Adobe fires back at Apple on iPad

One of the more disappointing (if unsurprising) parts of Apple’s launch of its iPad tablet computer today was the absence of Flash, Adobe’s technology for web video and other media. Now Adobe has responded in two blog posts — one that’s diplomatic, and another that’s not.

In the first, Adobe says it’s excited about the iPad, and it reminds developers of its Packager for the iPhone announced last year, which allows someone to export an application built for Flash into a format that works on the iPhone. Like other iPhone apps, those apps created by the Packager will work on the iPad, and Adobe says it will also add features to support the tablet’s increased screen size.

Flash content still won’t work in the iPad’s Safari web browser, but it sounded like Adobe was trying to put a happy face on a situation it can’t be satisfied with. The tone changed in a second post by Adobe’s Adrian Ludwig, which went up a few hours later. There’s a bit of throat-clearing, once again about how the iPad is really exciting, but then he gets to the absence of Flash:

It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers. Unlike many other ebook readers using the ePub file format, consumers will not be able to access ePub content with Apple’s DRM technology on devices made by other manufacturers. And without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web.

If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate, or JibJab — not to mention the millions of other sites on the web — I’ll be out of luck.

Okay, Ludwig doesn’t exactly tell Apple to go to hell. But there’s a real confrontational tone, or at least one that’s openly frustrated. That contrasts with Adobe’s previous comments on the issue, which tend to be relatively diplomatic statements to the effect that the ball is in Apple’s court. For example, Adobe chief executive Shantanu Narayen said last fall, “I’d love to work with Apple to make it happen.” Now the tensions between the two companies, which were visible if you looked for them, have moved to the surface.

And for what it’s worth, I think Ludwig has some good points. I know there are plenty of complaints about how Flash taxes hardware, about how it leads to crashes, and about the fact that an important technology powering the web is controlled by a single company. But as a consumer, the fact that when I turn on the iPad browser I won’t be able to view most of the video on the web is a big drawback, especially for a device that’s supposed to provide “the best” movie-watching experiencing.


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