Is Apple destroying Flash just to make Adobe cheaper to buy? - Macenstein

Is Apple destroying Flash just to make Adobe cheaper to buy?

Rumors of Apple buying Adobe have been around almost as long as rumors of Sony buying Apple. The only difference is the Adobe rumors are actually financially possible. Now, I’m not going to go into whether or not it makes financial and strategic sense for Apple to acquire Adobe, but what I would like to do is indulge one of my favorite pastimes – conspiracy theories.

It’s no secret that starting with the original iPhone a few years back, Apple has begun a slow and steady campaign of dissing Flash. From the iPhone to the iPod touch to the iPad, Apple has declared Flash to be “battery life kryptonite” for mobile devices. Apple’s official stance appears to be that Flash is buggy on the Mac, a battery drainer for mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPad, and more or less an unnecessary evil since HTML 5 can handle much of the annoying interactivity that makes Flash so special. While some of this is true to a degree, the fact that Flash (or at least a variant of Flash) is running on a number of mobile phones and operating systems would seem to imply that if Apple wanted a stable version of Flash on the iPhone, it would be there.

So why all the anti-Flash sentiment coming out of Cupertino? Well, Apple certainly has a long history of ditching popular technologies it sees as unnecessary (usually about 2 years before they actually ARE unnecessary, but hey, they’re visionaries. Besides, we Apple fans don’t mind finding complicated and costly work arounds if it means we can deny we’ve been inconvenienced). And while looking back it may make sense to have dropped floppy drives from PCs, it currently seems a little early to say Flash is not needed to enjoy the web.

I’ll admit most of the things I find annoying about the web are Flash, and yes, as you can see, the Flash Plugin is using up the most resources on my computer, despite me only having two pages open in Safari, and me actually using Firefox at the moment…

… BUT, is all this Flash-bashing really necessary? Apple is being extremely vocal about Flash being the root of all internet evil, and have actively been courting influential sites in hopes they will drop Flash in favor of HTML 5 so that their sites will look pretty on the iPad. What began simply as a silent snubbing of Flash has now turned into a full out PR campaign against Flash.

The truth is out there

I’m not saying a single one of Apple’s arguments is not true, or at least somewhat affiliated with the truth. But let’s face it, Apple has not exactly been bending over backwards to work with Adobe to get Flash running smoothly on any of its operating systems. Couldn’t Apple allow Flash to run on the iPhone as an OPTIONAL plugin – an ON/OFF toggle in the iPhone’s settings pane? Sure they could, but they don’t. And is it solely because they are worried about the end user experience? Perhaps… or, perhaps the reason is something far more calculated.

What if there was another, more sinister reason for Apple kicking Adobe in the virtual nuts? What if this campaign or terror’s TRUE goal was to hurt Adobe’s bottom line, as well as its reputation? As someone who uses Adobe apps every day to make a living, it is painfully obvious to me that Apple’s forays into its own standalone graphics apps are cute, but more or less just toys (Aperture not withstanding). Motion is certainly no After Effects, and iWeb is no Dreamweaver. Shake is… gone. And iPhoto is a far cry from Photoshop LE. For many Mac-loving graphic artists the thought of Apple buying Adobe is a wet dream come true. Suddenly the world’s best OS running on the world’s best hardware would have exclusive rights to the world’s best graphics programs.

By taking down Flash, which is Adobe’s hot property of the moment, Apple could seriously impact Adobe’s finances, and make the company a much less risky takeover property. Sure, Apple could buy Adobe for cash twice over as it stands now, but who doesn’t love a bargain? Steve Jobs has publicly said of Apple’s HUGE $40 billion cash stockpile, “Cash gives us tremendous security and flexibility. When you take risks, it’s like jumping up in the air, and it’s nice to know the ground will be there when you land.” This has led many to speculate that Apple is looking to drop a huge chunk of change on one or more tech companies in the next year or so. What company would make a better acquisition than Adobe?

