File Under: HTML5, Multimedia, Software

Adobe CTO Defends Flash Against Apple, HTML5

He waited a few days to make his point, but Adobe’s head software honcho has thrown a bucket of water onto the “Death of Flash” fire.

In a blog post Tuesday, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch responded to Apple’s recent criticisms of the Flash platform and warned that a switch to HTML5 would throw users and content creators “back to the dark ages of video on the web.” Lynch went on to cite many of the same shortcomings of HTML5 video that we outlined in our post on the topic Monday.

First, here’s Lynch on Apple’s failure to support Flash on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad:

We are ready to enable Flash in the browser on these devices if and when Apple chooses to allow that for its users, but to date we have not had the required cooperation from Apple to make this happen.

And later:

Engaging with ideas and information also means ensuring there is an open ecosystem and freedom to view and interact with the content and applications a user chooses. This model of open access has proven to be more effective in the long term than a walled approach, where a manufacturer tries to determine what users are able to see or approves and disapproves individual content and applications. We strongly believe the web should remain an open environment with consistent access to content and applications regardless of your viewing device.

These strong words are no no doubt directed at Apple, which is actively keeping Flash off of its newest devices.

As reported by Wired’s Epicenter blog, Steve Jobs laid into Adobe at an Apple employee meeting last week, calling the company “lazy” and deriding its Flash Player as buggy, saying Apple is refusing to support it in Mobile Safari for stability reasons.

To defend against that particular statement, Lynch also pointed out that Adobe has been busy enhancing Flash Player 10.1 (which will be released within a few months) to work better on Android, BlackBerry, Nokia and Palm devices — and not just phones, but tablets, netbooks and other so-called “transitional devices” where Flash has historically had a negative effect on performance.

In other words, Lynch says Adobe is working on making Flash perform better on everyone else’s tablets and phones, just not Apple’s.

And here’s Lynch on the notion that HTML5 will threaten Flash’s dominance:

Some point to HTML as eventually supplanting the need for Flash, particularly with the more-recent developments coming in HTML with version 5. I don’t see this as one replacing the other, certainly not today nor even in the foreseeable future. Adobe supports HTML and its evolution, and we look forward to adding more capabilities to our software around HTML as it evolves. If HTML could reliably do everything Flash does, that would certainly save us a lot of effort, but that does not appear to be coming to pass.

He pointed to inconsistencies in browsers as the main hindrance on HTML5′s video capability, adding that, “users and content creators would be thrown back to the dark ages of video on the web with incompatibility issues.” For this reason and a few other ones cited by Lynch, Flash will be sticking around — at the very least, as a stopgap solution — for years to come.

What is left largely unsaid is the future of Flash as a development environment.

Flash Professional and Adobe Creative Suite are some of the most well-loved and powerful tools for creating rich apps on the web, especially when building apps to run on multiple devices.

Right now, a lot of people are building that stuff in Flash. In the future, they will likely be using the same software to do it in HTML5.

Adobe will react to the market, following developers where they go. If developers are making a broad switch to HTML5 — which the most forward-thinking ones already are — expect tools like Flash (via export add-ons) and Dreamweaver to get better at outputting content in HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and other web standards.

Lynch touched on it a little bit here:

We support whatever technologies and formats that best enable our customers to accomplish these goals, and work to drive technology forward where there are gaps that we can fill.

Photo: Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

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