apple and flash

Steve Jobs posted an open letter today about why Flash is not and will not be supported on the Apple mobile platform. You can follow the link to read the full article, but basically he gave 6 reasons. Let me look at each of these one-by-one. And before I do, I would like to remind everyone that I’m not really a big proponent of Flash. Back when I was web-developer, Flash was the one platform I detested and never took the time to learn. I think web-design through Flash is a poor design choice except if it is being done for some sort of portfolio or niche-website. Anyhow, with that out of the way, let’s look at Jobs’ six reasons.

First, there’s “Open”.

Jobs’ claim here is basically a fact. Flash is a proprietary system. Not only do you need to buy expensive software from Adobe to be able to create professional-grade Flash applications, but you also need to download a third-party plug-in from them any time you want to view it. There’s no complaints I have about this statement except that it reminds me of, you know, pot-kettle-black.

Apple is possibly the most proprietary technology developer out there right now. Not only is the iPhone OS system completely closed and regulated, but even going back to the OS X operating system, you legally need a Mac to run that. It sounds highly hypocritical of a CEO of such a proprietary company using “openness” to attack Adobe. To Jobs’ credit, he accepts that Apple is proprietary, but he wants the web to be open. How benevolent of him to allow us this luxury!

Second, there’s the “full web”.

Adobe has counter-claimed Apple’s claim that the iPad is the best way to experience the web, by suggesting that those users do not have access to the full web. Jobs’ counter-argument to this is that Apple supports HTML5, CSS and the modern H.264 format for viewing video. He also rattles off a list of 16 sites that supposedly support video on the iPhone OS (although at least one of them–Facebook–at least check, does not).

As I said at the beginning of this piece, I hate it when a website has used Flash for the purpose of web-design (especially when they haven’t offered an HTML alternative). So from that standpoint, I’m happy that Apple has gone ahead and blocked those websites. However, when it comes to videos, Apple is just ignoring the problem. Sure… they support these 18 sites that now allow HTML5-based streaming. But about the 1000 other websites that people actually visit? How can you advertise a device as being the best way to browse the web when it falls annoyingly short in multimedia presentation? Companies have paid millions of dollars implementing their current content delivery platforms–not everyone has the financial resources that YouTube, for example, has, to begin supporting H.264 video overnight.

Third, there’s reliability, security and performance.

I have heard several anecdotes about how Flash causes Macs to barf. Jobs labels Flash as the number one reason for Mac crashes. Obviously Adobe has a part to play here, since they are the ones that are writing the actual plug-ins. But I don’t buy the whole “reliability, security, performance” argument for the iPhone OS. Just like I don’t buy the justification that Apple fanboys give for keeping the App platform closed or for keeping OS X locked down to Mac hardware–to preserve the quality of the system. How dumb do they think consumers are? The App Store is already plush full of useless applications (I believe Fart Apps deserve their own category going by volume, right?). In fact, I can count the number of apps I use regularly on my iPhone on one hand.

This destroys the perception that it is impossible to create low-quality applications staying within Apple’s development platform and regulation. The theory that it is impossible to create a quality application outside of the Apple-allowed platform is similarly debunked by the “black market” that is Apple jailbroken apps. There are several quality applications developed there that would deserve their place in the App Store if Apple had put it’s draconian policies aside. Not to mention that they’ve actually supported the novel (not really) idea of evaluation software. Instead of Apple allowing evaluation periods, they decided to go with “Lite Apps” (there’s actually a section in the Apple Developer Center that recommends releasing a Lite app, with stripped out functionality). There have been countless times that I have been partially interested in an iPhone App only to find that is not free and the “Lite” version doesn’t allow me to actually test what I want to. Some developers, like Remember the Milk, have gone about their own methods of providing a trial period enforced by a web-service.

Fourth, there’s battery life.

Jobs claims that on an iPhone, an H.264-encoded video will play up to 10 hours whereas a software-decoded video will play only up to 5 hours. This may well be true, but I don’t think Apple is in any position to preach about battery life. I have had to charge my iPhone, without fail, every night. If I don’t, I’ll get into the red midway through the next day. I don’t make that many calls, either (if I could exchange my rollover balance for cash value, I’d be a rich man), so it’s not like I’m using my phone all that much. In fact, I check in to Twitter about 3-4 times a day, the same with Facebook and occasionally I play Racing Live for about 5 minutes (this is not a graphics-intensive game, btw, it is more of a “simulation”-type game). Yet, my battery is toasted by the time I reach home. I can’t imagine how life is going to be when multi-tasking is supported.

