How the Adobe/Apple struggle might pan out
Last week I talked about how Apple’s CEO, the inimitable Steve Jobs, predicts that the Flash platform is a dying technology, shortly to be consigned to the mausoleum of history.
Predicting the future is notoriously difficult; those that practice such dark arts often produce proclamations that are vague, misleading, or ultimately entirely wrong. Any meaningful prediction is merely educated guessing, and so I’m not going to bore you with my ultimate view of how Jobs is wrong.
Instead, I’m going to bore you with 4 possible scenarios in which he is wrong – or right.
Jobs’ vision of the future is one where Apple sees unbounded success with its iPhone/iPad/App Store ecosystem, and Flash dies because they’re hot allowed into Apple’s walled garden. However, this could easily be a significant stretch of the imagination, and Adobe’s success is not mutually exclusive of Apple’s. Nor, for that matter is either company’s failure. I present to you 4 ways in which this could pan out:
In this graphic, I represent Adobe’s level of success horizontally, with the right-most side being the most successful. Apple are represented vertically, with the top being the pinnacle of Apple’s achievements. Our future is therefore divided into 4 possible scenarios, which I address in a clockwise direction:
All hail our Apple overlords
In this future, Jobs is 100% correct. Flash dies, either because it’s simply rubbish, or helped along by Apple’s refusal to support it. Apple’s idea of ‘the web as it was meant to be’ is one in which the iPhone and iPad are major players, and competitors that hedged their bets with their now-irrelevant support for Flash are marginalised.
Apple and Adobe, sitting in a tree
Jobs eats his words as Flash continues to be a major technology on the web. He caves, and Apple add Flash support to the iPhone and iPad. Humanity spends the rest of eternity playing puerile games on MiniClip.
Adobe have the last laugh as Apple squander their opportunity for greatness. As other Flash-capable mobile platforms take chunks of market share from the traditional desktop/laptop market, the iPhone and iPad increasingly take a back seat, and Apple lets the mobile web crown slip through its fingers.
In this dystopian future, both companies are hit hard. Apple continues to ignore Flash, but still doesn’t gain enough traction in an increasingly diverse mobile web market. All of its competitors support Flash, but eventually Jobs prediction comes true and it dies out anyway, eclipsed by HTML5 (and beyond). Alas, it’s too late for Apple to flourish as other platforms have already established their dominance.
I think all of these futures are possible, even if not taken to their extremes. It’s possible that the future of the web will sit somewhat close to the centre of the axes. So which do I think is most likely? I’m not telling – but I will say this about the situation I find least likely: I’m not framing a picture of my future Jobsian overlord just yet.