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Steve Jobs: Thoughts on Flash

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In a distinct break from terse messages sent from his iPad, Steve Jobs has posted a 1,700 word missive on his Apple’s (s aapl) website. Broken into six sections, the essay explains Apple’s stance on Flash (s adbe) in detail.

Jobs attacks Flash for being closed, crash-prone, and battery draining, while defending Apple for supporting open standards and trying to create the best user experience for mobile devices. All that may be true, or not, but what this really about is control.

Countering complaints against iPhone OS being a walled garden of an operating system and development platform, Jobs argues that Flash is “100% proprietary” because development is controlled by Adobe. In contrast, Apple fosters “open standards” like HTML5 and technologies like WebKit, even though iPhone OS itself is admittedly proprietary.

Jobs then attempts to counter the argument that a device without Flash denies users the “full web” experience. He notes that H.264 is an alternative format that makes video available from a long list of sites that does not include Hulu. As for the lack of Flash games on Apple devices, Jobs admits that’s true, but argues there are more “games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.” That may be true, but all those games require an iPhone OS device, locking out tens of millions of people with nothing better to do than play Farmville at work.

Turning to “reliability, security, and performance,” Jobs slams Flash for security and reiterates that “Flash is the number one reason Macs crash.” He then points out that, despite promising a mobile version of Flash, Adobe has repeatedly failed to deliver. Jobs notes that “We think it will eventually ship, but we’re glad we didn’t hold our breath. Who knows how it will perform?” Ouch.

That leads into complaints about battery life, the example being ten hours of iPad video with H.264 versus five hours with Flash. Regarding the Flash interface, Jobs complains that Flash is designed for mouse input, not touch. Since most Flash websites would have to be redesigned to incorporate touch input, “why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?” Ouch, again.

Finally, there is “the most important reason.” Cross-platform apps result in the “lowest common denominator set of features.” Taking a another dig at Adobe for needing 10 years to develop a fully Cocoa version of Creative Suite, Jobs declares that Apple wants developers to use the best native tools to create the best user experience in applications. That way “everyone wins,” well, except for Adobe.

Really, it’s about control. Couching it in terms of the user experience is fine, and true, in my opinion. However, as is made clear repeatedly in the essay, Apple is determined to remain in complete control of the development of its mobile devices, from the hardware to the operating system to the application development process. The question then becomes whether Apple will be able to do so.

With the statement by Google (s goog) that Flash will be included as part of Android, and Microsoft (s msft) signaling that Flash will be a part of Windows Phone 7, though not the first version, it’s essentially Apple against the rest of the world. Apple may indeed succeed in “leaving the past behind” with Flash and ushering in the era of HTML5. However, should market pressures ultimately force Apple to allow Flash, it will be because the lack of Flash has hurt the viability of iPhone OS. The “past” may yet catch up with Apple, but that has yet to stop Steve Jobs and company from looking towards the future.

Modified image courtesy of Flickr user plasticbag

53 Responses to “Steve Jobs: Thoughts on Flash”

  1. Steve Jobs: “Adobe’s Flash products are 100% proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc.”.

    While I understand both the motives and technical considerations as laid out by Apple – if this is not a case of the pot calling the kettle black :-)

    Boy, oh boy – talk about Chutzpah

    • myonlinelifenow

      @ YIGAL

      No not really. I think if read the next statement…

      “Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open”

      You do understand that he’s talking about the web right. Every machine you use to access the web is Proprietary. I think his fight is if the WEB is supposed to be open then why not use open standards on the web.

      I’m sure it wasn’t a big deal when everyone started to listen to audio with a RealPlayer add on. What’s the big deal that Flash may have to go away to. At worst you can’t use it on an iPhone..You could always use another..oh that’s right. As of today you can’t use FLASH on any mobile phone..and no Flash Lite doesn’t count. Just saying the Kettle still has a nice chrome finish

  2. Fact is all iPhone 3G/3Gs are destined for landfill, layered on top of all the first generation iphones and all other generations of all mobile phones that came before them.. sure there’s the next iphone coming out soon, i think however a lot of people are quite bored of iphone and iphoneOS.. i am…

    BTW… despite Jobs saying your not ‘allowed’ to have flash.. you will indeed be ‘able’ to have flash if you ‘want to’ when it is ‘available’.

