If you want to read Apple and Adobe's opinions directly: Steve Jobs posted his thoughts on Flash, and Adobe shared their thoughts as well.
I find it very interesting to note what both sides claim is the core issue: Openness.
Steve Jobs leads with this issue, saying:
First, there’s “Open”.Adobe) directly address Openness too:
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 Adobe’s Flash products are widely available, this does not mean they are open, since they are controlled entirely by Adobe and available only from Adobe. By almost any definition, Flash is a closed system.
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. [...]
If the web fragments into closed systems, if companies put content and applications behind walls, some indeed may thrive — but their success will come at the expense of the very creativity and innovation that has made the Internet a revolutionary force.Both companies are being one-sided here, but Apple's response annoys me. Steve starts out by talking about how proprietary/closed products are bad, then in the next paragraph twists his case into a web context.
We believe that consumers should be able to freely access their favorite content and applications, regardless of what computer they have, what browser they like, or what device suits their needs. No company — no matter how big or how creative — should dictate what you can create, how you create it, or what you can experience on the web.
But isn't it interesting that these two companies can talk so baldly about Openness, without addressing the question: "Can it really be 'open' if the source code remains closed?"
Actually, Adobe did briefly address this in another post, but it didn't get much press. Here's what they say about it:
The core engine of Flash Player (AVM+) is open source and was donated to the Mozilla Foundation, where it is actively maintained. The file formats supported by Flash Player, SWF and FLV/F4V, as well as the RTMP and AMF protocols are freely available and openly published. Anyone can use the specifications without requiring permission from Adobe. Third parties can and do build audio, video, and data services that compete with those from Adobe.So Adobe can get some credit, here, for their claim of Openness. It's not a full pass from me, but the "core engine" and an open spec are notable steps.
There are no restrictions on the development of SWF authoring tools, and anyone can build their own SWF or FLV/F4V player.
Flex, the primary application framework for the Adobe Flash Platform, is also open source and is actively maintained and developed by Adobe and the community.
Finally, the Flash Platform has a rich developer ecosystem of both open and proprietary tools and technologies, including developer IDEs and environments such as FDT, IntelliJ, and haXe; open source runtimes such as Gnash; and open source video servers such as Red5.
If we're going to make serious arguments about Openness, we really need to talk about "Free / Open Source Software." It's not just about choosing between option A and option B, where you can't really modify either to suit your needs.
The basic definition of Free / Open Source Software is that the source code must be made available for others to see it. A necessary side-effect of this condition is that anyone who uses the program has an opportunity to make improvements. A well-managed project will accept any improvements in the form of patches, which modifies the program to solve someone else’s slightly different (but similar) problem. Releasing new versions of the software with the new features ensures that everyone benefits from these changes.
That's why I prefer to use Free / Open Source operating systems such as Linux. The user community has total freedom; the software can never turn against you. It only takes one person with enough vision and motivation to deliver another option that benefits everyone. And since the source code remains open, it continues to benefit the community after that person is done.
In a prettier-but-closed system, à la Apple's "walled garden", you are subject to the whims of whoever brings you the software. Mac users and developers who may be unhappy with Apple's decision not to support Flash will just have to wait for Apple to change their minds. But they may not want to hold their breath.