My take

I actually would be against an Adobe buyout by Apple for two simple reasons: First, odds are Apple would ruin all the Adobe products, water them down, strip out the parts they like, and then repackage them as lame consumery crap. I actually have zero faith in Apple’s ability to take an existing product as large and as well known as the Adobe CS 5 suite and assimilate it into its lineup without ruining it. Second, it’s become pretty obvious that Apple is focused on the mobile space at the moment, and not actively looking to invest time or money in the Mac/graphics arena. Despite making the move to Intel, a company with regular processor updates, Apple’s product refreshes have consistently lay stagnant, not much more frequent than its yearly Motorola-era speed bumps. While the competition has consistently adopted the latest technology, Apple’s pro products have taken a backseat to its handheld business. In fact, the Mac Pro is now in what we used to call “The WAY Back” of my mom’s station wagon ( the third, backwards facing row of fold down seats, even further back than the back seat). When you look at Apple’s Market Cap, which is now poised to eclipse Microsoft’s, you can’t really fault them for the move. It certainly has been working for them. But it WOULD be nice if Apple used a bit of its cash reserves to hire a few more brains that could help them split their focus and multi-task a bit better.

Given Apple’s current hyper-focus on the mobile market, it spending $20 Billion on Adobe seems like a bit of a long shot as none of Adobe’s assets will help Apple make a better iPhone. However, if Apple ever decides to get serious again about updating its pro hardware and is looking for a way to move that hardware, owning the premiere set of graphics tools would be a hell of a good way to do so. And who knows? If Apple convinces enough people that every time you use Flash a puppy dies, they may be able to pick Adobe up for $15 billion. Hell, even I would be tempted to buy Adobe for $15 billion.

31 Responses to “Is Apple destroying Flash just to make Adobe cheaper to buy?”
  1. Justin says:

    was looking forward to a good ol’ april fool’s article, but must say this was an interesting read. Surprised that you wouldn’t approve of Apple releasing Photoshop in say, an iLife suite…..have they ruined products before? If anything they would make it better

  2. robinson says:

    Good conspiratorial speculation, with some good details.

    Consider me old-fashioned, but using phrases such as “virtual nuts” and 4-letter words such as “hell” simply detracts from your analysis. It makes you sound sophomoric.

    Even your metaphor “If Apple convinces enough people that every time you use Flash a puppy dies” is off-putting.

  3. fring says:

    ‘….Besides, we Apple fans don’t mind finding complicated and costly work arounds if it means we can deny we’ve been inconvenienced).’
    but then… when Apple does the right thing and makes work-arounds unnecessary, we feel doubly rewarded for our faith and sooo much stronger.

    Anyway, bad idea to trash a company’s income stream if you intend to buy them out dontcha think? Also FCP has become an industry standard since Apple bought the software.

  4. Nick says:

    I know this was just a bit of fun.

    But anyway … is Java on the iPad? It’s not on the iPhone. I’ll bet it’s not on the iPad either.

    There are all sorts of reasons for *not* wanting Flash on these devices, and we can probably all come up with them: poor quality and stability of Flash on every platform bar Windows, impact on battery life, constant stream of security problems, etc., etc.

    However, the truth of the matter is Apple obviously doesn’t want *any* plug-ins on them. Not Flash, not Java, not Silverlight. It really doesn’t want gobs of other people’s stuff all over the device, because then it can’t have the level of control over the device it clearly wants, can’t guarantee the quality of the experience users get, can’t fix whatever it wants to fix as and when it wants on its own schedule.

    Flash is a dog, but it’s not just about Flash. It’s everything of that sort.

  5. Scott says:

    History might question your concern about Apple ruining Adobe’s products. When Apple bought Emagic several ago, the only thing they did that made enemies was drop the PC version of Logic. Granted, Apple did use the Logic engine to create Garageband, a “consumery” app, but Logic has thrived under Apple’s guidance.

    The CS suite might suffer the same happy fate, and I’d love for more PC people to know what it’s like to ask “Is this software PC compatible”? <>

  6. Nathanael Neveux says:

    While you mention Apple’s design software as being less than Adobe’s – as a video editor I see Final Cut Pro, Color, and Soundtrack Pro blowing away Adobe’s offerings in those categories. So I disagree that if Apple bought Adobe they would water down the products.

    Another example would be where Apple bought Logic – that piece of software has been consistently improved while at the same time many of it’s features have made their way across into Soundtrack Pro and down into Garage Band.

    I think we would end up with Photoshop going on as being for artists and designers – having better integration with Apple products – as well as the creation of a iDraw app being part of iLife

  7. dekadent says:


    No, your conservative christian fanatic attitude to four letter words is off-putting.