I guess Apple does have a claim to make here, they’re prepared to do anything if it increases battery life.

Fifth, there’s Touch.

A side-note, I wonder if Apple has actually trademarked the word “Touch”. Why else would it appear capitalized? Anyhow, Jobs’ claim here is that Flash was designed for mouse-based input whereas the iPhone OS introduces a completely new touch-based interface. The point is well-taken. I’m not aware if Adobe has made any forays into touch input, but my feeling is they would have, if they were expecting to release the Flash CS5 Deploy to iPhone App feature. Which leads nicely into Jobs’ final point, the most important one, supposedly.

Sixth, the most important reason.

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn’t support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices.

This is referring to the Deploy to iPhone App feature that I talked about in the previous point. Basically, Adobe is planning to release, in Flash CS5, the ability for a user to deploy a Flash animation as an iPhone App. Flash does all the heavy-lifting of converting the ActionScript code into the archaic Objective C format, compiling it as required by the App Store, etc. However, a few weeks ago, Apple modified their developer contract to state that creators of iPhone Apps must have originally created that code in Objective C. This basically makes any app that was generated by Flash CS5 in violation of the developer agreement. The same is the case for apps developed using MonoTouch–the commercially available tool that allows .NET developers on Macs to create iPhone Apps–as they are also not originally Objective C.

Jobs then goes as far as to suggest that developers won’t have access to the newest features when they become available, etc. I have a huge pain-point with this. In my previous discussions about Apple and it’s products, I always bow out of the discussion when someone brings up the point that Apple is not targeted primarily towards technical consumers. What this means is that I can go and build a computer for less than it costs to buy a Mac–that’s why Macs aren’t targeted towards me, specifically. I can understand and accept that–Apple does a good job in marketing a product and keeping their profit margins wide. However, Jobs, in this case, actually is trying to run the same argument by, except targeting them towards the actual technical users.

He hypothesizes that if Apple were to allow third-party code to be converted into Objective C, developers would become clueless about how to take advantage of the newest features released in an Apple SDK. That’s not only extremely inaccurate, but it is extremely insulting to many parties.

It is insulting to developers because we have to be ahead of the technology curve (for example, the iPhone OS 4 SDK is already out for iPhone developers, but not for end users) and have to have an understanding of how a system actually works.

It is insulting to consumers because it suggests that they will not be able to tell the difference between a good app and a bad app. As I’ve said earlier, it is a fallacy that all apps created within the Apple-permitted spectrum are good and all apps created outside that spectrum are bad. Why not let the user decide what is a good app?

Finally, it is insulting to the actual Apple staff involved in the app review committee. Jobs is basically suggesting that they will not be able to adequately test an application to determine whether it is good or bad, without knowing if it was originally Objective C or not. This basically throws hot water on the whole app review process, because it claims that the process will not be able to test an app’s usability independent of the development platform.

As a whole, I understand why Steve Jobs does not want Flash on the iPhone OS and I have no problems with it. I’m not a major Flash proponent and there are only a handful of websites I visit on an iPhone anyway. I would have a problem with it if I owned an iPad, but that, and several other reasons, have contributed to me not being even a bit interested in owning one. I do have issues with the lock-down of the development process, though, for no reason whatsoever. iPhone developers still have to purchase a Mac to develop their software on, because iPhone apps use a bunch of frameworks that don’t have cross-platform ports. So it is not as if Apple is losing a revenue stream there. It is not as if Apple is losing the developer account revenue stream either–since the developers of those apps would still have to pay their annual fee to be able to sell on the App Store.

On the whole, that move by Apple just seems like a reaction without provocation.

narrowing down the contenders (part 1)

As I have mentioned recently on this blog, I’m in the market for a new laptop computer. I’m tired of big, bloaty, excessively hot, heavy computers so I’m looking for something that is small and lightweight, yet powerful enough to do some development on. With my home entertainment center all set up and performing at peak, I have no need to invest in a decent graphics card or a ton of RAM, although these things would be useful while doing some development work.

Over the last few days I’ve looked at several different contenders and have come up with the following shortlist. This list can still change and it even includes an HP (even though I had sworn off them). This research has demonstrated to me that buying a business laptop (which all of these unilaterally qualify as) is a much more expensive affair than buying a consumer laptop. The HP that is quickly going to waste and was my previous laptop was purchased for under $700 before warranty. These business notebooks are minimum of about $850 before I spec them up.

Anyways, enough dilly-dallying. Here are my contenders. I’ve chosen them based on price, size, weight, sexiness and heat dissipation (one of my major factors!).

