Mobility

Apple Talk: Steve Jobs' Flash of insight gives him the final word

Apple's talismanic leader is still making a mark...

...Adobe's refusal to bring certain products to Mac OS X - Kindle location 6578 or page 380 if you prefer carbon-based reading material - after he returned to Apple's helm.

The move infuriated Jobs who apparently "never forgave" Adobe. Entering into a head-on conflict with the company some 10 years later must have been easy, driven as he was by personal enmity towards Adobe, as well as by the reasons laid out in Thoughts on Flash.

"My primary insight when we were screwed by Adobe in 1999 was that we shouldn't get into any business where we didn't control both the hardware and the software otherwise we'd get our head handed to us," he told his biographer, Walter Isaacson.

He outlined a slightly more sanitised version in Thoughts on Flash: "Letting a third-party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform."

In this situation, users suffer, developers suffer and, of course, Apple suffers. All intolerable.

That Adobe is instead turning its focus to develop mobile applications using Apple's language of choice, HTML5, is also good news for developers and users as it pushes the mobile web and, by default, the web towards compliance with standards.

The HTML5 standard, which will subsume previous versions of HTML, XHTML and other web technologies - most notably JavaScript - has yet to be ratified but publishers and developers are already using it enthusiastically.

While Apple itself operates within the confines of its own so-called walled garden of software and hardware, the web content and the platform it called for was open.

Following the Adobe announcement, reports appeared suggesting Microsoft's due-to-be-launched plug-in, Silverlight 5, could be the last to come from Redmond. Could we be heading for a truly standards-driven web?

If so, there's little doubt that the success of the iPhone and the determination of Jobs and the rest of the Apple board will have had a significant effect in creating a level playing field for developers, designers, publishers and users.

What begins on the mobile web, given the vast increases in mobile web browsing thanks to smartphones and tablets, will gradually become prevalent across the wider web.

According to a March 2011 report by Cisco, worldwide mobile web usage tripled between 2009 and 2010. Furthermore, the report predicts mobile web traffic will have increased by a factor of 26 by 2015.

As Apple dominates mobile web traffic. According to Net Applications, Safari Mobile, the default browser on iOS devices, accounted for 62.17 per cent of the mobile browser market share last month.

Any technology inoperable with that, including Safari and Sliverlight, would end up being marginalised.

In closing his Thoughts on Flash in April 2010, Jobs rounded off with the following two sentences.

"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 criticising Apple for leaving the past behind."

If you ever wanted a definition of a prophetic statement, that was it.

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