Apple vs. Adobe vs. Content Creators

Lack of Flash support on the iPad could undermine publisher's tablet ideas

Remember when Wired’s fancy tablet demo made the rounds a few months ago? That Adobe Air-driven prototype certainly stoked the fires of iPad enthusiasm.

Tools of ChangeThere’s just one problem: It won’t work on the iPad. It won’t work natively on the iPad.

Leander Kahney at Cult of Mac explains why:

Apple has rejected Adobe technologies like Flash and Air — with extreme prejudice. No one at Condé Nast appears to have seen that coming, even though the iPhone OS hasn’t supported Flash since its launch in 2007.

Maybe Condé Nast developers thought the iPad would run Mac OS. Or maybe they just got ahead of themselves.

Update 2/5: Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson notes in the comments, and in a follow-up piece at Cult of Mac, that the iPad’s Flash limitations were known from the start. Wired will be available on the iPad, as well as Android and Windows.

Time Inc. ran into a similar problem just before the iPad’s launch. Its Sports Illustrated tablet prototype was constructed around a wish list, not tech specs.

This is the first sign I’ve seen that the Apple vs. Adobe spat is spilling beyond the tech space. Content creators accustomed to the Adobe toolset — particularly Air and Flash — will have to recalibrate if they want to be on the iPad (and really, who doesn’t want to be on that thing?). That means more development and a longer wait for consumers.

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  • jack

    Mac – remember that these were prototypes from Condé Nast and Sports Illustrated. I trust that the developers are smart enough to know that the actual shipping products must be developed for the platform, with whatever limitations (and unexplored features) are available. Every designer knows that the comp is not the real product.

  • Luis Alejandro Masanti

    “This is the first sign I’ve seen that the Apple vs. Adobe spat is spilling beyond the tech space.”

    I fhink that some people sees Apple as “the Quixote fighting the windmills.”

    I think that Apple is promoting “open standards” because they are benefical to their business.

    Apple would love to see Adobe’s tools delivering “standards based” content with their usual easyness of use.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Actually, we are enabling standalone apps built with Flash (such as things like the application mentioned here) to run on the iPhone, iTouch, and we expect this will work on the iPad using the same approach.

    There are already apps in the app store today built this way with an early version of this technology. Please see this in our labs:

  • Mac Slocum

    @Jack: I have no doubt the developers and designers can adapt — I’m sure they deal with that all the time. But I do think in this case there’s an extra complication: consumer expectation.

    If I go into an electronics store and they demo a super-slick television with all kinds of bells and whistles, I expect, as a consumer, that I can *get* all those bells and whistles. But if I get all frothed up with anticipation and the store (or manufacturer) can’t deliver … at least immediately … my enthusiasm dissipates. Maybe even dies.

    That said, I’m sure content creators will find exciting ways to deliver great material through tablets, regardless of the technologies used. I think it’s odd, though, that they whipped out these great demos — PUBLIC demos at that — *before* the technical restrictions were established.

  • Jeffry Houser

    I don’t care about being on the device. I think tablets in general have a very niche use. That is why they have never took off before. I didn’t see Apple introduce anything that makes me think they’ll take off now.

  • iBrent

    Well, it’s a good thing there are other devices that can support AIR and Flash. These developers aren’t wasting their time with what they wrote. Soon there will be more tablet devices on the market, and once again, Apple will be the only one without Flash support.

    Reminds me of the mom who said, pointing to the marching band, “Everyone is out of step accept my son”


  • Neo

    I agree with iBrent. The iPhone is markedly different than its competition, but there’s only so many ways you can build an internet tablet, so the iPad’s uniqueness won’t be so unique once its competition starts releasing products:

  • Michael Warkentin

    Wrong. The iPad will be differentiated by its software, not the hardware or form factor.

  • Matthew Fabb

    Actually with the upcoming Flash CS5, those AIR applications could be compiled to native iPhone or iPad applications. Although they would still have to be approved by Apple and go through the iTunes store. Here’s an article from Adobe about building iPad applications:
    However, there are a number of AIR features that Adobe wouldn’t support on the iPhone/iPad, so the developers would have to disable any of those features if they used them in their prototype.

    The advantage there, would be that the same applications could be run as an AIR application on a multitouch Windows machine.

  • bowerbird

    the sooner apple kills flash, the better.


