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Adobe has a hard sell for its Flash software

I had a surprise waiting in yesterday's A section: a full-page ad bought by Adobe Systems Inc.

Not a typical advertiser in The Post, the San Jose software firm had bought the ad (PDF) to plead its case before the public and Apple.

In successive sentences, the ad declares Adobe's love for Apple, creativity, the Web, its Flash software, its developers, competition, HTML, "all devices," and "all platforms" -- then shifts gears to say, "What we don't love is anybody taking away your freedom to choose what you create, how you create it, and what you experience on the web."


But in responding to Apple founder and chief executive Steve Jobs's "Thoughts on Flash" denunciation of Adobe's multimedia format -- banned on Apple's iPhone and iPad -- Adobe has signed itself up for a tough gig.

The weird, passive-aggressive tone of the ad invites the mockery I've seen on Twitter (sample: "I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter in Apple-Adobe, where Adobe drunk-dials Apple and begs to be taken back, please, baby!"). Its text raises factual questions -- like, if it really loves all platforms, why has Adobe lagged at supporting Flash in the Linux operating system?

But even better-phrased versions of Adobe's case -- see Thursday's blog post by Adobe Photoshop product manager John Nack -- run into two problems.

One is that Adobe has become, to many home users, somewhat invisible. It doesn't make products that customers buy or download on their own; Flash is this mysterious component that somehow arrived with their Web browser, sometimes crashes and sometimes wants to install an update. The Adobe Reader PDF viewer is little better -- its auto-update routine in Windows is so annoying that I've come to regard OS X's inclusion of Apple's own PDF software as a non-trivial selling point.

Adobe didn't always have that issue. But its consumer-level programs, such as Photoshop Elements, have largely faded from view. Ads are a poor substitute for applications that people like enough to go out of their way to install.

The other problem is that Apple doesn't care what Adobe thinks. You can argue that it's wrong for Apple to lock out Flash and even prohibit developers from rewriting Flash applications to run on the iPhone (though that's far from the worst of Apple's iPhone control-freakery). But it's more difficult to argue that Apple has no right to run iPhone software development as a closed system. It's harder still to argue that another company will be able to force Apple to change its ways.

Got a better PR strategy in mind for Adobe? Please share it in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 14, 2010; 8:19 AM ET
Categories:  The Web , Video  
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Adobe needs to support the bejeezus out of Android. Make it their flagship mobile platform.

Posted by: wiredog | May 14, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Wiredog has the answer. Adobe has to hope that Apple does not ultimately get a monopoly in the mobile and tablet markets. As long as Android is a viable choice, Adobe can stay relevant without Apple. Adobe has neither carrot nor stick to get Apple to change its ways.

Posted by: slar | May 14, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Case studies. Stories are more interesting than facts and figures. Flash is deployed in the mobile world, around the world, as Flash Lite. Show how it is working. They could have filled up that newspaper page with dozens of screen shots of mobile Flash applications.

Posted by: Bob_Dobbs | May 14, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Apple Adobe Angst

Proof should be the easy way to settle the issue about Flash. If it is not a CPU hog, then a series of tests one way or the other should suffice to prove Adobe's claim. For myself I find my CPU taxed when multiple windows of my browser are churning their Flash advertising. Close the windows and the fan is no longer needed as the CPU is no longer taxed.

My guess is that Jobs is correct, Flash causes problems. But if that is or is not the case: prove it.

I yearn for the days of Amicable Adobe Apple relationships. As an early adopter with the first PostScript devices and first generation Mac, it was a fantastic advantage for the beginning of Desk Top Publishing.

But it was Adobe who started this mess of video on the web. QuickTime was here well before they tried pushing it out with the Flash. Try to write your Dreamweaver embedding QuickTime. Adobe has always made it difficult.

Apple is no angel in this matter. There is no Flash export that I can find from Final Cut Pro.

Adobe is the Monopoly of web and creative tools when they acquired Macromedia. Why the government permitted that monopoly, who only knows?

