The extremely public battle between Apple Inc. and Adobe Inc. and their respective support for the HTML5 and Flash development standards offers a valuable lesson to enterprise IT shops, according to the CEO of Montreal-based Bluestreak Technology Inc.
“It’s not enough to hedge your bets on Flash, HTML5 or (Microsoft’s) Silverlight,” said Dominique Jodoin, president and CEO of Bluestreak. “Enterprise IT people and CIOs have to make sure they’re supporting them all.”
The Montreal firm, which describes itself as the second largest embedded Flash development firm behind Adobe, is counting on at least three different development platforms for Web and mobile multimedia content.
“At this point, no one should take Microsoft and Silverlight for beaten either,” he added.
Many IT shops that are strictly on Flash will have to start supporting these growing platforms or risk the ability to reach as many customers as possible, Jodoin said.
He added that while Apple and some analysts have been quick to position Flash as a sinking ship, it could take up to 10 years for HTML5 to gather enough worldwide momentum and catch up to Flash.
As for some background to the Adobe-Apple feud, the situation really ramped up earlier this year after Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch proclaimed that his company was on the verge of delivering Flash Player 10.1 for pretty much every smart phone in the world except the iPhone.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs responded to this by providing his reasons for why both hugely popular Apple devices lack Flash support. He charged that the technology is “too buggy” and that Adobe has been “lazy” with its development.
The latest twist in the public spat occurred last week when Apple controversially decided to change its licencing terms for developers using the iPhone SDK. A newly added passage means developers may not submit programs to Apple that use cross-platform compilers — a tool which would allow developers to write a program once and have it run on multiple platforms.
The move upset many in the Adobe camp, including at least one technology evangelist for the company.
“Go screw yourself Apple,” Lee Brimelow, an Adobe platform evangelist, wrote on his personal “Flash Blog” Web site.
Officially, an Adobe spokesperson sent out an e-mail to news organizations, including the IDG News Service, saying: “We are aware of Apple’s new SDK language and are looking into it. We continue to develop our Packager for iPhone OS technology, which we plan to debut in Flash CS5.”
As a result of all this, many developers and pundits throughout the blogosphere have begun debating the future viability of the Flash platform and Adobe’s development tools in general.
But Jodoin said enterprise IT developers, programmers and managers should not get caught up in this talk.
He said the SDK change, Apple insistence on shutting out Flash on the iPad, Microsoft’s announcement of no Flash support on the upcoming Windows Phone 7 OS, and the emergence of HTML5 all present serious challenges for Adobe.
And while Steve Jobs will probably not change his mind on Flash support in the iPad or the iPhone, Flash’s current penetration rate — which includes 1.2 billion mobile phones and 85 per cent of the top 100 Web sites — ensures the platform will be viable for many years to come, Jodoin said.
Bluestreak’s flagship product is MachBlue, a Flash-based presentation engine and application framework for embedded devices. Jodoin said that none of his stats indicate Flash is disappearing anytime soon and the technology still delivers the best video streaming technology on the Web.
But even with its huge bet on Flash, Jodoin said the company is also supporting HTML5 development for the applications it builds across mobile phones, TVs, set-top boxes and consumer electronics devices.
The takeaway for everyone in the multimedia-focused developer industry, he said, is there will be room for multiple standards over the next decade.