It’s time for me to weigh-in again on the beef between Apple and Adobe over Flash versus HTML5. Why is this such a big deal that it seems to be verging on a blood feud? What turned these two companies so ruthlessly against each other that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is writing anti-Flash essays on the Apple web page while Adobe is giving all of its employees free Google Android phones that run Flash?
Forget all the BS spewing right now from the Apple camp. What’s really at the basis of this fight is the future of electronic books.
This idea, by the way, is not new with me but came originally from reader Michael L. Jones with whom I agree completely.
Some of Apple’s stated technical concerns are legit. Flash is antiquated in some respects, and isn’t nearly as cool as the HTML5 technology that Apple is using instead in its iPads, iPhones, and iPods. But since Flash is everywhere it will probably remain popular for years to come.
A decade from now Steve Jobs is convinced that paper books will be rare and electronic books will be the standard. He wants to be sure those eBooks come from Apple.
Yes, this is the same Steve Jobs who said people no longer even read books, but that was just a magician’s technique to redirect us until he could pull an iPad out of his hat.
There are two vying eBook technical standards — one clearly owned by Adobe and the other not owned by Apple but Apple’s version is the most developed. Apple doesn’t feel the need to own the eBook standard, but they don’t want Adobe to own it, either.
And so they fight.
Ironically, Microsoft last week made a statement largely supporting Apple in this “ain’t Flash terrible” campaign. Yet Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser in its current version doesn’t support HTML5 and the company of Bill Gates would appear to have as much to lose here as Adobe.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. There are two major standards for e-book formatting and display — Adobe and WebKit. Think what this means for Flash versus Apple as well as Mozilla, Internet Explorer and Chrome. Flash is the only multimedia method supported in ePub except for Apple with H.264. So the Flash brouhaha involves more than just the web. It goes to the heart of digital media itself.
WebKit is the preferred engine on iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, WebOS, Chrome, Safari and some Linux browsers. This could be the beginning of the end for major parts of Inernet Explorer and even Mozilla, for that matter, with their Gecko engine.
Digitizing the trusty old book could be the next killer app with the victims of that killer being both Adobe and Microsoft.
Sometime soon they’ll settle this technical argument, I’m sure. They always do. And the settlement will probably put just enough HTML5 inside Flash to allow Apple-standard eBooks to play anywhere. Because in the end it isn’t the player that really counts. What counts are the electronic book files, which are the razor blades in this story that purports to be about technology but is really about business.
Apple intends to sell more eBook files than any other company and will do whatever it takes to win yet another $20 billion content market.