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Apple to Adobe: Suck it, Flash

Sections: Apple News, Commercials and Ads, Features, iPad, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Opinions and Editorials, Originals

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Steve Jobs Sucker GraphicIn what is a classically underhanded-yet-still-crushingly-obvious Jobsian maneuver, Apple just gave Adobe a combined insult roughly equivalent to inviting the Queen of England over for tea and setting a box of Lipton tea bags in front of her. It is a well known fact that Steve Jobs would sooner see Windows running on an iPad than a shred of Flash video, but until now, the argument has been mainly targeted for web designers and people who actually know what CPU usage means. By launching a new site detailing iPad-ready websites, Apple has deftly altered the playing field in the HTML5 vs. Flash wars.

Own it!

Love them or hate them, the “I’m a Mac” ads did something undeniably crucial for Apple; they allowed the company a complete monopoly on the conversation of Mac vs. PC. For nearly two years, Apple was in complete control of the image of both the Mac OS and Windows because they struck first and kept the momentum going. Most of the claims are, of course, the truth, but some were slightly stretched (we know that most of the time things “just work,” but Justin Long made it sound like that is always the case). Owning the conversation allowed Apple incredible power over the public perception, and a good marketing guru will tell you the details of your product are usually secondary to the public’s perception of it. Apple does deliver top-notch hardware and software, but the god-like status enjoyed by the Cupertino-based company is the result of more than just a track record of good product design.

Power to the People

Back to the matter at hand, Apple’s simple explanation for the lack of Flash support is targeted not at Flash programmers or web designers, but is rather aimed squarely at the “rest of us” excited to use Safari on our new iPad to browse anywhere on-the-go. The delightful subtlety here is, of course, the pre-emptive positive spin Apple has put on this. The iPad Ready web page lists several sites that, in Apple’s words, “…take advantage of these web standards to deliver content that looks and functions beautifully on iPad.” What does that boil down to? These sites are good. They just work. Sites that don’t work? Those are bad. Safari, with its lack of Flash support, is not to blame in this scenario—the burden is on the non-functioning site. (What were they thinking?) Apple does not come out directly to say “These sites use Flash, which we don’t support. Take that Adobe.” But in the end, Apple still comes out with a squeaky clean image. Amazing, isn’t it?

In the end, Apple’s superior hardware+software model isn’t worth a hill of beans without public perception being bent to the will of the Reality Distortion Field™. Apple has seized control of not just the image of the iPad, as Adobe is trying to do with Flash. The damage control effort Adobe is pursuing in the blogosphere are the equivalent of that geeky kid in high school standing up and saying, “I’m cool, too!” Apple, on the other hand, is that cool kid who does not say much but can instantly sway public opinion just by showing up wearing something new and interesting.

In the end, it is a combination of showmanship, elegant engineering, and just a hint of quasi-religious mystique that keeps the Apple juggernaut going. And it is on the verge of convincing me to go line up at my local Apple Store this coming Saturday.

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