Apple could permit Flash with a disclaimer. Make Flash accessible on the iPad, iPod after signing a screen warning about CPU usage etc or have an application showing the taxing nature launch with the Adobe product. One option would be to have a switch to turn Flash on and off depending on what the user wants to do, run the batter down fast or see a particular Flash video.

From someone who has been using both Apple and Adobe for 26 years, try to find a way to lessen the anxiety of your end users and bring this discussion and working on making things better behind the scenes.

Michael Bermant, M.D.
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Posted by: DrBermant | May 14, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Many of us in the development community, not just Steve Jobs, think Adobe has some serious technical issues with several of their products. No amount of advertising will overcome that. Flash probably needs to go the way of the floppy disk.

Posted by: dlwilson70a | May 14, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

What is up Jobs AH?
Wasn't it Adobe that gave Apple it's life?
Would Apple have ever made it without the "Artsy crowd" using it for design with Adobe products? Anyone remember the 80's? If it were not for Adobe, Apple would have gone the way of the Beta VCR! I'm sure Steve smoked a lot of grass back then. But maybe he can clear his head enough to realize who allowed his company to live in the first place!
Second to that, There are many Smart Phones coming on the market, better everyday. How long does Jobs want to P-off his customers? Business 101; it costs twice as much to get a new customer as to maintain a customer. Once a "Hit" Smart phone comes out and competes with iPhone Jobs will be sorry he didn't take care of the customers he had!

Posted by: wsj2 | May 14, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I think that the best thing that Adobe can do is to fix Flash so that the issues that Apple reports are no longer true. I'd also love it if they did something so that flash cookies could be managed without actually using flash; if there was a way to reject them, whatever.

Posted by: doog | May 14, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Flash has some problems -- to be fair to Adobe a lot of them are due to errors made by programmers using the Adobe flash tools to develop applications.

Recently, I noticed that my Firefox browser would (from time to time) peg the CPU (I usually have about 100 pages open at any given time) -- usually after I have been running it for a couple of days. After reading a post by Mark Russinovich of Microsoft about how he dealt with a similar problem on his wife's computer, I went off and discovered that the problem was indeed Macromedia flash, but I could not determine which of the many pages I had open was the culprit.

I proceeded then to disable flash in Firefox, and the problems went away. Initially, when I needed to view a flash video inside Firefox I would re-render the tab using the Internet Explorer Firefox add-on which would then enable me to display the flash video. I subsequently learned of the BlockFlash Firefox add-on, and I am now using that to great effect.

Adobe can't make (or expect) all the programmers in the world to be competent, but I do wish they would provide some tools so that when a flash application is misbehaving, a relatively uninformed consumer could figure out which page is causing the problem so that they could avoid that page in the future (or notify the page's developer of the problem).

I do agree with the general thrust of the article -- difficult days lay ahead for Adobe.

Posted by: eboyhan | May 14, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I just tried to load this page and found myself waiting for to respond. All the advice I get here about which browser is faster and so forth is sort of useless is the WP insists on aligning itself with Twitter. FWIW, I don't tweet, so I find myself even more indignant at the practice.

What's your reaction to my views, Rob?

Posted by: Arlington4 | May 14, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Adobe Flash has problems?
I just looked at Task Manager on my Win 7 PC and the sidebar task(Desktop Gadgets) was using 6GB. Kill/Start, 6Meg. Thank God I have 18GB of memory and didn't notice it. Unlike my Mac Mini that only supports 4GB. Unless you go to a third party that is!
While Jobs has SUCKERED my family into buying iPhones and a MAC. I can not wait for him to be poor do to Apple crumbling because of his ignorance!

Posted by: wsj2 | May 14, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

Then why do people need to JAIL BREAK their iPhones in order to use Open Source Programs?

Posted by: wsj2 | May 14, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I think Adobe should say something like "You own it, but Apple won't let you use it however you want to."

People have long been confused/annoyed with software because they pay for something which normally implies ownership, but pretty much everything is actually a license.

