial post and enhanced by various comments):1. Watching audio and video on the desktop Web has become a seamless experience through the broad adoption of Flash by content publishers as a CODEC wrapper.2. This seamless media experience has not yet reached the mobile Web (i.e. you can’t just surf the mobile Web and enjoy audio and video without having to do downloads first – more extensive downloads than what’s required for Flash and Flash updates.)3. It seems clear that Apple’s mobile media strategy is to provide applications/technology that is specific to the iPhone and even to individual publishers/services rather than to pursue a more open approach. (And, yes, Flash does seem to be more open than iPhone specific apps since it runs on virtually all hardware/os stacks. It may not, however, be the right/best solution.)4. This strategy is likely to fail as the early lead Apple secured through a closed approach that escaped short term mobile shortcomings will eventually collapse under the weight of a mature and open mobile Web infrastructure that the rest of the world piles on to.

  65. Ben Francis

    Flash, open?What about XHTML/HTML5+SVG?Flash is killing the web, or at least the XML-based web recommended by the W3C.

  66. Tom

    Might I suggest making an update post, on what you’ve learnt – seems the recent long post by mbrosen, and your reply at the bottom seem to suggest you’ve found additional information that might have changed your opinion.For me, Flash sites don’t allow many things, that I expect from a web site (to be able to get the normal right click menu, to coppy and paste text from it, to be able to create new tabs from ctrl clicking a link etc, to be able to save a picture, view the sourcve code, use downloadthemall, use extensions on the site, block ads, save the page etc etc).So Flash for websites, imo is a big step back. (And linked to resource hogging advertising to boot). As for Flash for video, audio – Apple has been clear about why it went with H.264, and they’ve gone with open source formats in this regard. Using flv is more about others not wanting to use an open format. Youtube shows you can change to H.264. HTML5 will help with this regard. If you’re for sharing and making open your content, Flash isn’t the way to go really. It’s proprietory. Yes, sometimes Adobe can do interesting stuff, but open formats are catching up? AIR is like Silverlight, and there are others.

    1. fredwilson

      I hate flash web sites too. I never suggested that they were a good thing.They suck and should go away as soon as possible.My post was entirely about audio and video players (and AIR to a lesserextent)I did learn a lot in the comments and talked about that in this post I wrotethis morning

  67. Areas

    Well bully for you, but being a fanboy for Flash and Adobe/ Nokia does not make it an open standard in any shape or form.By comparison, Apple’s iPhone/Webkit offerings are almost a paragon of open-ness.As for the limited life of the app model… you are joking right?

    1. fredwilson

      Nope. We don’t download an app to use google or youtube or read techmeme orbuy something from amazon. More and more games we play on the web don’trequire a download. I think the app ecosystem is a bridge to a mobile webthat works just like the web.

  68. Brian Posnanski

    Have to say you’re spot on about Flash – that is exciting – but apps are more fun and more compelling than merely serving as a bridge to a truly mobile Web. Aren’t they services… not just content? For instance, I like managing my NetFlix queue from the PhoneFlix app — going to the site feels too cumbersome. And when I crack open the NYT, it’s usually from my NYT app. I don’t go to the actual newspaper site. The app makes the content easier to navigate and read.

  69. alindh

    All technical issues aside, could this be a cost/greed issue? Flash on other mobile devices has so far been a selling point for device vendors, and if I remember correctly, Adobe has been licensing the runtime to device manufacturers (i.e. device manufacturers pay actual money to Adobe for each shipped device with the flash (lite) runtime installed). Could the culprit actually be Adobe, and we’re not seeing Flash on the IPhone because they are demanding a licensing fee from Apple? (I’d guess the existing licensees wouldn’t be to happy if they’d let Apple ship the runtime for free?…)Here are a couple press releases to announcements of Flash Lite licensing:…Does anybody know how much a dev. manufacturer might need to pay for licensing Flash? A one-time fee, a per-installation fee, or…?

    1. alindh…Adobe indeed charges a per-unit royalty for each shipped Flash Lite runtime. Wonder if the full version of Flash for mobiles (as announced during MWC) will be free of charge (like the desktop version)…

  70. Theo

    Wow – amazing discussion.Fred – I wholeheartedly agree with your overarching thesis – I spent 3 years selling mobile content in Asia, based in Tokyo and the only companies/developers who force you to download are the hard core game (eg Final Fantasy). EVERYTHING else is done in the browser. I’m amazed when I see an iPhone with 50-60 apps and wonder how long the user will flick through his home screen to access these little silos.Phone usage should be pretty damn close to PC usage at the end of the day — dedicated client for email, IM and gaming (however there are a ton of very popular flash gaming sites in Japan) with everything else done in the browser. Does anyone use Pointcast anymore? Then why should I be forced to download a Weather Channel iPhone app? It’s ridiculous.With respect to the whole open/closed debate — I agree the closed nature of Flash is an issue, but in my (non technical) opinion, it is the price you have to pay for stability. Users have a much lower tolerance for a mobile browser crashing or “hanging”.One more point — the 30% rev share to Apple also really disappoints me. Docomo takes 9%, and the paid mobile content market in Japan has thrived from the beginning. Move the revshare to 10% and let 1000 flowers bloom!

  71. Luis Antezana (luckylou)

    Thanks to all the intelligent commenters who refuted the original blog post here more eloquently and with more specific detail than I could.One thing I wanted to add is that iPhone can already play many QuickTime-supported media formats in the browser. No special upgrade or third-party player need be downloaded to achieve this. If the content providers would make the files available in an iPhone-optimized form we could play them directly. I’ve tried linking directly to .mov and .mp3 files and they play right in the browser.And of course slightly undermining my statement, a .m4a and a .3g2 file I tried did not play at all. I might expect that with a video file taken from a Treo, but the audio file, which was encoded from iTunes, albeit a long time ago, was a surprise. Still, I am not an expert in digital media content formatting, and any provider trying to make theirs available for mass consumption would encode in an efficient and compatible format.My point is just to say that there are already very easy ways to play audio video files on an iPhone in the browser without a third-party app, since that was part of the original post’s argument.

  72. Bob the eClown

    You are a hack on crack; everyone I know is removing Flash because of it’s very real disruption (i.e. crashing) of a functional webbrowser.

    1. fredwilson

      “a hack on crack”I like that one

  73. Doug Kersten

    Apple is being an idiot about Flash but it fits with their culture of control of your hardware and software. It will be their ultimate downfall. I just can’t buy a product where the vendor feels it is their right to remove software, especially if I purchased the software. This is Apple’s legacy.

  74. Doug Kersten

    I am testing the Skyfire browser on my HTC TouchPro Windows Mobile phone and it has Flash built in. It was amazing when the first site I went to with Flash loaded up and I was immediately able to play media files!

  75. Matthew Wensing

    The problem with this meme is it mixes two audiences–standards zealots (I don’t mean that pejoratively) and entrepreneurs. As a startup founder with a site ( whose main engine is Flash, I applaud your pragmatism, Fred. While Ajax + CSS may suffice for many, there’s one thing that, YouTube, Pandora, twhirl et al. have in common–they are successful, and they leveraged the Flash runtime’s advantages over DHTML: namely, speed and compatibility. I am happy to do the same and leave the ‘true opening of the web’ to those without browser-related end-user concerns (i.e. when 50% of all of your users still use IE 6 …). When their work is complete, I’ll jump ship. For now I fly the Flash flag and lament having to write an Objective-C app to bring our site’s experience to the iPhone.

  76. Ade

    I’ve been developing Flash for years and heard all these “Flash is over” arguments a 1000 times but somehow i’m better paid than ever in the middle of a recession. You can’t run your iphone app anywhere else so Apple is doubling the development costs of a cross platform widget. Flash/AIR should be the best solution and you can develop an AIR app without paying Adobe for any software. Techy geeks might not like flash but the kids do and once the competition catch up with Apple’s interface then they won’t be so popular

  77. Claudio Luis Vera

    There are two very good business reasons for Apple to snub Flash:1) it’s easier to write apps for Flash and AIR than the AppStore. If you open this up, there’s not much of a need to go through Apple to publish your app.2) Flash video competes directly with QuickTime. As of December 2008, both platforms handle the H.264 codec natively.”Next year” will go on to “year after next” until Apple finds a way to keep Flash from cannibalizing its offerings.

  78. gfurry

    I would love flash on the iphone. What I don’t love when I click on a flash video and it brings my 8 processor mac pro with 6GB of ram to its knees. Adobe needs to get flash working perfectly on the desktop on all platforms and consolidate it. What is included in flash? shockwave, flex, air, etc…

  79. Clark Hamon

    If a publisher manages their content through a comprehensive vieo platform and CMS like Castfire (, the content will immediately be available in multiple different formats so that users can watch it on a desktop, on an iPhone, on a Zune, on Tivo etc. Though Flash is coming out the odds on favorite to rule the web – it is not the be all end all. And particularly when you talk about delivering content to the Living Room via broadband – which is going to be the norm before long – Flash will not be that mechanism. There will continue to be different standards for all these different devices – the trick – at least in the next few years – is making sure that your content can be viewed no matter what that device and standard is.

  80. fredwilson

    The consumer experience is excellent on the web. Compare that to windows media player, for exampleI agree on the proprietary tech point. Erik made it too and you are both right about that