Apple & Flash

An illusion created by Satan... I mean Adobe

It’s not like Gruber needs me to link to him, but his latest piece on Apple, Adobe, and Flash — in addition to correctly using a comma before the “and” — is a cogent, thorough, and fair-minded discussion of the issues at hand. I installed ClickToFlash on my Macbook Pro (which is slightly older than Gruber’s) and it no longer burns my legs in the toilet.

Flash comprises two things — a virtual machine for applets (what Java aspired to be on the client), which is seldom used for this purpose in a Good way — and a platform for streaming video. (It’s also used for animation, but no-one really cares any more, and for ads, but this isn’t an end-user benefit per se, and if everyone stopped using Flash the online advertising industry would switch to alternative technologies a heartbeat.)

One thing Gruber fails to mention is that only reason Flash has so much traction in streaming video is that Microsoft, Apple, and Real have so frequently and spectacularly dropped the ball — Apple in particular, since it was first to market with digital video, and a close second with online, has no-one to blame but themselves for not providing third-parties with some way of protecting their IP without selling it through iTunes (the way Adobe has), and having made full-screen playback a “QuickTime Pro” feature until Snow Leopard shipped (and it’s still not working in Safari). It’s not like Hulu or Netflix could actually work via QuickTime today even if they wanted to — users could just download the videos.

Apple could make the AppleTV capable of playing Hulu and Netflix tomorrow (or, indeed, could have offered them at launch), but it would have to be via Safari and Flash. I think Apple would have sold a buttload of AppleTVs if it had been willing to sully its hardware with Flash.