“You Flash kids stay off my iPhone lawn!”

There’s much discussion today around Apple’s announcement that they won’t be supporting Flash on the iPhone. Thank God, I say. Flash on a full-size Mac (my MacBook Pro and my Mac Mini) is a dog. It’s slow, a massive resource hog, and reliable only in the sense that I can count on frequent browser crashes. Why would I want to experience this same disaster on my iPhone too?

As John points out at Daring Fireball, beyond the tech issues, there are some political ones that seem impressively significant.

With regard to why I doubt that Apple plans to add Flash support to MobileSafari any time soon, the political considerations are more important than the technical ones. In short: Could Apple do it? Yes, but it wouldn’t be easy. But would they? I say no — even if it were easy.

There are currently two ways to develop software for the iPhone (and iPod Touch): using HTML/CSS/JavaScript web standards, and using Cocoa. Cocoa is proprietary, but from Apple’s perspective, it’s the good sort of proprietary: a competitive advantage completely owned and controlled by Apple. Apple doesn’t control the HTML/CSS/JavaScript web standards, but neither does anyone else. And Apple does control and own WebKit, which is by anyone’s measure the best mobile implementation of these standards today.

Flash, on the other hand, is (from Apple’s perspective) the wrong sort of proprietary — owned and controlled by another company. Apple and Adobe aren’t enemies, but they’re certainly competitors, and the history between the two companies is not entirely warm.1 In the grand scheme of things, I suspect Apple’s executives aren’t happy at all about Flash’s prominent and entrenched role in desktop computing, particularly the fact that Flash, rather than QuickTime, has become the de facto standard for video on the web.

For the desktop.

But any way you slice it, I’m glad, at least for now that the iPhone isn’t going to be seeing the busted ass jalopy that is Mac Flash. Thanks Apple, score one for stability.


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