IS Apple Defeating Itself?

If you have completely avoided recent technical news, there is a division between one camp; we will call it the iPhone software developers, Adobe & consumers, vs.  a second camp; Apple. Apple’s decision to keep Adobe Flash technology off of their iPhone platform has been used to downgrade the worthiness of the iPhone and the overall direction of Apple in general.

One defense that Adobe has brought up is Apple is operating a CLOSED system. Meaning developers have to abide by the constraints of Apple’s tools and their iPhone app approval process. Yet, this is also the case with Microsoft and every other computer ‘platform’ manufacturer.  In response to misinformation spreading around the media, Steve Jobs wrote a public letter as to why he continues to keep Adobe Flash off his products, posted directly on the Apple website.

While many people give their opinions about why Steve Jobs is making a mistake, or why Apple could be failing themselves as a company by ignoring Adobe’s Flash technology, this letter has unshakable logic and merit. Yet all of these critics continue to ignore his letter’s points.

Occasionally, people write excellent ideas about why Apple has a generally ‘closed’ system. Today I read Alex Lindsay’s (an Apple advocate) opinion piece on his personal blog. Both the Steve Jobs letter and Alex’s Blog entry are worth the read.

My response to Alex:

Silicon Graphics, which made Unix workstations, was at one time a very popular and successful company. They had the same challenges as Apple. They had cost considerations beyond what the media had stated, and they did not pay attention to costs, as Apple does. No matter what ideas or decisions are made about Apple products or about the market place, Apple is a manufacturer who tries to maintain innovation, relevance, stability and future product ideas while maintaining loyalty and stock momentum. Support is commonly a cost center – meaning the more incoming support calls, the more staff they will need. Hiring US staff is ALWAYS expensive, but a great selling point for their products. It is also something Apple prides itself. If you consider products or changes to product features which create more support calls, then you are really increasing the cost of your product lineup, and potentially decreasing revenue. In fact, Steve’s letter regarding Adobe Flash indirectly explains this in detail.

From a business perspective, whenever I read Job’s letter, I honestly cannot see why he is wrong, as the media claims. Possibly in the past, he would not voice these things, but  he is making decisions in-line with his historic approach to Apple’s success. He runs a large company, and he is constantly considering how small changes – like app approvals, hardware redesigns, business partnerships, manufacturing, marketing campaigns.. ALL OF IT – are being constantly weighed-in to the overall company cost structure. While soo many people write about what is wrong with Apple, they never consider these bigger business challenges.

Anyone complaining Jobs’s decisions should consider his actions from a BUSINESS/profit consideration  – there is much more at play here than to bend to the desires of Adobe Flash. Developer platforms come and go. It is probably revolutionary for Jobs to push the HTML5 standard, and clearly he offers reasons why Adobe Flash will not work for Apple. Most of them are sound business reasons, and most interestingly Adobe never denies his claims.

While Adobe responded to Steve Jobs’s letter, they were hit with a huge security hole shortly after their defending letter, and pushed out an immediate update to their software, which ironically was point three within Steve’s letter.


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