We have our answer about the iPad

As I’m sure you have already heard, Steve Jobs confirmed that Flash will not be coming to the iPad. He called out both Google and Adobe. He said that we are lazy and basically said that Flash will never come to Apple devices. Personally I find this really sad, as I really enjoy using Apple products and I think Flash Player 10.1 would have been awesome on the iPad. Why not give people the option to have it is the question that I keep asking.

Even though I obviously disagree about Flash, I have to say that I actually admire Steve Jobs. He sticks to his guns and doesn’t waver. I respect that in a person, and that’s no joke.

At least now I can get back to some real work. Flash on!
Lee

Some questions about HTML 5 video

Now before I even start this post let me make something clear. I am trying to do some research on HTML 5 video and have some questions that I’m hoping someone can help me with. I’m planning on doing some demos as I am genuinely interested in trying to build some players. Any comments that try to rekindle the flame war from the last post will be deleted. Let’s keep this one about the technology, not whether HTML 5 video is better than Flash, etc. OK so here are my questions. Any help would be much appreciated.

  1. Is there a definitive reference for both the video tag and the JS API used to communicate with it?
  2. My assumption is that each browser provides a default set of controls. Can these be modified or do you need to start from scratch?
  3. How do you do true streaming with the video tag (i.e. not progressive download)?
  4. Is it possible to provide some form of DRM protection for video in HTML 5?
  5. Is there a tool that is optimal for encoding Ogg videos for Firefox?
  6. I remember reading that you can seek to any part of a video even if it hasn’t been downloaded yet. Is that true and if so, how is that achieved?
  7. Is there no hope for IE ever supporting the video tag?

Thanks in advance for the respectful commenting :)
Lee

The Locked iPuzzle

So the iPad came and as expected, everyone can’t stop talking about it. I was cautiously optimistic about Apple’s tablet. I’m a sci-fi fan with a gadget fetish and I was loving the idea of carrying around a computer tablet just like they do in all of the latest science fiction movies. And Apple has a way of completely turning the computing world upside down. They have an elegance and polish that makes the intersection of software and hardware a nirvana.

Part of that is because they rule their platforms with an iron fist. The iPhone is obvious. It’s arguably the most closed platform in recent memory. Every application has to go through Apple’s approval process, can only be listed on Apple’s store, and Apple takes a cut. It’s a fantastic device, it provides developers a way to make money, but it is incredibly closed and arguably bordering on big brother. But OS X isn’t perfect either. While I can install my own applications and control my own settings, things like getting the right APIs for the Flash Player to handle video or multi-touch aren’t possible.

The iPad Cometh

So when the iPad was released and it was just a bigger iPod Touch, I was incredibly disappointed. If this is the future of computing then we’ve already lost. Apple is taking total control to a new and unfortunate level. It’s the same pay-to-play model as the iPod Touch so that you’ll be buying your applications from Apple (so they can take their cut), buying your videos and music from Apple, buying your books from Apple, and dealing with their DRM for all three. The ultimate lock-in.

The Honey Trap

This is what bugs me. As an evangelist I’m annoyed Flash isn’t on the iPhone. But as a user, I’m terrified that Apple has put a vice grip on getting content on my devices. It used to be that when you bought a device, you owned it and could basically do whatever you want with it. The model of the iPad and the iPhone is the opposite of that. You’re essentially paying for a device that then gives you the privilege to buy content from Apple. The honey pot of a seamless software-hardware experience has become a nightmarish trap that keeps you stuck and struggling.

As Mike Chambers said better than I can, having some support for HTML5 in Safari doesn’t make an open platform. One of the great parts of the “open web” is exactly how open it is. Anyone can put up any piece of content, at any time, without asking for permission. The web is accepting of Flash content, HTML content, Silverlight content, numerous video and audio codecs, and other plug-ins. Users have the ultimate choice about what they want to see and how they want to see it. That ecosystem has led to a lot of great, free content like games, video, and applications.

Which is why Apple has locked down the device. They can’t make money off of free. And instead of giving users choice and opening up their devices, they’ve decided to lock it down. The iPhone and iPad are each great pieces of technology and Apple deserves to make money off of them. But they could be so much better if they were open. The number of innovative things that an open ecosystem could do with this technology is mind-boggling. But that won’t happen because the only ideas that will see the light of day are ideas Apple lets through.

We’ve come a long way from 1984, but obviously not long enough.

Adobe is hiring a RIA / Flex Architect – interested?

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Enabling innovation isn't magic.

On Wednesday I expressed some of my concerns about the new iPad, and the expanding footprint of closed platforms built by Apple. Since then, Apple has posted a video of the keynote, and it turns out that in a span of about 2 minutes browsing the web, there are at least 5 instances where there is broken web content. I’ve also spent a lot of time the last two days talking with people about how Apple could consider this a great browsing experience. It’s perplexing.

Unfortunately, a lot of the speculation I’m hearing for why Flash Player isn’t on the iPad doesn’t make sense:

  • “Flash technology isn’t open” — The Flash file format specifications are open and unrestricted, so Apple can build their own Flash Player if they want. If Apple wants the source code to the Flash Player, we’re happy to provide it, just as we have to many other device manufacturers.
  • “Apple doesn’t want to pay for Flash Player” — Apple can put it on the iPad (and iPhone) without paying Adobe or anyone a dime. The Flash Player has always been free to all consumers worldwide, and is available to device makers royalty free through the Open Screen Project. There are dozens of other devices that do that today.
  • “I don’t want Flash on my iPad (or iPhone)” — That’s fine, we support your ability to choose, and don’t want to require Flash Player on any device. But we do want it to be an option for the millions of people who have requested it.
  • “Flash won’t perform well on the iPad (iPhone)” — It’s fast enough for other devices that have similar chips (and even less powerful chips) built on the ARM architecture. The Palm Pre, Google Nexus One, Motorola Droid, and other devices all run beta versions of Flash Player 10.1 beautifully.
  • “HTML5 is replacing Flash” — This is a red herring to justify keeping a platform closed by drawing attention to another open technology. HTML5 and Flash are in no way exclusive. As with HTML4 and Flash, there are some use cases that can be served with either technology, but there are also many cases where the technologies serve different purposes. As on Android devices, HTML 5 and Flash can both easily be supported on this and future devices.

But I want to be very clear. My concern isn’t just about Flash on the iPad. It’s about a disturbing trend where Apple is starting to inhibit broad categories of innovation on their platforms. On the iPad, it looks like developers won’t be able to write applications in Java, .net, Python, Ruby, Perl, or any number of other languages (including Flash). And users won’t be able to install Firefox, Opera,IE, or any third party browser. There are countless other examples of applications and technologies that Apple doesn’t allow. Why? Apple won’t say.

And innovation isn’t just about technology, it’s also about business models. Developers on this new platform aren’t able to innovate there either. At best, developers targeting the iPad are subject to a 30% Apple Tax in the App Store. And at worst, developers invest time and money building a product that can never be brought to market, because the only channel is one that is centrally controlled and entirely opaque. In every case, Apple is a gatekeeper on how developers are able to deliver content to their consumers.

Over time, restrictions on technology and business opportunity have a chilling effect on innovation on closed platforms.

Enabling innovation doesn’t require magic. It requires open platforms. Apple understood this with the Mac OS. Remember the original Macintosh advertisements? On a Mac, any developer can build any app they want, and deliver it through any channel. At Adobe, we love our Macs and are one of the largest developers of software for the Mac.

iPad could be a great source for innovation. It would be a disappointment to see that wasted by keeping it closed to outside innovation to protect the Apple Tax.

At Adobe, we’re seeing a similar shift towards the opening of mobile platforms. Google’s Android OS is at the front of this effort, as are more than 50 participants in the Open Screen Project who are working to provide open access and a consistent runtime for devices.

We hope to enable platforms where developers can build what they want. Where they can freely choose which technologies they want to use. Where they have direct access to users, and flexibility in how they take their creations to market. The web has proven to be a powerful engine of innovation because it provided unprecedented freedom to developers and users.