    How?.. jailbreak phone > install iboot > install android > install flash!!! haha lol = dualboot iPhoneOS / ANDROID Phone,, nice… ; p

  3. @Sergey

    Not sure if you are saying those features are available or not in HTML5, but…

    Embedding fonts is available in HTML5, vector animations are available in HTML5, and a “WYSIWYG” can’t be far off with similar capabilities to the Flash editor.

  4. A. Developer

    @SERGEY K: “But if Flash is rejected, what Apple can offer?”
    Ummm…HTML5 standard? Apple doesn’t need to offer anything. HTML5 is already offering it. Did I miss something here?

    • Sure, HTML5 is not a replacement as for now.

      I would not even say that features declared in HTML5 specifications (which are not yet supported by all browsers) are limited to what Flash already offers.

      How to embed fonts in HTML?

      How to syncrhonize sounds with animation in HTML?

      How to create the vector animation itself in HTML?

      How to do all that stuff in WYSIWYG authoring environment without programming skills?

      And how eventually make it working the same way on all platforms?

      • eddjc

        1) @font-face {
        font-family: Broken15;
        font-style: normal;
        font-weight: normal;
        src: url(BROKEN0.eot);
        .psycho {
        font-family: Broken15, Verdana, ‘Small Fonts’, sans-serif;
        font-size: 48px;
        color: #000099;

        2) using – see for an example

        3) using – see

        4) Dreamweaver (Ironically an Adobe Application) – also I’m sure something will come up – I expect there will be an option at some point in Flash to “build to HTML5”. I agree though that this is the main drawback of HTML5 as apposed to the very simple animations in Flash. However, most serious flash developers use Flex (all script based)

        5)By making all platforms standards compliant… By the way, Flash itself doesn’t work the same in all browsers – there are differences in displaying text for e.g. and it’s reeaally buggy in Mac OS X.

        dusts hands off

      • Tizzle

        I would love to have a standard that everybody can code to for the web and have it look the same on any browser a user chooses to use. Everybody has great aspirations regarding HTML5, but the simple fact is that we will be relying on all major browsers to implement it correctly and fully. HTML5 is not going to become W3C recommended until 2022! It’s not even going to be considered by them until 2012. ( Yes, mobile Safari implements a portion of HTML5, which will allow Apple mobile devices to run HTML5 video

        Flash Player 10 penetration is around 97% ( That means that almost all browsers are already capable of viewing video.

        Also, here are a few links benchmarking HTML5 vs Flash:

        (1) Good example

        (2) Good example (I’d like to see how hard it was to write this app)

        (3) Did you see the blurb at the top of the linked page? You have to install a plug-in for IE in order to view SVG. I’m not sure what the penetration of SVG plugins are for IE, but I’m venturing that they aren’t at 97% as the Flash Player is.

        (4) There currently isn’t any software out there for HTML5 that will allow animation development like the Flash IDE will. Also, Flex Builder (now Flash Builder) IDE is no substitute for the Flash IDE. Although they both do generate SWF files, Flex is very useful for data-intensive projects and programmers will pick it up easier than using the timeline in Flash IDE. This will help people develop SWF movies that normally wouldn’t dive into such a technology. Hopefully now that Apple has opened up an API for Adobe to use for hardware acceleration on Macs, the Flash Player will become less buggy.

        (5) See my opening arguments – Any type of DHMTL (HTML/CSS/JS) will NEVER EVER render the same in all browsers – there are just too many competing companies. I just don’t think Apple has the pull to force all browser makers to start supporting a non-W3C-recommended standard – HTML5. If Flash Player didn’t already have such a high penetration rate, I could somewhat understand the push towards HTML5. But since virtually all consumer browsers support it, why not use it?

        My apologies if this is unorganized. This is my first posting on the Adobe vs Apple situation. I’m kind of tired of people pushing a standard that isn’t yet a standard and won’t be for some time.

  5. KsbjA

    I agree with Steve here. Sure, it is daring to give up the widely-used Flash, but there are indeed better alternatives. Flash sucks, and it’s about time somebody said this.
    Also, I didn’t understand a few sections from your article. For example:

    “Since most Flash websites would have to be redesigned to incorporate touch input, “why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?” Ouch, again.”

    Where’s the “ouch” here? Rewriting a site to make it support touch input better and not use Flash is like killing two birds with one stone (or two stones with one bird, if you happen to be Chuck Norris).

    “As for the lack of Flash games on Apple devices, Jobs admits that’s true, but argues there are more “games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world.” That may be true, but all those games require an iPhone OS device, locking out tens of millions of people with nothing better to do than play Farmville at work.”

    No offense intended, but this makes zero sense to me. Your “millions of people” either:
    a) use an iPhone OS device and can play “more “games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world””.
    b) don’t use an iPhone OS device and don’t give a damn about whether or not they could play Farmville if they owned one.
    There is no third option, like:
    c) use an iPhone OS device and can’t play Farmville, but at the same time don’t use an iPhone OS device and this can’t play “more “games and entertainment titles available for iPhone, iPod and iPad than for any other platform in the world””.

  6. myonlinelifenow

    @ Sean

    So if Flash were to end up on the iPhone/iPad, what does that do? I guess I’m wondering what the positives are in that situation. Maybe I’m just a Flash hater and I’m not sure I understand the want for this.

  7. myonlinelifenow

    So let me get this straight. Apple is in the wrong because they choose not to allow Flash on THEIR platform. They want to control THEIR platform. When did this become a bad thing? If customers are still buying iPhones/iPads without flash on it, without HULU and without Farmville (which will both be on THEIR platform sooner than not) what’s the big deal? Apple isn’t stopping people from going to other platforms. I for one hope Apple keeps things they way they are. I like the products and like how they work for me. They didn’t force me to buy an iPhone. I looked around, made my pro and cons list and bought the best device for me. Although everyone is entitled to their option regarding this tangled web that Apple is in, remember its the consumer that rules the roost. For some reason Apple gets that and it looks like it working fine for them. For all of the Apple-haters continue hating. I kinda like that my iPhone does what it says it will. Call.Web.Email.Apps. I can live with that..and so do a few million other people



    • @OCC:

      I don’t think anyone is saying Apple shouldn’t be allowed to not deploy Flash. It is entirely in their rights not to deploy Flash. We are all saying that it is the wrong move, and that Apple is lying about why they aren’t doing it.

      Steve Jobs keeps telling us there are technical hurdles that Apple cannot get over. He isn’t saying “We don’t want it, because we don’t like it”. Steve is trying to be the victim, and he is absolutely not.

      We are all saying a few things: 1) We don’t believe the lies Apple is spewing about technical limitations 2) We truly believe having Flash on the iPhone would make it a better platform (as most of us enjoy our iPhones enough not to switch) 3) It is entirely within Apple’s rights to ban Flash from the iPhone.


      • myonlinelifenow

        @ Sean

        I totally see your point. I just don’t know where the proof is about Steve Jobs and Apple lying about the technical limitations. I guess when Flash comes out in June for Android we’ll really see what is what.

      • @OCC

        There really is no hard evidence, as that stuff is hard to prove. Steve Jobs probably doesn’t think Flash is good on his platform, but I believe it is more strategic in the long term. Apple wants to be it’s own independent platform, relying upon open standards only … and it’s own closed resources.

        The only “hard” evidence is that of the points he talks about, very few are really technical limitations.

        Seeing Flash on the Android would really put an end to the debate, because it will show having Flash isn’t a major technical hurdle.

        Plus, Steve Jobs is running a pretty big company very well. I am not. What I, and other folks on here, say may not be the best thing for the future of the iPhone platform — just what we want.

        I guess that’s the problem with being such a secretive company, you can’t reveal your hand even if it would make your customers happier.


