Discretion – if not silence – is priceless. Because of his much-hyped 1500-word open letter torpedoing Adobe technology, Steve Job’s Apple now reportedly may face scrutiny by either the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission over anti-trust issues.
Indeed, the talk of (global technology) town last week was Job’s spat against Flash, justifying why his company did not wish to work with that Adobe’s technology. He had blamed Adobe for being “proprietary” and overall poor in terms of performance and energy efficiency. But mostly, he ended his letter in a way that leaves (little) space for interpretation: “We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform.”
In a nutshell: Apple does not want third-party developers to integrate their platform.
Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen moved in fast and gave his response in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying that “Apple wants to develop specifically for their platform” and pointing out the blatant inconsistencies in Job’s discourse.
And it seems that he is not the only one to have noticed.
On the one hand, Jobs accuses Adobe’s Flash products to be “100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc.” And on the other hand, he declared that “Flash is a cross platform development tool”, while at the same time asserting that Apple “cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.”
Tug of war
Quoting an unnamed source close to the situation, the New York Post today reported that Apple’s iPad/iPhone development restrictions could go under scrutiny by either the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission.
The agencies need to decide whether Apple’s policy of forcing its developers to use only Apple’s programming tools barred competition.
After sending Adobe’s share tumbling 2 percent last week, it may well be Apple’s turn to get smacked this time.
However, an inquiry does not automatically mean a full investigation but if it gets to that point, the DoJ or the FTC – whichever ends up dealing with the case – would then issue a subpoena requesting information on the policy. It is not clear at this point whether the policy in question involved avoid using Adobe’s Flash technology.
In any case, Adobe’s Narayen stood by his technology and vision to “create once and deploy across multiple devices”, a multiplatform technology that does not confine to one device, as is the case for Creative Suite 5, he said.
“Those allegations reflect the fact that we’re making progress”, Narayen pointed out.
His reasserted the company’s vision of delivering “a toolset / mechanism that allows us to help customers advertise their content and brands across multiple devices on TVs, mobiles and PCs” with the aim of providing “value to customers and users alike”.
Job’s 5 points
To support his final point of not accepting third party developers to work on iPad/iPhone technology, Jobs had drawn five other points.
Not “open and not full web”, i.e. restricted accessibility and usability: Adobe does not provide a “full web” experience by using Flash instead of the H.264 technology now widely supporting online video and games.
Also, Adobe has not adopted open-source HTML5. As reported on our sister site ClickZ, “developers at San Francisco-based Evolution Bureau (EVB) have begun converting to HTML5 a number of sites the agency built for clients in the last year”, as well as their own.
Although he says the agency’s reel in HTML5 “really looks great”, EVB CEO Daniel Stein remains neutral on the future of Flash as a content standard. “Let Apple and Adobe battle it out. The developers will adapt,” said Stein, who called the retiring of programming standards “an organic process in the development world.”
Security and reliability issues: Flash is the first reason Macs crash, he said. Dean Hachamovitch, the general manager for Internet Explorer, backed those arguments in a post on Microsoft’s official blog: “Flash does have some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance.” But noted that “Today, video on the web is predominantly Flash-based. Flash remains an important part of delivering a good consumer experience on today’s web.”
Finally, Adobe technology’s poor energetic performance and its lack of touch capacity were not discussed at length but still mentioned.
When concluding his interview with the WSJ, Naraven said it is, in the end, a question of differing business models. That, to me, pretty much sums it up.
End of story. For now.