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Jobs Says Flash Video Not Suitable for iPhone 387

Lev13than writes "Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs said the iPhone won't be using Adobe Systems' Inc.'s popular Flash media player any time soon, saying the technology doesn't meet his company's performance standards for video. Jobs said the version of Flash formatted to personal computers is too slow on the iPhone while the mobile version of the media player is "is not capable of being used with the web." The comments come a day before Apple is set to introduce the company's plan for iPhone SDK, the software developers kit which will allow third-party developers to create applications that can work in conjunction with the popular handheld device."
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Jobs Says Flash Video Not Suitable for iPhone

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:17AM (#22660926)
    the iPhone isn't powerful enough to run flash properly. Too bad.
  • by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:21AM (#22660942) Homepage
    I get jerking on even fully buffered flash video in both WindowsXP and Linux using Adobe's Flash plugin. The same machines played media via the divx plugin without issue (at much better quality)
  • by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:21AM (#22660946)
    That's a euphemism for "if we let Flash on the iPhone, we (Apple) don't completely control the video and content delivery on the iPhone anymore".

    That's also the real reason Jobs has been so slow on the iPhone SDK: the last thing they want is other companies creating audio and video delivery apps for Apple's iPods and iPhones.
  • by deathtopaulw ( 1032050 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:26AM (#22660978) Homepage
    that makes no sense, the more video/audio capabilities a device has the more people are going to buy it

    remember apple makes money on the hardware not the songs/vids from itunes
  • Analysis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DigitalisAkujin ( 846133 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:28AM (#22660988) Homepage
    A lot of people will construe this as simply Apple trying to control media on the Iphone which although it does make sense that people would think this way, it's definitely not true.

    Flash is optimized for windows. It has no where near the right optimization to run on OSX at full speed. Further compounding the issue is that the CPU must do all the decoding work where on a proper player the decoding could partially be offloaded to a GPU (in a full PC), or optimized CPU with support for certain optimized instruction sets.
  • Translation: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nacule ( 1249808 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:29AM (#22660996)
    As we don't have the time or resources to spare, we are going to convince all iPhone users that this is something that wont contribute in any way to their $500 "new-age multimedia-rich internet browsing" experience.
  • Suits Me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndrewStephens ( 815287 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:38AM (#22661032) Homepage

    Lets face it, Flash is used for four things:

    Video: Flash video is becoming the dominant video delivery mechanism for the web, its only competition is Quicktime. Perhaps flash video does take large amounts of processing power to decode (the Wii certainly doesn't do a very good job), but I suspect that Apple doesn't care too much if people find a reason not to serve video content in flash rather than quicktime.

    Ads and sneaky cookie storage: Flash ads are annoying, and rather worryingly Flash programs can store rather large amounts of data in a sort of large cookie on your computer. This is often used to identify a user even if they have disabled cookies. Good riddance.

    Games: it is a shame that flash games will never work on the iPhone, but this is somewhat understandable. The iPhone does not have keyboard and the pointing device works in a very different way to a mouse. Most games would not work well without recoding them for the iPhone and battery life would be bad since the screen would be continually updating.

    Apps: well actually there are only a handful of sites I know of the actually use flash for something that couldn't be done in HTML. Mobile Safari is actually one of the more capable browsers out there, even compared to desktop browsers.

    Additionally, while I don't doubt there are technical reasons for the decision, Adobe and Apple have always had a love/hate relationship - there may be political reasons why Apple wants to shut Flash out.

  • by n3tcat ( 664243 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:39AM (#22661036)
    No they don't. They are making a lot of money right now without those things you mention. They don't NEED to change anything. But it would be really, really swell if they did.
  • by TFer_Atvar ( 857303 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @05:51AM (#22661082) Homepage
    But far too many websites use flash for their entry portals, and don't have a non-flash alternative. It really, really sucks when I can't get to a website I need to use on my phone. This announcement seems to be to be an invitation to crack my as yet unbroken phone, and make me some kind of "pirate."
  • by gordguide ( 307383 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:00AM (#22661114)
    I'm not trying to defend Steve or even Apple. Bill and Microsoft have to share some of the blame, and I'm pulling out the stops and sending Real, Inc straight to hell. The short answer is the video wars are tiring, and consumers are simply tired of playing. No, I mean it.

    Real is pure evil proto-spyware. Quicktime and Windows Media have fought it out for ... lets see here ... more than a decade? Can that be right? You bet it can.

    So, the default Lowest-Common-Denominator format is Flash.


    It works, period. Quality? Not really there, actually. No, don't flame me. It's is truly a LCD format, a decade after video-on-the-desktop became a reality for both software and hardware. You could watch a decent quality 240x320 video in 1995. That, ultimately, is a very sad thing to say out loud, because this is 2008.

    Flash is really not that great. Quality is frankly pathetic. I think that's what Steve was getting at.

    But ...

    You can view it on pretty much every computer today. Flash 1; QuickTime/WMV/Real 0.
    It's widely supported on the web itself; every browser plays it when the page embeds it. Flash 1; Quicktime/WMV/Real 0.
    It's not so great quality wise, but content providers WANT acceptable-but-not-one-pixel-more quality. Flash 1; Quicktime/WMV/Real 0.

    What Steve, who you have to admit has this thing about quality, dislikes about Flash is the cheezy quality of the videos. I don't blame him nor can I say he is wrong. They are most certainly slow to load, CPU intensive, choppy/blocky/blurry things. But they work.

    Steve wants video that looks good and works. I can't say he's wrong. Flash is weak in that area more than others.

    So, let's put it into perspective here. Everyone talks about Blue-Ray vs DVD-HD but the real format war is still ongoing, and arguably less worth fighting over.

    Can't we agree on a web video standard, where the codecs are built into every OS, consume reasonable resources, has some measure of copy protection ** and are viewable on everyone's OS, including the fringe OS's like Linux (which would not be a fringe if someone was selling it ... market share is more than just market share)?

    I have my favorites. Don't get me wrong here. But, the video wars are too long with no winner in sight. I agree that Flash is not the ideal format, it's not even as good as at least 2 out of the three alternatives. But, Adobe has a vested interest in getting rich off of every OS out there, by controlling the creation of content, not the rest of the stuff. Apple, MIcrosoft and Real all had that goal in mind back in the early 90's; they've forgotten what they're fighting for now.

    ** Cheezy Quality = the modern day copy protection. Don't dismiss the value of it to content providers; they don't.
  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:05AM (#22661134)
    How on earth did this get modded insightful? I mean, sure, your '$600 toy' isn't as powerful as a laptop, but it does have a faster CPU than any PDA on the market!

    As for not suitable for use on the web, I suspect that's SJ's polite version of "it's shite".
  • by funfail ( 970288 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:10AM (#22661156) Homepage
    So being number 2 store in a multi-billion dollar industry can be interpreted as not making money, right?
  • Only Jobs... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:18AM (#22661192)
    Could twist "The iPhone is too slow for Flash" into "Flash is too slow for the iPhone".

    What does that even mean? Flash wont play at 60 fps or something and that's the speed of video Jobs wants? I know what he means but in trying to dress it as a problem with Flash it stops making sense. It'd have been more correct to say something like "Flash is too resource intensive for the iPhone" but I guess if you put it in a form that makes sense it still makes the iPhone's hardware sound bad.

    Whilst I do realise Flash is quite a resource hog, it's also become a rather important part of the web and if the iPhone can't handle it then it can't handle a large portion of the web.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not keen on Flash and wouldn't use it for general web development, but for streaming video, due to YouTube and the likes it's fast become a fairly standard way of displaying video, whilst I'd like to see Flash removed from the web long term, I think it's foolish to not support it short term as that currently only harms consumers. Develop a better alternative (Not Quicktime thanks, it's far, far worse) and support it alongside Flash and phase Flash out in favour of that alternative over time.
  • by Rocketship Underpant ( 804162 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:29AM (#22661224)
    The lack of Flash could be a pretty good thing as Mobile Safari grows in usage, and web developers begin taking it into account. We could begin seeing real movie websites again, instead of annoying Flash sites; and Flash ads overall will decline so that advertisers lose out on potential clicks from iPhone and iPod users.

  • by ubernostrum ( 219442 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:42AM (#22661278) Homepage

    So being number 2 store in a multi-billion dollar industry can be interpreted as not making money, right?

    Maybe, maybe not. Apple's net profit -- the amount of actual money they make -- depends on the cost of operating the iTunes store infrastructure (servers, bandwidth, personnel, etc.) and on the fees they pay to the record labels for access to the music catalogs. From what I can find after some quick Googling, it appears that Apple pays 70 cents to the labels for each 99-cent download, which means that in order to turn a profit it needs to cost less than 29 cents per song to run the store. It almost certainly does, and the actual numbers almost certainly represent serious money, but suddenly it's a bit more debatable as to whether iTunes is a major cash cow in and of itself, or whether it drives hardware sales while happily turning a profit of its own.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:43AM (#22661282) Homepage
    I couldn't agree more. That's exactly the first thing I thought when I read this.

