Archive for April, 2011

Thoughts on “Thoughts on Flash”

April 29, 2010, a year ago today, Apple published a document titled “Thoughts on Flash”. Although weird, it was welcome… for over three years people had been asking about iPhone’s Flash capabilities, and up through the iPad’s “little blue lego of gloom” launch the only guidance offered was some unclaimed “lazy & evil” hearsay. Thanks to Joseph Labrecque for pulling together a few of the contemporaneous reactions to that response… with a year’s hindsight, you can make your own evaluations on the speech of that time.

The bigger issue is how we humans will adapt to our new technology capabilities… how we’ll actually end up using handheld displays, rich and interactive, always in connection with other machines, other people. Developers need to go where their audiences are, where their clients’ audiences are. Publishing workflows must traverse the silos.

Macromedia Director did early work bridging devices, with its Portable Player running on Iris, Scientific Atlanta, 3D0 and other devices, and authoring done on either Mac or Windows. Flash Lite was a bigger success, on billions of devices, but mainly regionally in Japan, Korea, and emerging markets. Today we’ve got a uniform Flash Player which runs the same across laptops and smartphones… a remarkable engineering achievement, requiring great cooperation among scores of industry titans.

The branding wars of today won’t matter much in a year or two’s time. Better to look 5, 10, 20 years out, and see how we humans will need and want to use these various devices. Unlike the PC era, handhelds will have a global reach, be affordable to many more people. Many voices will speak. The implausible Open Screen Project may have been proven a success, but the more important work is yet to come.

Got acne? Blame Flash!

This device too late! That device too different! This one too big, that one too small, this OS too free, that OS too closed, ohmygosh run run run!

There’s a rare layer of hysteria in much of the techblogging today. The nuttiness has been around forever, but now seems to be reaching a fever pitch.

Some ask if we’re in a bubble. I don’t know. But for every person who sells a share of stock above $300, there’s a person who paid that steep a price for it. That’s a lot of people, with lots of self-interest floating around out there. And the financial message boards have never been among the most civil examples of online discussion….

It’s hot. But it won’t persist. We’re already seeing the patterns.

Connected interactive screens are coming in all sizes, with all types of operating systems and native-code environments, in all types of languages, with all types of business models connected to their use. No single brand dominates.

Everyday people in both Palo Alto and Peru, both San Francisco and Singapore, both Cupertino and Hyderabad — and everywhere else! — are all adopting these devices at torrid pace. No single social group dominates.

The technology to publish applications and content across all these devices will vary with device needs, audience needs and content needs. We usually need to blend technologies to reach wider audiences. No single technology dominates.

People delivering their ideas through such devices want a real connection with their audience, and not be intermediated by gatekeepers — few wish to be a mere sharecropper. Cross-device markets, cross-device analytics, cross-device frameworks, cross-device toolchains are the pickaxes and hardware of this gold rush.

In such an expansive world, those who see themselves as the only true path will likely fare not all that well. They’ll rail at competition, scream and shout. Listen to what they say, but confirm the truth for yourself.

Cooperation and mutual benefit are, realistically, a better long-term approach. Just gotta deal with some of the screaming in the meantime…. 😉

“Better a witty fool than a foolish wit”

Anonymous article at MacWorld today:

“It almost seems a memory now, those heady days of the spring of 2010 we spent arguing over Flash. Do the sands of time cloud the Macalope’s eyes or did Adobe’s John Dowdell really suggest Apple was unethical for banning Flash from iOS?”

I tried to reply at MacWorld, but its registration system (for its anonymous commenters) didn’t permit me, so I’ll answer the question here. The original tweet from 2010 was “I know that a number of good people work at Apple. If you’re seeking a more ethical company, Adobe is hiring:”

It followed this prominent article about how the late Jerry York, of Apple’s Board of Directors, felt about the topic:

“At Apple, Mr. York was regarded as a relatively authoritative figure on audit and corporate governance matters but tended not to offer too many opinions, said people familiar with the board.

“But he had strong feelings about the way Mr. Jobs handled disclosures about his leave of absence for health reasons in January 2009. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Mr. York said he almost resigned when told of the seriousness of Mr. Jobs’s illness. Mr. York felt Mr. Jobs should have publicly disclosed his health problem three weeks earlier in a news release that announced his decision not to appear at the Macworld trade conference.

“Mr. York said the concealment ‘disgusted’ him, adding that the only reason he didn’t quit at the time was because he wanted to avoid the uproar that would have occurred once he disclosed his reason. ‘Frankly, I wish I had resigned then,’ he said.

This was in the news at the time, but likely off the partisan radar. More recently, Adobe continues to be regarded as one of the world’s most ethical companies. Still hiring, too.

It would be easy to add additional evidence, but argument, in the long run, isn’t fruitful. We know Flash is successful across a range of devices, and that even unauthorized third-party ports work successfully on Apple devices. Objections serve little purpose… the sooner the situation is fixed the better.