Adobe Flash, Apple’s iPhone OS, Asterisks and Abraham Lincoln

Every time I see some website drag out that old saw about how Flash has been installed by all sentient beings in the universe — and it’s been dragged out a lot lately, given the public spat between Apple and Adobe over Flash on the iPad — I’m reminded of a quote by Abraham Lincoln:

“People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” —Abraham Lincoln

A recent article featuring similar logic (but without the sense of irony) can be found on Why Flash is here to stay.

Let’s be clear — I’m not saying Flash isn’t here to stay — Flash has a lot going for it. states: “Let’s face it, Flash is everywhere these days” and “…almost everyone has Flash player installed (99% of internet users, for those too lazy to check the link).”

Please: let’s stop pretending that Flash is ubiquitous, shall we? It’s misleading, as they say in parliament.

Those of us who weren’t too lazy to follow the link will note that Adobe is a bit more careful with their claims, qualifying this impressive-sounding statistic with the term Internet-enabled desktops.

It’s not a small difference.

While Adobe is careful in the small print to specify that it’s 99% of “internet-enabled PCs”, they’re happy to run the chart under the misleading subheading Flash content reaches 99% of Internet viewers.

The impression Adobe is trying to create here is:

People without Flash = nobody

I’m not sure why they don’t go one tiny step further and point out that 100% of people with Flash installed have installed Flash.

According to Steve Jobs, during the iPhone OS 4 keynote, iPhone has 64% of the mobile internet market. So much for Flash’s supposed ubiquity. Interestingly, Flash isn’t currently running on any of the remaining 36% of the mobile internet market, either. Certainly not in the author-once, publish-everywhere sense (Flash lite isn’t Flash).

While Flash will begin to ship for some non-Apple mobile devices after Adobe releases the full 10.1 player, at least for those users whose providers allow it, it isn’t even there now. So why act as though it is?

The fact remains that pretending Apple’s mobile devices don’t exist, and barging ahead anyway ignores the fact that 85 million Apple devices (plus more than a half-million iPads) that will likely never have Flash enabled, are in use today.

Steve Jobs with '85 million iPhone + iPod touch' slide

So should we use Flash or not?

If your website specifically targets Android or Blackberry users, great. Ignore iPhones, iPods touch and iPads. Otherwise, there are 85 million Apple devices — and untold millions of non-Apple mobile devices — in the wild that can’t see your Flash content.

The impression Apple is trying to create is:

85,000,000 ≠ nobody

I think a reasonable person must agree with Apple on this point.

As for Adobe’s claim… Back to you, Mr President: “You can fool all the people some of the time…”