    I have little doubt that Apple could make that device do just about anything they want it to do -- it's a really nice piece of hardware. But it's so clamped down that everything about it says "we didn't do it because we don't want you to do it." I once tried to do something as simple as "send a text email then try to copy and paste the information into the address book" only to find there was no way to do that. C'mon! Apple practically invented copy and paste! (I know, they did not.) The same certainly applies to uploading pictures via email and the like. I can't imagine these disabilities (that do not exist in my pathetic blackberry) are anything but lock-down that Apple/AT&T simply doesn't want you to have. It seems at every turn Apple locked the device down to prevent as much 3rd party activity as possible including the inevitable 3rd party market for batteries. (It's a phone! Replacement batteries are required! In fact, the inability to pull the battery is actually a huge security concern!)

    Apple will either have to admit colossal failure of the iPhone (just as they did with Newton and others) or they'll have to deliver on user expectations and "get over themselves." Their tight control mentality has kept them from growing beyond specific limits and I have little doubt that this is the case now.
  • by tacocat ( 527354 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:52AM (#22661318)

    Websites fall into generally two categories: Information Delivery and Entertainment Delivery.

    Information Delivery are websites where you are seeking some kind of information or news that you desire in your daily life. Examples of this are google, amazon, slashdot, ebay, bbc, for most. This also includes sites for mysql, apache, postgresql, perl/cpan. These are all sites that, when you visit you often have a very specific purpose and end goal in mind.

    Entertainment Delivery are sites that offer no hard end goal other than entertainment and can be represented by youtube, ask a ninja, webkinz, and other online game sites. On these sites, the web content is the entertainment and people would have more expectations of lots of flash load on their PC.

    But there seems to be a lot of manufacturers and resale sites that are trying to do both at the same time and for most, they do an amazingly bad job without any real thought of delivering informational content about their products but just wowing the crap out of some board members. I tried to buy some Serengeti sunglasses because my experience has been that they are the best I've ever owned. But their website is one of the fattest and annoying places I've been to in years. And they don't even properly identify how to purchase their glasses. Had I been a marginal customer I would have walked a long time ago. In the past, I have walked from suppliers because their product catalog brought down my computer to a crawl and didn't do anything to provide me the information I needed.

    Flash does not belong on Information Delivery websites.

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @07:02AM (#22661358) Homepage Journal
    Ignoring for now that you're not only a troll but also off-topic, and an AC, I'm going to reply and say that I don't even know what window manager I'm using. It's the makers of my distro chose for me. If I don't like it I can go dig for a replacement, but frankly I'm quite happy with it. Does this mean it was pointless having all those different window managers out there? No. Because I am not the only person on Earth.. my choice, or absence of one, is not the only one that counts. Besides, someone made a choice of what window manager to ship to me.. and they had a choice of many window managers to decide from. As I'm typically happy with their choices, it seems that having a choice of window managers is working out for me, even if I couldn't be bothered making it myself.

    Now back in your box.

  • Re:Only Jobs... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Renderer of Evil ( 604742 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @07:09AM (#22661386) Homepage
    The problem with flash isn't only the speed, but the way it would fit into the iPhone-style of browsing. With HTML pages you can pinch and zoom, do all kinds of weird things. My brain hurts when I try to imagine navigating a site that's built entirely with flash. Flash killed WMV and Real for web video (for which I am thankful), but it's equally bad in other areas like holding up accessible site development.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2008 @07:45AM (#22661510)
    Your comment would hold some more water if OS X had a descent window magager, which it doesn't. Can you even shade a window? Are you going to point me to some binary hacker program now?
  • Re:Not surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @08:18AM (#22661614) Journal
    I can't watch the Comedy Central flash clips on my 1.5GHz G4 without dropping frames. On my 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, the BBC iPlayer spikes my CPU to over 60%. In contrast, playing 720p brings it to about 30%. It also causes the fans to spin loudly and kills the battery.
  • by Stooshie ( 993666 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @08:34AM (#22661708) Journal

    ... How about a choice of 1 window manager that actually works? ...

    Which one works? Your definition of "works" may be different from mine. My gran's definition of works is "it's easy to send texts and it's big enough that I don't drop it". Yours may be "I can play any type of video". Mine may be "I really just need access to the internet to check emails and online bank account details when I'm not near a computer". All of these require different attitudes / standards / capabilities / skillsets / choices from the development / marketeting / engineering bods at apple / ms / nokia / adobe....

    All these requirements are not neccessarily mutually exclusive, but when you bring price into the equation, thats when these choices have to be made.