  8. Another, if Steve jobs says everything he is doing is an open source, why the hell we need to buy an ipad or an iphone to play a game created by iPhone or iPad developers. Also we have to buy most of them specially the good games, but if they are created in Flash and placed on the web we don’t need an iphone or and ipad to play them just any computer and the plug in, that can be downloaded for free. Also he has created the iAd, oh my god how much money does this moron want 40% is for Apple and 60% for a Developer, this guy really knows how to brainwash.
    Also they are creating chips now, who are they going to screw next intel, AMD? Apple already screwed Nintendo, Play Station. I think Steve Jobs wants total control, I think it’s wrong and Adobe and everybody else he’s screwing should stop him. Besides if you really want a good, an Apple computer for designing or 3D, guess what you are going to spend a lot of money.
    Another MAC OS is not the only good platform out there.
    This is total control what Steve jobs wants and peoples money he is constantly upgrading his hardware. A Macbook from 2 years ago is old news, you can’t upgrade anything if it’s not Apple and at the end of the day your paying double the money. Oh he also talks about CSS and Java being new technology, seriously that’s a load of crap. What a brainwasher.

    • myonlinelifenow

      So Jaime did you actual read Steve Job’s statement “Apple has many proprietary products too. Though the operating system for the iPhone, iPod and iPad is proprietary, we strongly believe that all standards pertaining to the web should be open” Not trying to pick a fight here but he’s talking about open standards on the web. He never said that his OS was open. And really why does he need to have it open? Apple paid good money to create their own platform. Why shouldn’t they benefit from it (Geez I should be paid by Apple for this stuff lol) If you want to play FREE flash games on the web use a computer or another mobile platform…oh thats right Flash doesn’t run on anything else does it. The 40/60 is what it is. Again no one can force Ad companies, developers or consumers to buy Apple products. They are tons of other fish in the see. Apple just wants its platform to run the way they want. You as a consumer will make the choice not to buy Apple stuff. You still have control! Yes they are creating their own chipset…and guess what Intel and AMD are just fine. Apple has such a small percentage of the actual computer market, the two of them probably aren’t missing much. Again its about control..that Apple gives to you not to buy its product. Steve actual said “why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?” Modern isn’t another word for New. Honestly Jamie I’m not trying to slam you just wanted to point out a few flaws in you comment, but seriously what did what the heck did Apple to do Nintendo and tell.

  9. Apple is a good company with an excellent product that is the actual computers not the mobile devices such as the iPad which has a lot of problems. Now in regards to Steve jobs comment, if it’s true what he says about not trying to manipulate the market and what he offer is open source why the hell is he charging a yearly fee to use his tools and 30% of what the app is sold for. I think he’s trying to come up with an excuse, for what he’s doing.
    Number 2 how many websites are their in the world based on flash. Now all these people have to spend thousands of dollars hiring developers to re-create their sites. I really don’t think the whole situation is because of the battery life, I think is because of their new chip the A4 is not as good as he says it is.
    The only one trying to manipulate and control the market is Steve Jobs with his excuses.
    And the last HTML5 is not a new technology how stupid can he be. The only thing is that it better coding for videos and other small options, but at the end you still need a third party program to create those rich contents that he so talks about. And guess what it’s Adobe.
    I’m an Apple user but with this stupidity I’m reconsidering in changing back, if Apple is going to tell me what and what not to use, then it sucks.

    • myonlinelifenow

      Ok Jamie, now I coming off just attacking you and really not. “Apple is going to tell me what and what not to use, then it sucks.” Dude, get on eBay now and get rid of your Apple crap man. Go HP or Dell or Sony or anything else. That is right my friend. Apple does not control you or your wallet. You or free to break free of Steve Jobs crazy eco system. So your points 1. I guess he charges a fee and takes money from App developers so his company can make money. That one is simple. If developers don’t like what he is offering, Android is free as I know it and the developers get to keep all of their money. Done. Number 2. I’m not in the know but I figure a very large amount of the web is built on Flash, and that sucks ass for me using my iPhone, but it usually means I don’t visit their site anymore and if they sell stuff, I’m not buying stuff from them. It’s simple for business. I find that customers want to access their site but can not because they are using a web standard the iPhone can use they’ll change…or they won’t. Its their choice. If its going to cost thousands of dollars and man hours to make this change, each business will weight the pros and cons to it. Many will change, many will not. Its just how it goes. They are big guys and girls. They’ll make the right choice. 3. Unless you have the inside stuff on this A4 chip, I’m going to take Steve at his word. The last thing he wants to do is lie and have is stock tank. 5. HTML5 isn’t new technology that is correct.

