Adobe’s Kevin Lynch: Apple’s Playing a Legal Game, Not a Technology Game
SAN FRANCISCO — Adobe’s CTO wants to make it clear that the public battle between HTML5 and Flash isn’t about technology, it’s about politics.
“The story is not about HTML5 vs. Flash,” Adobe’s Kevin Lynch says. “It’s about freedom of choice in the industry.”
Lynch says developers should be able to use whatever tools they want to create whatever experiences they want on the web.
“There are some who would like to wall off parts of the web and require you to get their approval to create something,” he says.
Lynch spoke Wednesday morning at the Web 2.0 Expo taking place here at Moscone West. The twice-per-year developer conference focuses on all things web, and though the audience is primarily made up of developers, the talks often turn to current events in the tech world.
Adobe has certainly been in the news quite a bit lately, with its Flash platform and Flash Player being derided by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has disallowed Flash on the iPad and the company’s other mobile devices, and has banned apps created in Flash from being sold in the company’s App Store by changing the wording of the developer’s agreement for its latest iPhone OS.
Lynch didn’t refer to Apple by name until prompted by Web 2.0 Expo program chair Brady Forrest, who was interviewing Lynch on stage.
“Are you referring to Apple and the iPhone,” Forrest asked.
Lynch shot back: “Are you reading between the lines?”
“Apple’s playing this strategy where they want to create a walled garden around what people use,” Lynch continued.
He turned to an analogy he’s used in the past: the development of railroads in the United States in the 1800s.
“Part of the competitive dynamic at that time was that people were using different gauge rails for each section of the route,” he says. If you wanted to move your freight on somebody else’s section of railroad, you had to unload everything and put it into different cars. The same cars couldn’t run on different sections of the rail.
“That wasn’t good for industry. The ‘gauge of rails’ today is writing code for particular operating systems.”
One of Jobs’ big arguments against Flash is that apps written for the iPhone and iPad using Adobe’s Flash development tools don’t work properly on Apple’s mobile platform. His company has gone as far as banning them, citing this shortcoming as the reason.
Lynch says it’s a myth that cross-platform code can’t retain the intricacies of a specific platform.
“You don’t lose expressiveness or fidelity by cross-compiling applications,” he says. “It’s disingenuous to say that cross-compiled code won’t be able to take full advantage of any particular device.”
“The technology issue Apple has with us is not that our tech doesn’t work, it’s that it does work. We don’t want to play a technology game when Apple is playing a legal game. We’re not going to play that game, we’re going to concentrate on everyone else.”
To that point, Lynch talked a little bit about the Open Screen Project, the Adobe-led initiative to get Flash software integrated into tablets and other mobile devices from various companies to take advantage of hardware acceleration and specific hardware features, like touchscreens, cameras and GPS sensors. Adobe has a booth at the expo where attendees can play with prototypes of different tablets running Flash.
Lynch also had some nice things to say about HTML5 and its many capabilities.
“HTML5 is the best thing that’s happened in browsers for a long time,” he says. “Innovation happening in the browser again.”
Lynch, who worked on the initial launch of Dreamweaver at Macromedia in the mid-’90s, took us back to what things were like back then.
“DHTML was supposed to take off and it didn’t. We went through a period of stagnation in HTML, which made room for Flash to grow.”
“We will keep making tools for people to create experiences in HTML5,” he says, referring to Dreamweaver and other products in Adobe’s Creative Suite.
As for Flash’s future: “We will continue to work on Flash, filling in holes as fast as we can and developing it at a much faster pace than we have previously,” he says.
UPDATE: Here’s a video of the entire 15-minute interview: