SAN FRANCISCO — Adobe’s CTO Kevin Lynch came out swinging in his defense of his company’s Flash software during a keynote onstage interview here at the Web 2.0 Expo Wednesday.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs recently posted a lengthy defense of his company’s decision to ban Flash from the iPhone, citing security, stability and poor battery support among others points. He also repeated Apple’s earlier stand that the company is focused on the emerging HTML5 standard for content creation on the Web. Companies such as Google and Microsoft have also come out strongly for HTML5 but, unlike Apple, both work closely with Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) to ensure Flash works on their sites.
“It’s not about HTML versus Flash. The more important question is that this is about freedom of choice on the Web,” said Lynch. “Certainly you should be able to choose whatever technology you want to develop with. The Web has been really successful with openness, it’s been revolutionary. Now we’re facing a time where some would like to wall off parts of Web. I don’t think that’s the role of a company to make those decisions, it’s the role of the industry.”
Lynch also said Adobe has long-supported HTML and that won’t change with HTLM5. “Now we can take advantage of the innovation going on inside the browser,” he said.
Lynch compared Apple’s strategy to the early days of the early days of the railroad industry when train companies used different gauges of rail to keep competitor’s trains from running on their tracks. “That’s what’s happening now and it’s totally counter to the Web,” said Lynch.
He conceded Apple’s platform is “open” to the extent anyone can develop for the iPhone/iPad using Apple-approved tools, but he said that’s too limiting.
“Writing native code is like having to go to a different rail gauge; it’s expensive and that cost is preventing more innovation,” said Lynch.
Earlier this week, there were reports Apple might loosen developer restrictions to keep antitrust regulators from targeting the company and possibly forcing a change in policy that would not be to Apple’s liking.
That said, the arguments raised by Apple’s critics over developer terms loses at least a bit of steam in light of the iPhone’s runaway popularity as a developer platform with more than 200,000 applications created to date for the device.
Lynch also addressed one of Jobs’ criticisms that Flash was not cutting edge for the iPhone and upgrades and fixes are perpetually slowed by the company having to spread resources to also support Windows and other platforms.
“It’s a false assumption that support across multiple devices makes Flash less effective,” said Lynch. He also said it wasn’t true, as Jobs’ claimed, that Flash doesn’t support multitouch input. He said the new Flash 10.1 has broad support for multitouch that’s customizable to the capabilities of the target device.
Lynch said there is no technology issue related to Flash working on the iPhone. “The technology issue Apple has is not that it doesn’t work, but that it does [work],” said Lynch. “They’re changing the developer license agreement to block [Flash].”
Other mobile platforms, new Flash-based tablets coming
In light of Apple’s moves, Lynch said Adobe is moving away from iPhone in favor of investing more support in other mobile platforms. “We have over 70 partners and I’m under NDA so I can’t say what I’ve seen, but you’ll be blown away by what’s coming in the second half of this year,” Lynch said referring to new mobile devices that will support Flash.
Adobe is also spearheading a group called the The Open Screen Project, which has drawn support from a range of mobile-related companies, including Research In Motion, Qualcomm, Nokia, Google, Freescale and Intel. The groups stated aim is to “remove barriers to the deployment of rich, multi-screen experiences” and “create new revenue opportunities, cost efficiencies, and faster time to market — enabling organizations to deliver more engaging devices, software, and services.”
Nvidia is showing a prototype tablet device on the Web 2.0 Expo exhibit floor that runs Flash. “The graphics are accelerated and it’s a great user experience,” said Lynch. “You’ll see a bunch of companies use those same guts to make a wide variety of devices.”
TAGS: Adobe Flash, Apple, iPhone, Steve Jobs