Adobe Founders Fire Off Open Letter in Flash Wars

Adobe founders, Chuck Genschke and John Warnock, have finally weighed in on their company’s feud with Apple over Flash in the form of an open letter. The two position Flash as an important part of the Internet, and suggest Apple is stifling innovation and openness by not supporting the multimedia format on some of its products.

In their open letter, Mr. Genschke and Mr. Warnock state “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.”

The two go onto say “When markets are open, anyone with a great idea has a chance to drive innovation and find new customers. Adobe’s business philosophy is based on a premise that, in an open market, the best products will win in the end — and the best way to compete is to create the best technology and innovate faster than your competitors.”

Their open letter comes in response to Apple CEO Steve Jobs open letter from late April where he stated “Adobe’s Flash products are 100 percent proprietary. They are only available from Adobe, and Adobe has sole authority as to their future enhancement, pricing, etc.,” Mr. Jobs said. “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.”

The feud between the two companies over Flash heated up after Apple changed its rules for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad app developers to prohibit using utilities that can’t natively reference Apple APIs. That rule, although it doesn’t mention Adobe specifically, includes third-party cross-compiling tools, such as Flash CS5.

In Adobe’s case, it built support into Flash CS5 that allows developers to compile their code for multiple devices, including Apple’s iPhone. Since the compiler supports only a subset of iPhone OS features, it falls outside of Apple’s acceptable iPhone development tools.

“If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features,” Mr. Jobs said. “We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.”

Adobe, however, thinks that Apple should allow cross-compiler based apps on its mobile devices — or more specifically, Flash content and Flash-based apps. “We believe that Apple, by taking the opposite approach, has taken a step that could undermine this next chapter of the web — the chapter in which mobile devices outnumber computers, any individual can be a publisher, and content is accessed anywhere and at any time,” Adobe’s founders said.

Adobe’s ad as it appears on Web sites like Engadget.

Along with its open letter, Adobe also launched an ad campaign on Thursday geared at fueling the grass roots effort to pressure Apple into relenting and opening the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad to Flash. The ads, which are appearing on some tech-related Web sites, push Adobe’s message that Apple shouldn’t block specific developer tools.

Apple doesn’t appear to be relenting on its position, so for now it appears that Mr. Genschke and Mr. Warnock have a lot more work to do if they hope to change Apple’s mind on Flash.