Dear Apple – 1984 Called, They Want Their Video Back

Image via Wikipedia

I suppose I should start out by noting that I, like a very significant number of my colleagues at Adobe, am a big fan of OS X and Apple products. I am typing this on the Macbook Pro I purchased for personal use. The MBP for work is sitting on a table nearby. There’s two iPods and an iPod Touch in this room as well. The only thing I use Windows for is some HR stuff that doesn’t run well on the Mac. In short, I love OS X and I hope to keep using it for a long time.

So from the point of view of someone who’s a fan of both the Apple and Adobe platforms, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the vitriol lobbed against Flash by my fellow Mac users. And if you read the blogosphere these days, you might come away thinking Adobe is on the verge of a massive route, driven into irrelevance by a horde of iPad-wielding HTML5 developers. And some in the media, who always love a good “X is going to kill Y” story line, are following suit.

The reality is somewhat different.

One thing that frequently (but not always) goes overlooked is that as much as this is a technology battle, it’s also a business one. Pushing as much content through the App Store as possible is great business for Apple; and honestly, I don’t blame them for wanting to build their App Store into a massive (and massively profitable) content juggernaut. It’s far friendlier to their margins than the hardware business, even with their premium pricing, so why not go for a platform play?

Where I take exception — and developers should too — is with Apple’s “my way or the highway” approach to development. Adobe’s Flash is a very high-profile victim of this approach right now, but we’re not the first nor are we the only one. And I really don’t understand how a bunch of developers committed to embracing the “open web” can turn right around and accept the massively closed structure that is the Apple ecosystem. Is it cognitive dissonance, or just Stockholm Syndrome? Is this really the same company who so famously embraced the image of shattering Big Brother’s image? How did Apple lose its way?

When I think about why all this matters, I think about my 10 year old niece. She doesn’t know (or care) what Flash is. All she knows is that she loves playing Webkinz, and every time I come over to visit, she wants to play it with me on my laptop. If I handed her an iPad, she’d want to play it there too, and she wouldn’t understand why she couldn’t. Yes, of course, I can buy her a bunch of other games on the App Store, but that’s not the same thing to her, and anyone who says that it is has clearly never withstood the wrath of a pre-teen. 🙂

Apple needs a reality check. Once you get outside the San Francisco to San Jose corridor, you’ll find very few people who know or care what HTML5 is. Most people who don’t do technology for a living find our high-geek holy wars incomprehensible and boring. They don’t want to be locked out of content, and they don’t want to be told they should spend money in the App Store just to conform to Apple’s vision of the internet. They just want to use the sites, view the videos, and play the games they’re used to.

Oh, and 90% of them do not run OS X.

Go back and watch that famous “1984” video again — because it seems to me that Apple has become the very thing they were fighting against back then.