  8. Czar says:

    Who cares? This company hasn’t supported Apple products – they’re a lot like Microsoft. These guys put together second rate products for Apple users for years.

    Flash is ubiquitous and annoying. I’m amaze how Jobs has been able to bring M$FT and Adobe to their knees. These companies aren’t owed anything for their efforts remember this is the free market system.

    Make a better widget because as companies you can’t rest on your laurels.

  9. addicted says:

    While I think you have a good point, how many other mobile phones are running Flash? Apparently when Flash 10.1 comes out, it will run on Android.

    At the same time, MSFT is saying there will be no flash on WM7, and Firefox dropped flash from their mobile variant because it was killing their performance.

    In other words, 3 years since the iPhone was released, nearly no one else has Flash anyways, yet Apple is being accused of lying when complaining about its performance (although, not in your article).

  10. Oscar says:

    I think your theory is possible, but improvable in the short term.

    Apple does not want to have a customer care crisis on their new products like the iPad and iPod Touches and iPhones.

    Imagine all those million of devices choking the networks both wireless and 3Gs or EDGEs with stucked flash plugins? Everyone could be throwing to trash not only their devices but money in connection costs.

    From the technical point of view… I do not see why Adobe has not a mobile version… i. e. Mobile Flash Plugin with at least 6 or different levels of compatibility at least.

    In the other hand if Apple plans to buy Adobe it should be a very big strategic move, and more big if they do before Google.

  11. Scott says:

    @ robinson
    You are on a website called “macenstein” that has a “Mac chick of the month” and you find this article to be sophomoric? You may want to stick to the Wall Street Journal.

    This is actually one of the more serious pieces of random apple speculation I’ve read in awhile. “If Apple convinces enough people that every time you use Flash a puppy dies” is hilarious!

    Keep up the good work guys.

  12. Andy says:

    April fools or not, apps can be made in Adobe Flash, and by admitting Flash support in the iPhone OS you sidestep the Apple App Store. Apple’s dissing of Flash is all about keeping control of what apps users can run on iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad devices and nothing more.

  13. Killer's Dad says:

    from the article: huge chunk of chain – what’s that a link? I think you mean chunk of change.

    @robinson – Sophomoric? A guy who names his blog MacEnstein? SOPHOMORIC?

    @ andy – sounds very reasonable that Apple’s dissing Flash is all about control.

    It’s an interesting concept, dis-Adobe to lower it’s capitalization in order to buy it. Only time will tell.

  14. Dai Jones says:

    @Andy, I see a lot of comments saying the exclusion of flash is about forcing people to go through the app store or iTunes. I doesn’t really stand up though, you can do most things Flash does using the and elements within HTML5, and do them on a freely accessible web page. Apple not only allows HTML5 access through mobile safari, it positively encourages it and is one of the biggest proponents of this open standard over which it has no control whatsoever. If Apple were excluding Flash for the sake of the store and iTunes it would also be excluding HTML5 support from mobile safari. It has no reason to push HTML5 so strongly and as you intimate some commercial reasons not to, but at the end of the day Apple has for many years been a proponent of open standards over proprietary ones like Flash.

  15. Louis wheeler says:

    What an absurd theses you make. It should be enshrined as an example in flawed thinking.

    What does Adobe have which Apple would want to buy?
    Why do you think that Apple wants to push down Adobe’s share price?
    Flash will die by itself. It doesn’t need Apple’s help.
    Flash cannot operate on Multi-touch devises like the iPod Touch, iPhone or the iPad. Multi-touch is advanced technology, not some conspiracy, at work here. Flash is antiquated.

    Why do tech pundits need to flesh out conspiracy theories? Were that harshly potty trained? Or are they naturally paranoid?

    Happy April Fools day. I got a good chuckle at your absurdity.

  16. iphonerulez says:

    How is Apple destroying Flash? Because I decide not to drive a car, am I ruining the auto industry? 96% percent of the world seems to adore Flash. Apple just doesn’t support Flash on its mobile platform. I never heard anyone at Apple say that nobody should be using Flash or that Flash use is damaging the internet. Apple just gave the reasons why it don’t want to use it. Shouldn’t the world be heading toward HTML5, anyway? I personally don’t care if Flash continues forever as long as I’m not required to deal with it. As long as every site has an alternative to Flash, let people use Flash that want to. All I’m asking for is for a less CPU intensive and less bandwidth using substitute for Flash. Is that too much to ask for?