  • Yesuh Mastah Jobs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theophilosophilus ( 606876 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @08:43AM (#22661750) Homepage Journal
    Why not let the market decide?

    Jobs scares me because he likes to make decisions for me. He may be behind an innovative company but systems that lock-in and lock-out are anti-consumer. DRM is simply a method of lock-in. Dragging your feet on an SDK is lock-out. I can't support products by a company that has a habit of restricting my rights to use something I paid them for.
  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Thursday March 06, 2008 @08:46AM (#22661770)
    Apple is less about choice and more about giving them the best experience possible. Many companies get so caught up in giving the most features and end up making a product that using most of the features are clumsy or to much of a pain to use. The iPhone isn't perfect but I actually use it more then my laptop because it has the features that I really need 75% of the time.
  • Refreshing... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RandomUsername99 ( 574692 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @09:53AM (#22662248)
    For the record, I just got rid of my (non iphone) smartphone to buy a cellphone that was primarily a cell phone. I don't own any apple computers, or even an ipod. I'm not an apple fanboy. That said:

    Working for a large company in the software industry, it's refreshing to see someone actually opt out of having another bullet point on their feature list to keep the integrity of their product. Having flash perform badly on their phones may bump up their sales by 20% in the quarter when the youtube fanatics hear about it, but it'll hurt them not too long after when they realize that the feature they bought it for works poorly. I know that my company would have much better quality products if we thought beyond the next quarter or two's marketing plan.

    And to the people who rib apple for having created a device that won't run flash... Let's look at the minimum system requirements for the current version of Linux flash:

    Modern processor (800MHz or faster) 512MB of RAM, 128MB of graphics memory
    with a *recommended*
    Intel Pentium 4 2.33GHz processor (or equivalent) 128MB of RAM 64MB of VRAM

    Almost a gigahertz processor and half a gig of ram? This would have bumped everything but the bleeding edge off the map 10 years ago on processor speed and ram alone, and 128MB of graphics memory? Forget about it... and the recommended stats (which for some reason are lower than the minimum system requirements in RAM and VRAM... [] maybe the low processor speed requires more mem?) on processor speed exclude many desktops sitting in homes today.

    This is a CELL PHONE people! :)

    Maybe on a half-technical cell phone review site i'd expected the reactionary "I can't believe they don't support flash" attitude as if they were just being lazy about it, but on a website where supposedly technical people understand the actual limitations that they run into with this stuff, come on.
  • by Richard Fairhurst ( 900015 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @10:22AM (#22662524) Homepage
    Utter rubbish.

    Flash is one of many tools available for building Rich Internet Applications. AJAX-type technologies are another, Java a third. In some areas, such as vector drawing and image manipulation, Flash is the best choice: in some areas, it isn't. Hey, isn't it great that the web isn't just controlled by one company?

    I'm the main developer of the online map editor for OpenStreetMap []. It's written in Flash (a fairly old version, actually - ActionScript 1 compiled with the open-source Ming library). Flash hits just the right spot. Its penetration is very high. It's easy to develop for, because the implementation is almost entirely the same on the three main platforms - a big deal for a volunteer project with limited developers and users ever demanding more and more features. (There is one bug in the Linux player that doesn't show up on OS X or Windows. Other than that, the differences are entirely in Microsoft's brain-dead embed method for WinIE.) It's fast - yes, even on the fairly sluggish OS X player: the Java applet we had in the project's early days was much slower on Apple's JVM. And the results are visually appealing.

    To sneerily dismiss Flash with a superior "does not belong on Proper Websites Like The Sort I Make" is like damning HTML because some people use the blink tag.
  • by bsane ( 148894 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @10:34AM (#22662668)

    Funny, Apple used to be about "choice"
    Uh... when has Apple been about choice in that sense? They've always been the 'choice' if you don't want to run MS, but once you've chosen Apple, you have to hope Apple provides what you need because you have fewer choices.

    Mac user since '85- and I don't remember it ever being different.
  • by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @10:49AM (#22662842)
    Setting aside the horsepower, what use is flash video with a connection speed of @10KB/s?
  • by Simon80 ( 874052 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:00AM (#22662938)
    Regardless, the iPhone has a significantly faster ARM core than the N800 and N810, 50% faster at 624MHz. I think this is more of a strategic decision than a performance issue, Jobs is basically saying that "Apple knows best" about flash because he doesn't want to give business and market share to Adobe. I have no objection to this, let them duke it out, flash is a scourge to web standards _and_ browser usability, and I don't have any Apple products to worry about anyway.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by anothy ( 83176 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:11PM (#22663760) Homepage

    So is this just Apple trying to lock in content...
    sigh. how, exactly, would this help Apple lock-in content? the alternatives they support are published, open industry standards in wide use by loads of content producers before the iPhone even hit the market. there's a much richer field of competitors for MPEG decoders than flash decoders.