Dell Studio 15

Processor: Intel Core i5-430M 2.26GHz
RAM: 4GB DDR3
Screen: 15.6″
Weight: 5.54lbs
Battery: 9-cell
HDD: 320GB SATA II 7200RPM
Warranty: 3-years premium + LoJack
Price: $1,011 + taxes

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a consumer-level laptop that suffers from all the issues that the HP did. It is about half a pound lighter. Could be lighter if I went with the standard 6-cell battery. I know, putting this laptop up makes me seem very hypocritical or perhaps even appear like one of those people who do not learn from their mistakes. Well, this laptop isn’t my top choice. I’ve included it more to show the price disparity than anything else!

Dell Onyx Adamo

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo Su9400 1.40GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR3
Screen: 13.4″
Weight: 4.00lbs
Battery: 6-cell
HDD: 128GB Solid State Drive
Warranty: 3-years
Price: $1,395 + taxes

This is a laptop that was recommended to me by Jesús. It is sleek and at least the stock graphics make it look immensely sexy. It has a small form factor and is designed to rival the Macbook Air, although it weighs in at a pound heavier. One drawback is that it is the only laptop in my list that does not have an internal optical drive. I’d have to purchase a USB CD-ROM drive to be able to install Windows, etc. If I chose to get the Onyx Combo Drive, that’s another $120 (I think it is actually included in my price above).

HP EliteBook 8440P (WH256UT)

Processor: Intel Core i5-520M 2.40GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR3
Screen: 14.0″
Weight: 5.20lbs
Battery: 6-cell
HDD: 250GB SATA II 7200RPM
Warranty: 3-years
Price: $1,199 + taxes

And the HP option returns. I was very vehement about not investing in HP in my earlier post, but having read a few reviews, it seems HP’s busines line (EliteBook) is a world apart from the consumer line Pavilion series. I read several reviews for this unit, and did searches specifically for heat issues, fan problems and other issues. It seems that this EliteBook is a hell of a lot better at handling heat than previous EliteBooks, which were way better at handling them than the Pavilions, to begin with. The downside here is that the machine comes only packed with 2GB of RAM and it’s still quite heavy (5.20 lbs) compared to the Adamo. If I recall (and I will verify this) my HP dv5z-1000 weighed in at around 5.8lbs.

Sony VAIO CW (VGN-CW290)

Processor: Intel Core i5-520M 2.40GHz
RAM: 4GB DDR3
Screen: 14.0″
Weight: 5.30lbs
Battery: 6-Cell
HDD: 320GB SATA II 7200RPM
Warranty: 3 years
Price: $1,129 + taxes

This is the first time I’ve looked at Sony for a laptop. Again, this is slightly heavier than what I’m interested in, but it’s got a good spec sheet. It’s coming in at $70 less than the HP EliteBook, although the finish looks a lot more plasticky compared to the aluminum finish that the EliteBook supposedly has.  Otherwise it seems like a good deal–in fact it is the only deal on the Sony VAIO line that seemed anywhere near affordable. Given that Sony is a luxury laptop line to begin with, I’m hosting that their general consumer offerings are better than their counterparts from Dell and HP.

So that’s part 1. Part 2 will probably contain a few Mac offerings as well as a few of the less powerful, more portable offerings. I’m hung between getting a computer that is really light because I don’t want to end up with a Tablet PC-like Visual Studio experience.

http://images.pcworld.com/news/graphics/173338-sony_vaio_cw_original.jpg

iMac? $1601.37 reasons I will not switch anytime soon!

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m not the biggest fan of Macs. I’ve had the pleasure of using an Apple iMac quite consistently during my time working in the Marketing & Communications department at Rice University IT and thoroughly enjoyed using it for web-design and graphics development, two of my responsibilities that were made easy by iMacs. I always knew Macs were a bit pricey, but only when I actually began setting about building my own computer did I get an idea of how much.

As many of you may know, Apple released their new line of Mac computers today. They released MacBook Pros, the good old iMac and a Mac Mini or two. Among their new offerings were two iMacs built on the latest Intel quad-core chipset–the Nehalem architecture’s LGA 1156 offerings (the Core i5 and i7). These babies start at a price of, wait for it, $1999! This is daylight robbery, in my opinion, and I’ll take it upon myself to prove exactly that.

