Apple Vs. Flash… It’s on like Donkey Kong

Ten months of graduate school can essentially be boiled down to the tangible, visible interactive media pieces that I can show future employers. Of these, about 90% were created using Adobe Flash. The cornerstone of Elon’s new iMedia program, Flash has always been synonymous with  interactivity and can be found on 98% of all U.S. computers.

Knowing this, I took to the software, specifically Action Script 3, very quickly at the start of the classes in August. By December I felt pretty comfortable that I could build anything… or at least eventually figure out how to build anything using it. As graduation looms, I would consider myself (while still a novice compared to the experts in the field) a “Flash guy,” meaning if I”m given the opportunity to create something, 9 times out of 10 I’ll be creating it in Flash.

I built a solid portfolio and started to look ahead to a future using Flash as a professional web designer.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Adobe–the maker of Flash, and Apple–the maker of the iPod, the iPad and many, many extremely popular consumer electronics products–got into a power struggle. The Adobe Vs. Flash war was on. Its winner would change the face of web development forever.

In actuality, the war has been going on for a few years now, ever since the iPhone and iPod Touch were released without supporting Flash. While an inconvenience for those who used the devices, many companies developed a stripped-down mobile version of their web site specifically for the iPhone.

The real fireworks began, however, in the months leading up the to release of the iPad. As comments were made by both sides, it became abundantly clear that the new, supposedly market-shifting gadget had no plans to support Flash. After its release, the sniping only intensified. Sites like Mashable and Digg became hotbeds for information leaks and gossip from the major players. Adobe alleged that Apple was tying down software developers to the iPad and would not allow the usage of cross-platform development tools, most notably Flash.

To combat this in its newly released Creative Suite 5, Adobe hoped to give developers the potential to convert their Flash programs into iPad apps, just as the corporation did for the iPhone. Apple’s responded by changing the iPhone developer terms to enable only a select few programming languages, excluding Flash.

Steve Jobs and Apple are in the midst of a war of words and platforms with Adobe's Flash.

Then, Steve Jobs, in an attempt to defend the company’s position to the development community, posted his thoughts on Flash on the Apple site in April.

His main points:

• Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. The mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – areas where he feels Flash falls short.

• Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. It also isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.

• HTML5, a more “open” software, will win out over Flash on mobile devices.

Simply put, Apple is more powerful than Adobe. When Steve Jobs makes a public comment, it reverberates throughout the Internet community. Consequently, Flash was unable to get into the game so to speak, causing Adobe to announce that it was removing the Flash conversion for the iPhone from future versions of the Creative Suite.

For now, Apple was won the battle–and possibly the war. Adobe essentially threw in the towell when it dropped its converstion option from the newly released CS5, but there are rumors of an upcoming lawsuit. Whatever the case is, the days of Flash having a 98% market share numbered.

As someone who just spent the past year learning Flash, this power struggle has been somewhat alarming. For the time being, however, Flash is still in demand throughout the world of web design and development. With another ten years before HTML5 is set to be the industry standard, I doubt the skills I have learned here are useless.

Even so, it’s a little disconcderting knowing that I just took a year off from the real world to become an authority in a program that may one day be akin to sanskrit.

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