    If Apple wants to control the total experience on their devices, that’s up to them.

    • Tzedekh says:

      If you decide not to drive a car, it won’t ruin the auto industry. But you knew that was a specious comparison. Apple is one of the largest corporations in the world, and a hefty gorilla in the tech sector. The iPad and iPhone are extraordinarily, nearly inexplicably popular (the latter less so, being eclipsed by Android phones). If Apple wants to hurt a tech company, it can. And Steve Jobs did indeed say that nobody should be using Flash and it was damaging the Internet (or at least the Web experience). He said, in effect, it was a closed, poorly coded, insecure legacy technology and that HTML5 is the future. Sadly, for the things Flash is good for (animation, UI enhancement), HTML5/CSS/Javascript lags behind it by maybe several years. Adobe, of course, shares the blame — it should have optimized Flash to be the “less CPU intensive and less bandwidth using substitute for Flash” you desire.

  17. Tom B says:

    ADOBE is destroying flash. They have had PLENTY of time to make it secure and efficient instead of the POS it is. Flash is like the floppy drive; its time has passed.

    Apple SHOULD NOT buy Adobe. It would be cheaper to write their own Photoshop killer. Apple already has Aperture (like Adobe Lightroom). And FCP and Preview blow Premiere and Acrobat reader out of the water.

    Apple can’t kill Adobe’s stock price quickly. Many business users are big Adobe customers. Business users are willing to put up with total junk (e.g. Windows) for decades in the imaginary belief it saves them a few bucks.

  18. Lastpassage says:

    I agree with fring. Not just FCP but Finl Cut Studio as a whole. Motion is no AE but that does not mean it’s consumerish rubbish either. Software does not need to be industry number one to be really darned good. Color? Soundtrack?

    FCS helped me produce this in just THREE hours…

    And then there’s Logic Studio. It’s not ProTools but it really really good and it soon kicked Cubase out of the park! Let’s not forget that Apple produces two kinds of software… Consumer Apps and Pro Apps and Pros swear by their Pro Apps.

  19. gate says:

    I would like to see Apple buying Adobe then pull the plug on the Windows version of all the products. Could you imagine how much hardware Apple would sell after such a move?

  20. Mike says:

    @Tom B: Regarding your comment about Apple writing their own “Photoshop killer”, they wouldn’t necessarily have to do it all themselves. As has been referred to by other commenters, Apple has, on many occasions, bought out smaller companies or properties to bring them in-house. This is evident with things ranging from Final Cut Pro and Logic to the Cover Flow effect, which started out as a third-party iTunes companion app, and ended up everywhere from the Finder to the iPod nano.

    Pixelmator is a third-party app that strives to duplicate as much of Photoshop’s functionality as it can, using native and modern OS X technologies. I think if Apple snatched it up and put some real effort into incubating it for a year or two, they could have that killer. It’d be a lot more economical than starting their own competing project from scratch, to say nothing of trying to untangle what is undoubtedly a legacy-rotted horror of Lovecraftian proportions, known commonly as the Photoshop codebase, in order to move *that* forward in the future.

  21. nuvs says:

    @Macenstein: I can understand your concern about Apple taking pro products and watering them down. But, as others have noted, they have made great pro-level products for video & audio, all of which were acquired, not developed in house.

    @everyone/anyone: Wasn’t FCP originally a Macromedia product that Apple bought from them, way before Adobe acquired Macromedia?

    @oscar: Adobe uses Flash on mobile phones in two ways. (1) as a plug in for mobile browsers (like Opera). And (2) as a platform for games, called Flash Lite, which is similar to Java-based mobile games.

    @Andy: the fact that apps can be made in Flash (running as a browser plug-in) is irrelevant—you’re forgetting about pure web apps. You don’t need Flash in order to make a website work as an app in Mobile Safari. Simply follow web standards and you are all set!

  22. ObamaPacman says:

    The problem is Microsoft can make silverlight work without consuming a lot of CPU.