  10. GrammyPuter

    I was surfing Amazon today looking for books on iPad Application Development. I was looking at Wrox’s “Beginning iPad Application Development”. I went to the Wrox website, and it was available as an ebook. One of the reasons I am considering an iPad is that I am a bookaholic and cannot take a trip without several pounds of books (plus my MacBook, of course). This is getting expensive with today’s airlines! So I though I could kill several birds with one stone.

    Amazingly, the ebook is only available as an Adobe Digital Edition, a format that requires Flash!!

  11. Flash will arrive to apple mobile devices eventually in it’s current state due to market pressure. I liken it to video playback on refereeing decisions on football matches (soccer for you USAmericans). Basically the entire industry knows it is needed but they are yet to implement it. The lack of it means many wrong decisions….anyway,

    Flash will arrive.

      • Did you even read that sad excuse for an article… It’s about video formats, not Flash in general, it says H.264 is being used more than Flash VP6 and FLV… Who cares? Flash PLAYS H.264 and is probably very reason its skyrocketing in acceptance, they even had to update their “article” to say this.

        A lot of people seem to think Flash is only for video like Hulu, Flash is also used for making Games, RIA’s and Animations, even some of the cartoon animations you see on TV and a few Movies released in theaters not to mention practically every single promo site for a movie is Flash. Good luck replacing all that with a video format…

        To think that Flash is dying is pretty silly when they’re about to introduce 3D equivalent to Unity3D for games and already have a penetration rate of 97% on their latest player not to mention a full object oriented language and software for creating everything.

        Uhh Oh… People who think Flash is dying don’t realize that Adobe hasn’t even gotten started yet. :D

        What Steve Jobs just did, shows how scared Apple is of what’s coming, because they could easily allow Flash on their devices and let the USER to decide to enable or disable it, instead he posts a rant…

        IMO this is because Steve Jobs knows if they allowed Flash on their devices and people could go to web sites to use applications and play games for FREE who would use the Apple iStore to BUY games, videos, music and apps? Umm… NO ONE! It’s all about money and control, usually is.

  12. Henrique

    So, he wants the internet free for everybody and open…
    But who is the only person making million websites dont open?

    He list 20 sites that open fine on iphone, and the others 3 trillions?

    If its battery problem, why not make it disable and who wants can enable and make battery short by yourself?

    Security.. ipad was realease and hours later jailbreak was announced.. The “security guy” good work…

    The “onmouseover” thing was the most stupid thing I ever see.. X.x no comments.. and the css a:hover? afff.. that was so so so stupid reason..

    Apple wants the products they dont care be open.. but the main apples arent open.. So Jobs can say that websites technology needs to be open, and nobody can say that the main apples product need to be open?

    Not sure about you guys, but I liked jobs one day along time ago… The last things he is saying, its making me hate him..

    • Henrique

      He also say that 50% of adobe products are to Imac.
      But whats the reason of people buy Mac, since the better programas and games area usually Windows only? Adobe helps in my opinion more to buy a Mac than apple helps to buy Adobe packs.

  13. Isn’t H.264 usage having to be licensed? Not very open.
    And game development without a good third party engine? Unimaginable.

    It would be best if Adobe decided the dispute by providing ways to export Flash apps to html5 and javascript.

  14. Interesting, what is wrong with controlling your product that developed? Apple should not allow flash on their iPad, iPhone etc when Apple knows its an inferior product? That would be like using 87 octane gas for fuel at the Indy 500. Sure its gas but your car will run but run like crap. Old adage of crap in crap out applies here…Flash = crap!

  15. Steve Jobs talks an awful lot about “open” when he is talking about closing an entire platform to an industry standard.

    He talks of battery efficiency — yet after having my iPhone for a year, the battery works worse than a new iPhone running software decoded video.

    In terms of quality? The app store has thousands of horrible Apps, yet he wants to maintain quality.

    Things just don’t make sense. HTML5 isn’t mature enough for Apple to lean so heavily upon it.

    My Response:

  16. Steve W

    Apple wants control; control of its own destiny.

    Steve Jobs was being charitable towards Adobe. He mentioned that it took Adobe 10 years to fully migrate to Mac OS X. He glossed over the fact that Adobe NEVER did migrate to NeXTStep. If they had…. the mind boggles contemplating the alternative history!