    ...or are there real reasons behind this?
    the current flash player is very poor. it's highly inefficient, which is a coding issue, and presumes a certain application flow. the first would be addressable if Adobe rewrote the player, but they're not likely to do that any time soon; the second results in all sorts of kludges to wedge it in places it's not intended for. Apple tries hard to sell kludge-free products.

    I know the non-3G connection would make Flash horrid.
    "3G" doesn't mean what you think it does. the current iPhone has a "3G" connection. i've said this about a dozen times here on slashdot: by any technical definition of 3G, most relevantly those from the ITU and 3GPP, EDGE is one of a set of 3G technologies. what you mean is that flash over a not-fast-enough connection would be horrid. and there we have another instance of the efficiency issue above. modern MPEG encodings are more bandwidth efficient.

    I also know that Flash can be a pig on non-optimized platforms, which is sad since Flash Lite can run on Phones with 100mhz processors.
    Flash and Flash Lite are very, very different things. it's not simply a question of optimization; they present different feature sets (i believe, but am not certain, Flash Lite is a proper subset of Flash; can anyone knowledgeable confirm?).

    The rest of the world is already using phones that have Flash and also out feature an iPhone.
    show me. first, remember that Flash Lite is not Flash. so which phone are you referring to? you also focus solely on feature set, which is only a small part of the experience of using any device. Apple excels at crafting that experience, of which feature set is a part. the iPhone stands out because the vast majority of mobile phone (to a lesser extent, mobile devices generally) interfaces... well, suck. Nokia does a reasonable job on their high-end models; Palm OS is good but dying for other reasons. beyond that, it's mostly all crap. even the iPhone only nudges into the "pretty good" category, but that already puts them way ahead of most of their competition.

    This is why non-fanbois pick up phones like this one:
    the idea that only fanboys ("fanboi" makes you sound like even more of a tool, by the way) of a company can choose a product by that company is astoundingly juvenile (and much more prevalent than i understand). i pick products based on what works for me; sometimes that means i buy Apple products, sometimes Motorola, sometimes Linksys, or whoever. i pick the tool that fits the job. i have no particular devotion to any company beyond recognizing a trend of them producing tools that tend to fit the jobs i run across.
    the Tilt is a reasonably interesting phone, except for running Windows Mobile, which is a horrid interface for small devices. it's hard to see how it makes an iPhone look like a toy, though. the feature set is not "above" the iPhone, just off to the side. it depends what you want.
  • by ShinmaWa ( 449201 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:29PM (#22663946)

    Funny, Apple used to be about "choice"
    Apple used to be about choice in the same way that Ford was: "You have your Model T in any color you like, so long as it's black."

    Apple has never been about choice. You can run their operating system on any hardware you like, so long as they made it. You can sync your iPod with any software you like, so long as it's iTunes. You can use your iPhone with any carrier you like, so long as it's one the Apple chose for you.

  • by BearRanger ( 945122 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:38PM (#22664126)
    You laugh, but this idea probably isn't off the table.

    If Silverlight is sufficiently open Apple wouldn't have a problem using it. Their relationship with Microsoft isn't quite as adversarial as it once was. It's the fans who imagine that it is so much more than the companies themselves.

    Microsoft would absolutely jump at the chance to have a software "win" for Silverlight on a popular device, even if it's one they don't control. The publicity and visibility would be a huge boost.

    Of course Silverlight would still have to deliver and at the moment I don't think there's much chance of that. But both companies would benefit immensely if it could be made to meet Apple's needs and it gained critical mass in the marketplace.

  • by PortHaven ( 242123 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:49PM (#22664292) Homepage
    Actually, Flash/AS3 is one of the best tools for web apps. And Adobe AIR allows for Flash/AS3/AJAX to be used as a desktop app.

    Just go check out to see a beta AIR app.
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @01:32PM (#22664914) Homepage

    Yes, the most recent version of Flash supports h264, but you can't count on people to actually have the most recent version of Flash Player, so I wouldn't recommend using it yet.

    Additionally, wrapping your h264 in a Flash player doesn't really buy you anything on a mobile device. You're better off sending a normal h264 video to the device and letting that device decode the video in whichever method it's most optimized to do that.

  • by joebob2000 ( 840395 ) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @01:43PM (#22665066)
    Adobe acquired, Macromedia merged.

Logic is a pretty flower that smells bad.