Adobe vs. Apple: And The Winner Is...

Two corporate giants have duked it out for a year over Flash media but the cold war may be coming to a head. The winner is...
  • Mike Keller (PC World (US online))
  • 22 April, 2011 05:29

A battle has been raging. Two corporate giants have duked it out for the past year over Flash media but the highly publicized cold war may finally be coming to a head. And the winner is...

...Apple! According to Ars Technica, it looks like Adobe has finally come to terms with the fact that Apple won't be adopting Flash media in its current form to its ├╝ber-popular iOS platform anytime soon. At the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show, Adobe demoed a build of Flash Media Server using the Apple-developed HTTP Live Streaming protocol, which uses H.264-encoded video and would finally bring Flash media streaming on iOS devices.

Up to now, Flash Media Server used RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol) to deliver media content, which is often criticized for being dated and difficult to optimize. I know plenty of people who have already uninstalled Flash from their desktops (myself included), so I'd be curious to see if Adobe will abandon RTSP altogether or will simply use HTTP Live Streaming when an iOS device is detected, similar to how Microsoft's Silverlight (used by Netflix) works. My guess is the latter, at least until Apple and other hardware companies put more pressure on Adobe by omitting Flash pre-installs (as Apple has already done with MacBook Air).

Throughout the Flash-war, many complained of Apple's seemingly arrogant "who needs you?" attitude towards a plug-in installed on over 95% of desktops. I'm sure a few smartphone users jumped the iOS ship in favor of Android largely for the promise of Flash, though by many accounts performance and battery life has been just as disappointing as Steve Jobs promised it would be. It seems as though Apple's strategy of stubbornness paid off, prompting sites to optimize their streaming content for mobile and Adobe to adopt a better performing HTTP-based streaming protocol. The real winners here the smartphone users, most of whom ultimately don't care how their streaming media gets to them, as long as it does and it's fast.

Mike Keller is GeekTech's resident iOS developer nerd. Catch Diary of a Developer every Tuesday here at PCWorld's GeekTech blog.