  • bowerbird

    oops. pardon me for being impolitic…

    i’ll be putting out a cross-platform authoring-tool
    for multi-media e-books for the mac and windows,
    and the ipad too.

    the format will be free, the viewer-apps will be free,
    and the authoring-tool will be free. will cost nothing.

    how do i expect to get paid?

    with an outpouring of artistic creativity and imagination,
    that’s how. if that’s too cerebral for you, i feel sorry,
    for you.

    but, you know, best of luck to adobe and flash and
    all the other corporations and programs out there…


  • Chris Anderson

    Mac, as you’ll see from the Cult of Mac followup, the original report was mistaken. Our tablet edition will run on the iPad; we were aware from the start that the iPad wouldn’t support Flash natively. Our tablet edition will be cross platform, supporting iPad, Android and Windows.

  • Jason Villmer

    This debate is really getting a lot of attention. When we see websites like CNN debating the Apple VS. Adobe (Flash) issue you know it isn’t a small thing. As a Flash developer I’ve been very proud of the platform’s ability to create exceptional experiences. One of the interesting points raised by those who oppose Flash is that ‘standards’ are better. I’ve mentioned on CNN as well that the whole point of making something exceptional is to go beyond (or set new) standards? All I can say, really, in the end is that I’m just sad Flash won’t make it onto something like the iPad. I’m hopeful Adobe will bring iPhone / iPad publishing options to Flash Builder 4.

    Jason Villmer

  • Nixtr

    Flash and JS are not good for the future, mainly because of the potential for hacks to penetrate them. A flash or JS insert can redirect you unknowingly, as well as infect a comp unknowingly.

    They have had their day in the sun, and Adobe has made some money off of hawking them. Apple abandoned OS9 because it was a flawed platform. Adobe needs to keep up with modern times and polish up their coding pens.

    The future demands new approaches

    HTML5 is going to do everything Flash can do but without Flash. Adobe can sell the designer masses a new product that makes HTML5 programming easy and fun with tutorials, like they do now with their stuff. They just have work to do, but that is what change is all about.

  • John Dowdell

    @jason “in the end is that I’m just sad Flash won’t make it onto something like the iPad.”

    Don’t worry, there will be many open tablets and phones shipping this year.

    As Kevin Lynch pointed out above, Adobe creative tooling will still support closed systems like iStuff.


  • Jason Villmer

    @John Dowdell > There is a lot of talk about HTML 5. I love innovation and change, so I’ll always be looking for the best tools to realize ideas – whether that’s Flash, HTML 5 or some other toolset to work with. One of the nice things about Flash is the ability to augment it with other, more advanced tools such as Papervision. If HTML 5 could deliver something that would let developers create highly advanced projects like those made with Papervision, I would certainly not hesitate to embrace it. All I hear, however, is talk about watching video. Outside of the emotional aspect of watching a video, the medium is passive – meaning you don’t DO anything with it. You can change it, interact with it or connect with it in any way. Flash at least lets us build upon a foundation (even of video) and add more advanced elements that take the ‘standard’ further. Anyway, the point shouldn’t really be about Flash or HTML5. It should just be about ideas and finding the best way to both realize those ideas and bring them to a public space.

    Jason Villmer

  • grommet

    Adobe missed the train. They didn’t get their proprietary platform in, so now they’re trying to sneak it in as a native wrapper. They should try out open technologies instead.

    @jason: You can interact a lot with HTML5 video through Javascript, SVG and canvas. That’s the whole point. And once WebGL is implemented in browsers, I’m sure there will a be port of Papervision. Or there won’t need to be, because standards-based tools exist.

  • Adam

    I just got a new iPod touch, and it would be nice to be able to play flash on this thing. Adobe can make it run no problem on the touch, but apple won’t let them.

  • Damian


    “…And once WebGL is implemented in browsers…” That’s the whole problem with standards. As long as Microsoft holds the overwhelming majority of browser market share, so called standards are only as standard as Microsoft’s implementation. Let’s see IE’s track record so far. IE has garbage CSS support, is not secure, buggy as hell and is an utter waste of hard drive space. I don’t see how people can get all gung-ho/anti-flash and preach standards while IE is still top dog. You really want to have full market penetration of W3C standards? Rally against IE not flash.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love standards and I always make a point to have my sites validate 100% strict. Constantly debugging IE has driven me to flash because it allows me complete aesthetic and interactive control across all browsers, even lame-o IE6. HTML5 looks great, but if MS adopts it as well as they have CSS, it’ll be dead in the water for the next 5 years.