Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

"Holier Than Thou" Ain't Just For Christians Anymore!

With all the hubbub about the next gen iPhone (just as those other iPhones are nearing the end of their contracts) and the iPad, Apple is riding a wave of consumer enthusiasm.  Here's what you need to know -- Apple is the only PC maker not playing around in the netbook market to experience growth the last couple of years.  Without netbooks, a lot of companies would be in the red right now.  Apple has consumer cache and lots of people love them.

That's NOT what I'm about to bitch about.

Free software advocates have to believe in freedom.  That means, if people want to use something that isn't GPL'ed, they can.  Hell, I do it all the time myself, what with the proprietary OS's in my game systems, my DVD recording machine runs Windows, and I dev my software on a Win machine because the game engine I use won't cross compile under Linux, only Windows.  So I'm not looking to slam end users.

However, I am looking to slam two companies involved in just about the dumbest pissing match I've seen in ages.  I'm talking about Adobe and Apple.  As soon as I heard the iPad uses a custom CPU, I knew there would be no Flash for it.  Flash requires Intel instruction sets to run (or PowerPC, if you are running an older Mac).  I was initially complaining about the iPad and how Linux won't run on it, when another coder told me that the iPad could be open source's best friend.  With a CPU that no proprietary stuff would work on, only things with truly open standards would be adapted to work immediately, giving them time to get a foothold and spreading awareness of ogg Vorbis, ogg Theora, Open Document, HTML5, and so on (Firefox is now baking support for ogg into their browser, so you can use the formats even if your regular media player under, say, Windows doesn't have the codecs).  Adobe would either have to make a new version of Flash to run on it, or do without.

Adobe has opted to do without.  Even though they can easily do it.  And they are bitching that Apple is trying to deny its consumers choice.  75% of video on the web is Flash.  Lots of ads are Flash (my main Linux box, I've created a separate account and have blocked privileges to Flash.  Kind of a long way around to do ad blocking, but I'm sick of ads bogging down my machine and interfering with my clicks).  Flash has become a de facto standard on the web.  Which I find annoying as hell (and while I'm bitching, can we please have web sites where you DON'T need javascript enabled to browse them?!?).  Of course, Flash is no more a real standard than .doc is a real standard, it's just the dominant format.  The only difference is the parent company, Adobe, is a lot safer to play footsie with than M$.

Steve Jobs at Apple responded with a shot across the bow, claiming that Flash wants to control users through its proprietary software.  He says Apple has its own proprietary software (no shit) but is dedicated to an open web and points to WebKit as proof.

Here's the stupid thing, though.  If you take Jobs' open letter and replace Adobe with Apple, it is still accurate.  You have two proprietary companies saying that they support open standards and the other is seeking control.  And with points not only completely interchangable between the two, but their own actions deny an open web.  They support video using H.264, a proprietary codec, instead of ogg Theora, for example.  Apple says Adobe claims uses can't play Flash games, but luckily, there are over 50K games and entertaiment apps for the iPhone and iPad.  That's like saying that, just because I have nearly 400 games for my Atari 2600, that should be enough, I don't need any game system that is being actively developed for.

Each side is claiming the other opposes an open web while hoping no one notices their contradictions.  If Apple and Adobe want to be proprietary, that is their right.  I say that as a person who has not open sourced any of his own projects yet.  But flinging mud and hoping no one notices how much is on themselves is a bad thing to do.  Be honest, don't hide behind altruism.
Tags: computers, digital rights, hypocrisy, open source
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