  17. I thought Steve really has something to say to developers, but in fact he has just paraphrased the lie we have heard a lot on other blogs.

    Well, only sixth point makes some sense, but it’s not somethings that can’t be solved.

    Other points are just bullshit.

    If you don’t trust, just take a look here:

    Or here:

    Whatever, we can create applications using Apple software. But what about creative agencies who would like to use iPads as a target platform? How to create an appealing animated content with some simple scripting? Is there any tool for that Apple has in stock? The answer is no.

    I strongly believe that mobile phones and tablets are different categories and there should be some authoring software to produce content for tablets. As for me, Flash is a great choice here. But if Flash is rejected, what Apple can offer?

    Apple has created a new category, but I hope Google will win the whole battle and new Google tablet will leave 1-5% market for iPad. :-)

  18. I have had an iphone 2G and now a 3GS an iPad since April 3rd and counting all the times I had missed Flash. Is a grand total of 0. I even have click2flash on my macs and only allow flash to run when necessary. I won’t said Flash is dead but is in a serious need of an upgrade that addresses the power and resources hog issues.

  19. I have Flash blocked on both my browsers and have a fail safe KillFlash in my menubar…because flash is a cpu HOG…and makes all the fans run and run and run for a simple you tube video…that’s insane

    and I have the 2009 2.8Ghz 15″ MBP…there is no excuse…the only time I ever have browser issues is when flash is running…since I started using Click2Flash and Flash Blocker (firefox) I have only had to force quit my browser once in 9 months…as apposed to at least once or twice a week before that…if they can’t make it a smooth experience then they need to go away…

    GOOD BYE FLASH…we won’t miss you when you’re gone

  20. Alejandro Perez

    I guess we just have to be objective in terms of demand/quality, If Flash is a power hog it’s a power hog, and if HTML5 is Harder to use It’s harder to use, What web developers have to do (company or private) is what’s best for the users. If there is a solution to the Flash issue of using touch instead of mouse control, re-write your website. Be Thoughtful of the End User not Whats easy for me as a designer/programmer/web developer. And if you can really do everything you can with flash usinf HTML5 Move on Flash is about 10 years old or more EVOLVE! Apple does this very often. Tehy should Stand their ground.

  21. I don’t agree with this – Jobs was making a reasoned argument as to why they don’t want to adapt flash. I am open to the idea that there may be more to it, but I don’t think you can credibly say that he “moaned” or “complained” – the reasons seem perfectly logical, really. Yes iPhone is a proprietary platform, but yes, so is Flash, and in this case Adobe are simply interested in expanding their market – Apple are just not willing to let them do that at the expense of the user experience in using their devices, and Jobs is right – there is no direct reason to use flash, and even before HTML5, there never was – it used to be a convenient and fun way to create animations on the web, then it became an easy to program video player, and now it’s turned into a development platform, but it’s extremely limited, buggy, and doesn’t do well cross-platform. It just doesn’t cut it.

    You may moan about his choice, but it’s his company, his products. Have you tried programming these things in Objective C? It’s a synch…

  22. sigpwned

    Very interesting analysis. I think your interpretation of the letter is spot on: Apple wants control. This is hardly surprising, and the letter is really just Apple finally acknowledging a position that’s been obvious for months.

    The next interesting thing to watch will be Adobe’s response. The clock has started. It’ll be interesting to see what Adobe cooks up in the next 24 hours.

    • I expect Lee Brimelow at the Flash Blog will have something to say shortly. Hopefully, it will be a little more cogent and little less rant. The best argument, not that I agree, is pretty simple: Flash is choice. It’s also fair to say that doing interactive magazines without Flash is hardly as simple as pressing the HTML5 button in an SDK. Where are the equivalent development tools? Steve Jobs suggests Adobe should create them. If Adobe were to ask why they should reinvent the wheel, that would be a pretty fair question.

  23. Skeptic

    Thumbs up. I, for one, was always a bit skeptical of Apple’s motives, and even though I’m not convinced that this note paints the full picture, at least it makes several really good points that helps me understand the decision to not use Flash.