First, to gain even ground, let’s look at a spec-down of the two computers at hand. I’m going to compare the price of the components of the computer I build with an equally spec’d out iMac. Here we go:

iSohummm Edition

Processor: Core i7-860 2.8 GHz
Motherboard: ASRock P55D Pro
RAM: Corsair XMS3 2x2GB 1600 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics Card: Gigabyte GV-R467ZL ATI Radeon HD4670 1GB
Hard Drive: 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black (7200RPM)
Optical Drive: 22x Samsung DVD+R 8x DVD+RW 16x DVD-ROM 48x CD-ROM
PSU: Corsair TX650W
Case: Antec Three Hundred Illusion
Keyboard-Mouse: Microsoft Wireless Desktop 6000 v2
PRICE AFTER TAXES AND DELIVERY: $779.05

Apple iMac 27-inch

Processor: Intel Core i7-860 2.8 GHz
Motherboard: UNKNOWN
RAM: UNKNOWN 2x2GB 1066 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics Card: UNKNOWN ATI Radeon HD4850 512MB
Hard Drive: 1TB UNKNOWN (7200RPM)
Optical Drive: 8x DVD±R 8x DVD+RW 6x DVD-RW 8x DVD-ROM 24x CD-ROM SuperDrive
PSU: UNKNOWN (but apparently >365W)
Case: Apple 27″ IPS-enabled Monitor
Keyboard Mouse: Apple Magic Mouse + Wireless Keyboard Bundle
PRICE AFTER TAXES AND DELIVERY: $2380.42

A total difference of $2380.42 – $779.05 = $1601.37. Hence the title of this post. “But what about your display!” you scream. Well, I’m going to be using my HDTV as my primary output for a while (until a decent LCD offer comes around). That cost me ~$854 after taxes and a 3-year warranty from Fry’s. And it has S-IPS (that’s Super IPS, for those who’re wondering) technology, supposedly. And it’s about $15 inches bigger (only diagonally, though) than the iMac computer. So the question is… is the all-in-one functionality+magic mouse+a slightly better gfx card worth a whopping $800? Or is Apple taking its dedicated user community on a ride (again)?

To better answer this question, I want to highlight a few details I picked up on while customizing my cart:

  1. Upgrading from the Core i5-750 (2.66 GHz) to the Core i7-860 (2.8 GHz) costs $200 on the Apple store, before taxes. The retail price of an i5-750 on Newegg is $199 and that of the i7-860 is $289. The difference is $90. Apple is charging its customers $110 extra to make this upgrade (remember, the mobo+everything else does NOT need to change to enable this since both are on the LGA 1156 socket), over the retail cost, before taxes.
  2. Upgrading from one 2x2GB memory kit to a 2 (in essence, buying another 2x2GB memory kit) costs $200 on the Apple store, before taxes. The retail price of the most expensive 2x2GB DDR3 SDRAM kit at the 1066 MHz clock speed on Newegg costs $87.49. The price difference is a whopping $112.51 extra that Apple is making from its consumers. Unless their original mobo only has 2 memory slots (which is kinda scary to begin with) and they need to do a mobo upgrade to support the second kit (did not appear true for any of the P55 boards on Newegg).
  3. And here’s the kicker–Apple charges an upgrade price of $250 for a 2TB hard-drive from a 1TB offering. That’s $70 more than the most expensive 2TB 7200RPM SATA drive on Newegg! And that is to upgrade from a 1TB, which usually retails for around $90. So, Apple is charging consumers an extra $160 approximately, to upgrade their HDD from 1TB to 2TB than it should cost.

What does this mean? It means that Apple is not only charging a ludicrous premium on their i7 offering, but they are at the same time charging HUGE premiums on upgrades. I’m going to be in the market for another TB and another 2x2GB kit of RAM come Black Friday, and I don’t expect to spend more than a total of $150 on that (did I mention that my mobo also has onboard RAID support?). That’s more than Apple is charging than market to upgrade from a 1TB to 2TB.

It’s crazy. I’ve not been making many friends with Mac fans over the last couple of days (especially on a certain CNET article) but the fact remains that these prices are heavily, heavily inflated. The iMac, I understand, is targeted towards home and home business users, compared to the Mac Pro, which is targeted towards business users and professionals. I shudder to think how much one of those will cost, after being loaded by one of the higher end i7 chips. Probably well into the $4000’s as a base price.

I’ll admit it here and once. If that Mac was available for around $1500, I’d seriously consider getting it. The cost would be just about $700 more than what I’ve spent currently to get into a seriously hard-to-upgrade, all-in-one machine with a sexy display. The best part would be I could use bootcamp and run Windows 7 off of it. But at this price, it would make more sense for me to upgrade all my components to their max (getting a 58xx video card, getting the $999 i7 chip) and I reckon I’d still just about break even.

22X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-ROM