Rob, I've never thought that the Reader autoupdate was annoying. I think the Flash autoupdate is poor. No autoupdate compares to iTunes/Quicktime in terms of annoyance because they require me reinstall the program. Then there's Java which used to not remove older versions.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | May 14, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

There is no doubt that Adobe products, including but not limited to Flash, have their own issues, but so do the alternatives. Web developers will continue to find ways to screw things up, either on accident or on purpose.

Posted by: slar | May 14, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

What is it the Adobe and others don't understand. If you don't like that the product doesn't support Flash, don't buy it. This is like demanding that an automaker put an AM radio in every vehicle. If it doesn't have it, if you don't like it, don't buy it. Go and buy something else.

Posted by: vinnieboombots | May 14, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

It's not about Open Systems and all of this fighting, it's about Innovation. I talk about this extensively on my latest blog: NO APP FOR THAT! IS STEVE JOBS IS FAILING APPLE?

Posted by: BryantAvey | May 14, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

There are absolutely no smart phones running Flash. Vaporware does not count. So, Adobe does not have a leg to stand on.

Posted by: query0 | May 14, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

It'd really simple: Adobe must make a stable,less system resource-hogging, more secure Flash and they must make affordable tools to make Flash content. Right now, all they are doing is showing demos and betas and complaining to the Feds and trying hard to slow HTML 5s ratification. At least Apple is supporting open standards and C++, JavaScript, Objective C (The languages that Apple want to see their apps made in) are non-proprietary.

Posted by: gman5541 | May 14, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse


Browse with Firefox, and use the FlashBlock and NoScript extensions. That way Flash objects and JavaScripts run only when you explicitly allow them. (You can whitelist domains if needed.)

Uninstall Shockwave (not Shockwave Flash), which has no traction these days. Uninstall Silverlight -- only uses it, in my experience.

These steps will improve CPU performance, reduce distracting clutter, and reduce your exposure to malware.


Posted by: SoloOwl | May 15, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse


Browse with Firefox, and use the FlashBlock and NoScript extensions. That way Flash objects and JavaScripts run only when you explicitly allow them. (You can whitelist domains if needed.)

Uninstall Shockwave (not Shockwave Flash), which has no traction these days. Uninstall Silverlight -- only uses it, in my experience.

These steps will improve CPU performance, reduce distracting clutter, and reduce your exposure to malware.


Posted by: SoloOwl | May 15, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

RE: Message about open markets by Chuck Geschke and John Warnock


I looked for and found this response immediately after reading Steve Jobs' missive "Thoughts on Flash (, correctly thinking they would want to respond accordingly.

I was disappointed in that there were no specific reasons given in defense of Flash or even circumstantial evidence offered to counter what was an obvious affront to the whole Adobe Flash approach.

I have used Adobe since The Beginning and was a reseller when it made Adobe what it became - literally the ubiquitous software everyone uses, albeit unknowingly in many cases today.

I also know that what Steve Jobs said about Flash is true from experience regarding The Crashes, The Slow Scripts and such, necessitating the development of applications that effectively muzzle these damaging effects by turning Flash "Off".

The rest of SJ's rants were effective arguments, too, but I don't possess the depth required to validate every point.

My point, however, was that Chuck and John really didn't answer the mail when they were supposed to do just that - after all, it was in response to the aforementioned statement, right? Without addressing those points directly and taking the overall, "we are on your side" position just seems so weak that it raises all kinds of other questions, starting with:

"Are those guys admitting defeat?"

Is that all? For some reason, I expected more.

Posted by: WorldNet | May 16, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Flash has stopped working on my Vista PC for some reason. Upgrading Flash, updating, deleting, reinstalling nothing has helped. This is a problem with all the following three browsers (firefox, IE8, chrome). Any suggestions for fixing this problem?

Posted by: MouLif | May 16, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Re the post above, further investigation showed the problem occurred only with sites which displayed ads before moving onto their flash content (hulu, wash post). Allowing the sites to store about 100K locally (through modifying flash player settings under options in Chrome) fixed the problem.

Posted by: MouLif | May 16, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: FloridaChick | May 17, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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