[This is a repost of my guest article at Vision Mobile’s blog]
Ever since Adobe announced that it will stop developing Flash for mobile browsers, the blogosphere has been buzzing with a broad range of sentiments including “I told you so” by critics, disbelief by Flash developers, Monday morning quarterbacking by analysts, and even a petition for Adobe’s CEO to resign. Check out also the Occupy Flash and Occupy HTML manifestos from the opposing camps. Flash is one of those topics that attract very emotional responses from both its passionate developer community and its very vocal detractors. Although I am generally an Adobe supporter, I will put emotion aside and summarize, in hindsight, what went wrong. For full disclosure, I am a former Adobe employee, but this post is based only on publicly available information.
HTML5 did not kill Flash. Steve Jobs did not kill Flash. The death of Flash was caused by a time bomb planted inadvertently by Adobe many years ago.
Although Flash for mobile ultimately died because Adobe did not adapt fast enough to post iPhone changes in the ecosystem, the seeds for Adobe’s failure were planted earlier on. To understand what went wrong, let’s first review what happened before the iPhone and how those events set the stage for what happened later.
Rumors about who will buy webOS from HP have been floating around for a couple of months now, including a recent surge in buzz as HP’s new CEO Meg Whitman ponders how to deal the whole Palm mess she inherited. One of the potential buyers that has gotten lots of attention is Amazon (main story here). Why not? After all Amazon has now emerged as one of the most significant threats to Apple and its ecosystem. Although this threat has been brewing for some time, it only became obvious after Amazon’s recent launch of the Kindle Fire, a Tablet that is expected to split the market with the iPad and relegate all other contenders to “also rans.”
The Kindle Fire relies on Google’s Android operating system and the prevailing argument in the blogosphere is that Amazon needs webOS to differentiate:
“By purchasing the remnants of Palm, Amazon would have free rein to redesign webOS to its own liking, and it would be able to further differentiate its Kindle devices from the slew of Android tablets in the market” (from the story referenced above).
A cursory analysis of both companies (see table below) seems to support this argument. Amazon has all the pieces in place to pose a credible threat to Apple, except for the ability to differentiate at the OS level.
I have the pleasure to host this month’s Carnival of the Mobilists. If you are new to the Carnival, it is a digest of the best mobile blogging for the previous month. Please join the conversation by contributing your posts and hosting in the future.
Last month we had a good mixture of analysis and round up type blog posts. I selected the ones that I thought were more insightful and/or contained practical advice for developers or marketers. Be sure to check out my pick of the month at the bottom of this article.
If you are a developer, Sean Thompson, VP of Production at GOSUB 60, wrote a nice piece on the WIP blog to help you decide if your app should be free. The top grossing apps are free to download and are monetized through in-app purchases, but should you also monetize your app this way? Sean helps you decide by considering five key questions.
When you buy a BlackBerry, why do you do it? Because you want to run many apps? Or because of RIM’s leading messaging applications and services?
In the era before the iPhone (aka “Bi“), this question did not matter as there were no viable alternatives. In fact, with hindsight, the notion of a smartphone to run many apps did not exist for most consumers. You bought a BlackBerry primarily for messaging and phone calls (maybe a couple extra apps, at best). However, in this new “Ai” era (after the iPhone), the situation is dramatically different. RIM has been incapable of defending its position as a smartphone platform against new entrants Apple and Google. And the situation can only get more difficult for RIM with the resurgence of Web OS under HP and of Windows Phone thanks to the recent Nokia deal. If RIM can’t compete in a 3 horse race, can it survive a 5 platform war?
By contrast, RIM has been very successful with its messaging and collaboration applications. RIM is the clear leader in Enterprise email, with others playing catch up. And in case you have not been paying attention, RIM has been able to build a very large base of consumer messaging users with its flagship BBM application especially in international markets. In fact, RIM’s troubles in North America are only being masked by its unprecedented growth of consumer messaging users internationally (for more on this, check out Mike Mace’s Tale of Two BlackBerries).
Should RIM continue to try to compete as a platform play? Or would RIM shareholders be better off if RIM focused on building its messaging franchise across more platforms?
As the launch of Windows Phone 7 approaches the question in everyone’s mind is: is it too late for Microsoft to secure a leading position in mobile? We’re now at year 3 “Ai” (After the iPhone). In the last 3 years the landscape has changed dramatically:
- Apple launched 4 successful phones plus the iPad
- Google launched Android and quickly secured a market leading position
- RIM has lost some ground with two under achieving devices (Storm and Torch)
- Palm launched the failed Pre and ran out of cash
- Once almighty Symbian faded
- Nokia and Intel joined forces with Meego
- Samsung launched Bada….
all this… and Microsoft has yet to make its first move.
In a platform battle that is surely to consolidate, in the limit, to likely one big winner plus niche players, it’s not a pretty situation for Microsoft. But if you are in Redmond you can’t afford to lose in mobile. PC shipments are an increasingly small share of device shipments, with mobile devices enjoying all the growth. Losing in mobile would relegate the Windows platform from a virtual monopoly to a minority player in only a few years when looking at all connected devices.
The question is what cards does Redmond have to play (besides a ton of cash)?
[First a quick disclaimer: although I worked for Adobe in the past and I still have many friends there, I have no inside information on this topic. This post represents my personal opinion based on publicly available information.]
Given the launch of the Flash-less iPad and the leaks from Apple’s post launch employee meeting most industry insiders have finally concluded that Adobe Flash is not coming to iPhone OS devices. Over the last two-and-a-half years the conversation has shifted from
- When will the iPhone support Flash? to…
- Will the iPhone ever support Flash? to most recently…
- Why won’t Apple devices ever support Flash?
The question in most people’s mind now is why not? That is the question I want to address with this post.
While most of the debate in the blogosphere centers around technical reasons, the real reason is not technical at all. It is a calculated business decision made by Steve Jobs.
Location was once a unique asset for the mobile operators. You wanted to locate someone? only the mobile operator could find him/her. A valuable asset indeed, but as we now know most operators missed their opportunity to monetize it. Location is now being commoditzed and is available freely on many high end handsets, especially those that support GPS or WIFI. However Google also offers location based on the operators own base stations, and it does this in an aggregated way, across operators and countries. This service is available on any handset that supports Cell ID APIs (most smart phones and many Java devices). To be fair, operators still have the advantage of offering location across all devices, however. In addition, operator APIs are network based and don’t require that software be installed on devices which is an advantage for some applications.
How did Google build this database of operator base stations?