    Flash, however, consumes a ton of CPU, and blame it on Apple.

  23. Mister Ron says:

    Apple’s record with Filemaker has proven that they can do Pro applications without watering them down. The product has been owned by but separately run division of Apple for years. Ultimately, this would be the model for an Apple buy-out of Adobe.

    Why would Apple want Adobe? Quite simply, the crown jewel of their programs, the entire Creative Suite, has seen development for the Mac platform run second to the Windows platform for the last couple of versions.

    By developing CS for the Mac first, and windows later, Apple Pro equipment sales would receive a major shot in the arm. And every Photoshop user in the Windows world would see that Apple logo staring at them all day long.

  24. Roger Lemberg says:

    I have to respectfully disagree. Post Clairis, applications is an area where Apple gets involved only when it feels that the needs of Mac customers are not being served. (Or what it perceives as those needs.) Pages and Numbers don’t really compete with Word and Excel but rather provide a Mac-like experience to users who don’t need some specific feature that the Microsoft products provide. Prior to Numbers, I’m hard pressed to think of any real alternative to Excel. (Mellel did and continues provide an alternative to Word as a full featured word processor if that’s what you need. I don’t.) Likewise, iWeb and iPhoto don’t compete with Adobe’s products as much as they provide the smooth Mac experience. Of course there’s OpenOffice, but does that really feel Mac-like?

    The most nefarious motive I’d attribute to Apple (and Google) is that they don’t want to be at the mercy of third-party binaries. Thus, for consistency, they are also locking out Java and Silverlight.

    If you’re looking for conspiracy theory I got a good one for you: Sun buys MySQL, Oracle buys Sun. Coincidence? I think not.

  25. imajoebob says:

    First, you’re as old as me if you know what “the way-back” is.

    Second, a big reason Apple is trashing Flash is because it really does suck. If I know a site uses a lot of Flash I use Camino because it’s so good at shutting it off. The sites will load in a fraction of the time, and I don’t stare at beach balls.

    Third, Apple has no sympathy for Adobe after it moved a bunch of resources around 2003/04 from supporting Apple – its primary user base – to develop lots of crappy software for Windows. Adobe seemed to learn from Microsoft that “good enough” was good enough. Remember that this was the time Apple was catching fire and support from its publishers was very important to feed the momentum. And you can add a philosophical split with Apple at the same time.

    Finally, history tells us that running down the stock price of a company you’re interested in buying is self-defeating. In the end it just hurts your own stock, and the final company is worth less than deals where the company sold for a fair market price. Steve’s too smart to do that.

  26. MisterDC says:

    @robinson It’s nice to see the elderly on computers.

  27. cc says:

    Apple lemmings to the death!

  28. Aardman says:

    “odds are Apple would ruin all the Adobe products, water them down, strip out the parts they like, and then repackage them as lame consumery crap.”

    I don’t know about that one. Final Cut Studio is supposedly the choice of a number of big-name movie production outfits. Would you consider FCS to be ‘consumery crap’.

    The way I see it, Apple has three levels for certain software categories ranging from consumer to prosumer and professional: iMovie-Final Cut Express-Final Cut Studio. Garage Band-Logic Express-Logic Studio. If Apple acquired Adobe, wouldn’t they be doing that to expand the breadth of their pro apps?

  29. MM says:

    I’d just like to point out that there are exceptions to every rule. Just because FCS is good doesn’t mean everything they screw with will be good.

  30. KJ says:

    Apple barring Flash does seem to whiff somewhat of Apple dictating the market. Does Flash/Adobe not have the ability to evolve along with the rest of technology? Anything is possible and they are already developing less CPU/bandwidth intensive technologies >

    The world wide web of information… isn’t that what the internet is all about afterall? Freedom of choosing, learning, innovating, connecting. We should be encouraging choice and innovation not dampening it. Nobody should be in control of the “world wide” web. Not even Apple. Seems the pop-culture may have gone to their heads. Don’t believe the hype. Don’t let Apple dictate… free your minds and your asses will follow. I love Macs and I love Adobe products, but not too fond of the way Apple seems to be heading and sucking us into their void. Free Flash.

    Some interesting reading…

    Flash 10.1

    3D telepresence running on Nexus One with Flash Player

    iPhone vs Android

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