As many others I came across mr. Jobs’ Thoughts on Flash, a 1700 word open letter to the community this month and, as many others can’t ignore the message.

I am a ‘late user’ of Apple products, and unlike many others I can’t see myself as a PC or Mac person, however I love certain things of my iMac and iPhone and can’t do without my (now over 5 years old P4) for other things.

Jobs’ comments are quite interesting, beyond the fact that Apple wants to retain a market control over apps. I think that they actually sum up a vision and given the success of his company we ought to take notice. Despite other savvy individuals like Joe Hewitt (commentary by MG Siegler) openly disagreed with the Apple CEO.

I personally buy his conclusion:

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

I buy it for a number of other reasons too, which he fails to mention, probably because it would be perceived a direct marketing attack. For example, I’ve been around long enough to knwo about Adobe’s previous life, when it was Macromedia. I’ve seen changes in Flash scripting from a design aid to full blown programming/development environment. I’ve been doing stuff with Director since it was fighting with Authorware for a place in the industry. Although I commend the huge progress, and I was amazed by the recent presentation of Adobe CS5 products, I have to ackowledge that despite the efforts in the right direction, Adobe products remain a privilege for the few, with price tags well beyond the pockets of the average user. This is making training and development more inaccessible and I embrace Jobs’ comments on openness, which is reflected in their releases of SDKs and training material.

Neverthless Hewitt’s comment strike a chord: at the time I loved my Netscape browser, but must acknowledge the raise and quirkiness of Internet Explorer opening new horizons when embed multimedia into a page was not yet possible without plugins. Flash filled the niche wonderfully, so much, in fact that over 75% of video content out there these days is a flash video!

I also agree that the W3C is just too slow in promoting changes: it took nearly 15 years to get to HTML 5 standards! Browsers should promote innovation, but we must keep in mind that standards are important: we are at a stage in which Adobe had to provide developers with useful tools to compare differences in design between browsers! This is a great response to needs, but how did we get into this mess in the first place? Maybe Hewitt forgot the pain of single platform focus because it was a pain to do anything different! (and some other developers responding to his Twits seem to agree with this point).

Going back to Flash, my verdict is ‘great, but not affordable’. I received today an offer putting the price tag fo CS5 in the UK at 80% less than the retail price for academic purposes. Excited I went to look at the online store and found out that the price for the CS5 Masters Edition costs £560 and my hopes were shattered. The average pay in the UK for a full time job is about £1400 after tax. Students working part-time are likely to earn about half (£700). How did the Adobe people do marketing research?? An article on the BBC painted an interesting story about what an ‘average’ salary is compared to the big salaray in the UK.

Obviously there is no way that students can afford the suggested price tag and whilst it might benefit Adobe’s image to look education-friendly, it doesn’t actually change the reality on the ground, maintaining an elitist position in the development, which Jobs criticised (not enough?).

I have no doubt that more comments and wars of words will provide more food for thoughts in the next few weeks! In the meantime it should be noted that YouTube has already shifted to HTML 5 rather than Flash, well before Jobs’ letter… I stick with the open and free for now!

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Steve Jobs against the world?
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