The next battle in the Apple-Adobe war over Flash takes the form of an Adobe publicity campaign, including its own letter propounding openness.
Stephen Shanklandprincipal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Adobe Systems may not have a chief executive with Steve Jobs' high profile, but it does have money. And on Thursday it began spending some of it on an effort to rebut the Apple CEO's criticisms of Adobe's Flash technology.
"The genius of the Internet is its almost infinite openness to innovation. New hardware. New software. New applications. New ideas. They all get their chance," the co-founders said in the letter. "In the end, we believe the question is really this: Who controls the World Wide Web? And we believe the answer is: nobody--and everybody, but certainly not a single company."
Adobe's public-relations response takes a much more genteel but less biting tone than Jobs' Flash-bashing letter, which characterized Flash as being being proprietary, a power hog, behind the times with multitouch interface support, insecure, unstable, and generally a relic.
Adobe's campaign, published in several daily newspapers and online news sites, also features an advertisement rebutting Apple. It starts with a large-type proclamation of love for Apple and concludes on a less amicable note.
"We love creativity. We love innovation. We love apps. We love the Web. We love Flash. We love our 3 million developers. We love healthy competition. We love touch screens. We love our Open Screen Project partners. We love HTML5. We love authoring code only once. We love all devices. We love all platforms," the ad reads. "What we don't love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the Web."
In a response, Apple directed attention to its support for Web standards that let some applications run in a browser, though not addressing the issue of applications that run natively on the iPhone.
"We believe in open Web standards too, like HTML5. Flash is not an open web standard like HTML. It is a proprietary Adobe product," said spokeswoman Trudy Muller. "Just ask the W3 consortium that controls web standards--they have chosen HTML5 as the open Web standard to move forward with."
Flash lets programmers create everything from video-streaming sites and games to stock charts and photo albums on the Web, and a big part of the sales pitch is that programmers can write a single program that will work on many computers regardless of differences among browsers and operating systems. But Apple long has denied Flash a place on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and most recently, the iPad.
Adobe tried to bypass the lock-out with the new CS5 version of its Flash Pro developer tool. But just as it emerged Apple blocked Flash and related tools in April through a change to its iPhone OS 4.0 software developer kit license language. Adobe scrapped further development of the Flash-to-iPhone tool but hasn't been happy to see the cross-platform promise of Flash curtailed by its absence on the iPhone.
It's too strong to say Adobe is fighting for Flash's life--it's very widely used, the alternatives are immature, and even if programmers were to abandon it tomorrow, countless Web pages already in existence still use it. But it is fair to say the current assault is probably the most significant threat in its existence.