As Steve Jobs Bashes Flash, Agencies Say They’re Ready

If there was any lingering doubt Apple intends to usher in a post-Flash era, CEO Steve Jobs put them to rest yesterday in a 1,700-word screed against the multimedia standard.

In the post, published yesterday on Apple.com, Jobs counted off many reasons Apple blocks Adobe’s Flash platform on its iPhone, iPad, and iPod devices. Among them: security and stability risks associated with Flash, its lack of open source protocols, and Adobe’s allegedly sluggish process for introducing enhancements.

“The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content,” Jobs wrote. “And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications.”

Adobe responded late yesterday. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, CEO Shantanu Narayen said Apple’s policy had nothing to do with technology and that it would only serve to make developers’ lives harder by creating “two workflows.”

Narayen is right. Apple’s strong stance against Flash will eventually force developers to extend their rich media ads to open standards like CSS, HTML5, and JavaScript. But you won’t find many worried execs in agency-land, where developers are used to building for multiple platforms.

Razorfish CEO Bob Lord said his agency’s developers are well used to building for new platforms, and to minimizing costs while doing so.

“I don’t know how they technically do it, but it never seems to add a ton of expense to the process they’re putting in place,” Lord said. “We develop with a mindset where whatever we build is going to be portable to every device.”

Meanwhile developers at San Francisco-based Evolution Bureau (EVB) have begun converting to HTML5 a number of sites the agency built for clients in the last year. It has also re-encoded videos on EVB’s own site. CEO Daniel Stein said of the agency’s reel in HTML5, “It really looks great.”

Stein is neutral on the future of Flash as a content standard. “Let Apple and Adobe battle it out. The developers will adapt,” said Stein, who called the retiring of programming standards “an organic process in the development world.”

When it comes to browser-based experiences not designed for mobile, he suggested the day is far off when Flash will disappear. “If Flash is the right technology to create the experience, we’ll just tell iPad and iPhone users, ‘This isn’t for you.'”

flash-unicorn.jpg One example is a recent Flash site EVB created for client Juicy Fruit. The very kitschy SerenadingUnicorn.com features a unicorn puppet lip synching saccharine hits from 20 and 30 years ago, including Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee” and Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”

People visiting the site from an iPhone or iPad device will see the puppet holding a Flash icon in its mouth. It states, “If you’re on a mobile device, please try experiencing Serenading Unicorn from your computer.”

One thing Jobs’ letter underlines is that Apple has indeed become the 600-pound gorilla in mobile, and that has some negative consequences. It’s true that agencies appear largely unconcerned about the company’s willingness to wield its significant power in setting policy for its mobile device platforms. However the company’s secretive nature does mean less visibility into the mobile landscape.

“The good news with a Microsoft or a Google with Android, is they’ll expose to you what they’re going to do and they’ll look for beta opportunities,” said Razorfish’s Lord. “Apple is not going to do it as much.

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