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Will it Come Down to Developers?

May 16, 2010 10:18:00.453

A lot of people think that the Apple vs. Adobe thing (Flash) will end up costing Apple the platform battle for the mobile space - Mark Cooper sums it up with the most common argument:

And since developers — as a general rule, and matter of history — don’t like to be told how to do things, my guess is that more open platforms will win

That sounds reasonable, but... then there are the usage stats for Flash over the last year or so. The numbers don't look good for Adobe; I'd say they look bad enough that Apple has won this particular battle already, regardless of what else happens. Why? Those kinds of usage numbers feed on each other.

Back in the late 90's, after the ParcPlace-Digitalk merger had reached a real point of badness, PPD announced the VSE was being obsoleted. The last forward looking work on that product was done sometime around 1996/1997. With that announcement, the number of paying customers halved in about 12 months.

Now, this isn't a straight analogy; Adobe isn't cancelling Flash. However, with the fact that it doesn't work on one of the main mobile platforms, it's cancelling itself, and the numbers linked above demonstrate that. With Flash dropping so fast, I see the same dynamic in action. Unless the Android platform compteley swamps Apple (and absent a tablet for a few months, I don't see that happening) - Flash is just doomed to second tier status.

Now, long term, Apple could still lose this, the same way they lost the desktop space to Microsoft years ago. However, it sure doesn't look like that to me now, and - in the meantime - they are reshaping a lot of what happens on the web.

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posted by James Robertson

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