Who are the big dogs in the desktop computer software market? Microsoft and Apple, of course. And Adobe. Each has their own turf, and sometimes that overlaps. Office vs. iWork, for example. Apple’s FinalCut Pro vs. Adobe Premiere is another. Microsoft has applications that compete with both Apple and Adobe. One of my favorite Mac and PC add on products is Adobe Flash. It’s a love hate relationship. Here’s why.
That Was Then…
Adobe’s Flash has been around on the web since the end of the last century, circa 1996.
Savvy, forward thinking developers created an application that would add animation and interactivity to web pages. Remember what the web looked like in 1996? It wasn’t pretty.
Macromedia built the highly regarded and powerful Shockwave, bought the rapidly growing Flash, and Adobe bought Macromedia and assimilated their products into the Adobe hive.
…This Is Now
Today, Flash is everywhere; installed, in one version or another, on about 99-percent of all desktop and notebook Macs and PCs.
Macromedia and Adobe have advanced Flash to become a well developed rich media environment. Love it or hate, and I do both, Flash is everywhere.
Everywhere? Flash is not on the 40-million iPhone and iPod touch already in the market. Flash Lite is on many cell phones (and runs crummy and crippled), but Apple’s iPhone makes up about two-thirds of all web browsing already, so the market penetration is limping along.
Flash also has competition. Microsoft’s Silverlight is one, though web implementation of Silverlight is far behind deployment in Windows.
The W3C and HTML 5.0 will embed many rich media characteristics into the emerging standard which will compete with Flash and Silverlight.
If Flash and Shockwave rule Macs and PCs, then why isn’t it on the iPhone, and why do many Mac users hate Flash?
Generally speaking, Flash on the Mac is a huge resource hog, and, according to Apple, accounts for more crashes in Safari than any other plugin. Performance is sluggish, buggy, on the Mac.
The iPhone doesn’t even allow Flash. Why not? Flash in Safari could drain even more the iPhone’s already somewhat anemic battery life. That’s a solid technical reason, but there may be more going on.
Much of the struggle and friction that appears between Microsoft and Apple and Adobe has to do with power and control, especially so whenever their respective market circles collide.
Microsoft doesn’t want Adobe to control any more of the desktop experience than necessary, hence Silverlight competes, albeit lamely, with Flash and Shockwave.
Apple needs to uproot Microsoft’s dominion as owner of 90-percent of the world’s desktop and notebook OS market, therefore adopts and supports web standards which Microsoft ignores.
Adobe doesn’t want to be dictated to by Microsoft or Apple, therefore creates their own rich media environment for both the desktop and the web (Adobe’s installers suck like water from the Hudson).
Think of Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe as large tectonic plates which touch and build up pressure from time to time, occasionally interrupting the natural growth of the others.
Pitching a Shutout
Apple won’t allow Flash (or, Silverlight) on the iPhone unless both can be controlled and managed. The iPhone’s sales are so hot and Apple is on such a roll that the Cupertino company doesn’t need either Microsoft or Adobe products on the iPhone to make it successful.
When the time comes for either competitor to make an iPhone application or utility appearance on the iPhone, Apple will be in control, but the impact of either on the iPhone’s market place will be nominal; just the way Apple wants it.
Apple is in the process of creating a highly controlled market for portable device applications, utilities, games, and I expect they will expand that universe to include Mac applications, too.
That will make it all the more difficult for Microsoft and Adobe to control much of, or even compete head-to-head with Apple’s growing Mac, iPhone, iPod touch ecosystem.