My take on the Apple / Adobe iPad HTML 5 debacle

Posted on April 22, 2010


As it became clear that Apple would come out with a tablet PC and would very likely not support Flash (as is the case on the iPhone) a lot of people started flame wars and “forming camps” and spreading sensible and nonsensical articles.

On the nonsense part:

  1. The death of Adobe Flash / how HTML 5 will destroy Flash
  2. Flash = “banners and streaming video” = worthless crap nobody can earn money with
  3. The failure of Flash to work for touch-based interfaces (“many applications rely on mouse-hover” and likewise bullshit arguments)
  4. Adobe is lazy / Apple is sabotaging Adobe

The maybe possible part:

  1. Apple having a grudge against Adobe and thus not cooperating with Adobe
  2. Apple wanting to have it all for themselves (applications distributable outside the iStore damage the possible income of Apple)

The more sensible part:

  1. Flash as a performance hog
  2. Adobe not having access to the GPU / graphical API of the Mac platform and thus not able to get the most out of that system
  3. Adobe using a “program once, run anywhere” coding environment in C++ where Apple only makes their API available for native Cocoa applications

Cross compiling

Recently Apple announced a new article in their licence for the iPad and iPhone, stating that

  1. Only applications created in their software will be accepted.
  2. Applications created in third party products / cross compilers (like the cross-compilers of Unity3D and Adobe Flash Air for the iPhone / iPad) will be refused

Where this will possible take Apple

With these measures Apple will bring their developers base into a very specific niche of a “Apple / iPhone only” development space.

Either Apple / Jobs “have lost their minds” or show a lot of (over?) confidence in their products. I personally think that by excluding anything else but “produced with Apple products” they take a very big risk.

As Apple makes their mobile platform more and more exclusive, other providers like Nokia and Android are opening up theirs, welcoming anyone and anything. As Apple showed and clearly understood, the value of their platform lies in the things you can DO with it.

As a developer I have now three choices:

  1. Develop exclusively for the iWhatever platform: focusing on all the candy it offers
  2. Develop for all other platforms: using “write once, run anywhere” for all the other platforms based on a very likely growing list of cross compilers like mentioned before
  3. Develop for both the Apple- and Other mobile platforms: rewriting my code or using a template-based cross-code-generator kind of solution that spits out native code for the platforms you develop for

With their game of increasing exclusivity to their platform Apple can end up:

  1. Becoming an important niche player: when they made the right gamble and have their marketing and business model right
  2. Becoming a irrelevant niche player: (possible suing the hell out of others for breaking patents) when other platforms wake up and take the lead

The “cool” of Apple

Apple has always managed to have an air of “cool” over their products. I – for one – have never been impressed by Apple. I think their OS sucks ass in different but equal ways from the way MS Windows sucks ass. I think the hardware is nice, but not so much better than that of the competition. I have had my share of crashes and performance hogs waiting for the system to do stuff I did not ask for.

I do not think Apple are awesome or ground breaking, coming from a totally different environment in which the concept of multi-tasking, a work bench/desktop and separate Windows running applications was introduced in the mid-80’s and getting old in the early 90’s. I used the Commodore Amiga and the Acorn Archimedes computer back then (which were far superior on one and failed on other accounts).

Apple came out at that time with an overpriced machine with a screen the size of an large iPhone and 2 colors to work with: black and white and accompanied with a lot of “oohs” and “aaahs” from the idiots that bought it. Coming from that – and working on both Windows and Mac OSX in the past 3 years – I think Apple is just mediocre in a market of even more crappy products than Apple’s.

What makes Apple “cool” is that they seriously consider the user experience from a persons point of view. The iPhone is a great example of that. It created a shift in the market of “how can you build a great phone” and woke the other parties up from their myopic “it calls and should do some other stuff as well, but that is all we take for a stretch” point of view.

Earlier Apple did the same game changing move with the iPod. Smart marketing, a nice product design and the right specs and price tag created a shift in portable music players.

What has made Apple stand out from all the other mediocre software / product companies is that the person leading the company (Steve Jobs) focuses on the design of the product as a whole. As most other companies create comparable mediocre products that are even more crap than Apple’s, Apple is “the cool guy”.

The other and not so cool side of Apple: wanting it all

Where in 1983 Apple declared war against IBM and the likes stating: “IBM wants it all, Apple is the only hope for computer freedom” – Apple keynote speach 1983 – intro 1984 commercial – they seemed to get it right. Right now, Apple itself seems to “want it all” and “anything else than Apple” is “the hope for computer freedom” were Apple a major player in the field.

Right now, any company with the right kind of financial backing can stand up and create something even more awesome than anything Apple has ever thought of. It does not happen yet as you need a lot of money to do it and most companies who DO play the field are operating as factories, producing goods and neglecting a holistic design process to make it awesome. It takes another blog post to go into that.

It is not about HTML5, Flash or Unity3D

In the end, Flash, HTML5 and environments like Unity3D and so on are just technologies. They are replaceable. They are choices offered from the market to the market. Some people hate them, some like them, some do not give a shit and just use it.

The almost religious debates going on, are from very limited world views, assuming that the stuff they use- like- or love has some deeper form of “righteousness” inside or behind it. It has not. They are just other ways to get things done. And also these all suck ass in ever so many comparable ways.

Following one specific solution “because X, Y and Z are saying it is the best” is just like going to church. You let other people do the thinking on “what is good and bad” and “what the world should look like” while doing nothing of meaning yourself.

It is about the love from the market and what you can provide

You sell a product because it solves a problem. You sell a product because it appeals to people. You sell because people want it.

HTML5, Flash, the openness or closedness of a platform will not make the decision of the “Death” of a product. What you can DO with it might, if other parties offer better solutions. In that sense, the market is really agnostic as a whole.

Posted in: Opinions