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Friday, 29 January 2010 15:47

Adobe criticizes iPad, iBook restrictions [updated]

In a couple of blog posts, people at Adobe have launched a sort of pre-emptive strike against the iPad and its iBook Store, criticizing Apple for not supporting Flash and claiming that its iBooks will only work on the iPad.

[Update: Yet a third Adobe blog has taken up the anti-iPad banner -- see last page for details.]

During the introduction of the iPad yesterday, Apple displayed a page from the New York Times to show off the new device's e-reader capabilities.

But there was a big hole on the page with a broken-link icon where a Flash object was supposed to be.

The iPhone has never supported Flash directly (although Adobe has provided a kind of workaround), so it's no surprise that the iPad doesn't either.

Speculation as to why ranges from its effect on battery life to its propensity for crashing to the prohibition against iPhone apps relying on the kind of virtual machines Flash requires.

Whatever the reason, Adobe or some of its employees have apparently decided to whip up sentiment against Apple's restriction.


In a post on the Adobe Flash Platform Blog, Adrian Ludwig writes that "without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web.

"If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate, or JibJab -- not to mention the millions of other sites on the web -- I'll be out of luck."

A fair criticism, though one that wouldn't sound quite so passive aggressive if it came from an iPad customer rather than someone with a vested interest in the issue.

Ludwig also brings up the idea that iBooks will only work on the iPad, writing that "unlike many other ebook readers using the ePub file format, consumers will not be able to access ePub content with Apple's DRM technology on devices made by other manufacturers."

Dave Dickson echoes the criticism on the Adobe Digital Editions blog: "For example, EPUB content protected with Apple DRM won't work on numerous eReaders like the Barnes & Noble nook and the Sony Reader, not to mention future, forthcoming models. Similarly, protected EPUB eBooks obtained from thousands of online booksellers (including Barnes & Noble) and most public libraries (including The New York Public Library)'”are unreadable on the iPad."

One question that immediately arises is: how does Dickson know this?


Apple hasn't announced anything about DRM in the iBook Store yet, and with the iPad two months away from shipping, it's not as though anyone has run into this problem.

The music files Apple sold in the iTunes Store started out being DRM'ed, of course, much to some customers' frustration.

But Apple removed those restrictions about a year ago, and iTunes music purchases are in the open AAC/mp4 format. Movies and TV shows are still copy-protected, but Apple has demonstrated with music at least that it is open to distributing content in device-agnostic formats.

Furthermore, it's not as though Apple would be alone in tying its books to its own device. To read Kindle books, you need either a Kindle or a PC or other device running Kindle software.

And Amazon gives publishers the opportunity to add DRM to their books. One self-publisher writes, "When DRM is enabled, Kindle files cannot be shared with other users, and there may be a limit on how many separate devices a buyer may load a book onto."

Ironically, Adobe has also been the target of complaints about DRM attached to the ePub format.


Adobe provides its own way of adding DRM to ePub books, and TeleRead blogger David Rothman wrote last year that "proprietary DRM like Adobe's will turn even an open format like ePub into a proprietary one in effect."

"If Adobe wants to raise the price of its DRM or pull other tricks, will anything get in the way?" Rothman asked. "Maybe. But if so, where's the public assurance that Adobe won't pull fast ones in the future'¦?"

It's all very confusing, but perhaps Adobe has made one thing perfectly clear.

"Adobe technology is at the center of virtually every print and digital workflow," writes Ludwig. Apparently, it's determined to stay there.   

Update: Another Adobe blogger, Lee Brimelow, has posted a page showing what several popular Flash-based websites will look like on the iPad: they all show the little blue cube with question marks. The sites include such benign addresses as Addicting Games and Farmville, but Brimelow's first collection also included a porn site, the Bang Bros network. He has since removed that image, replacing it with "Screenshot removed. My apologies if it offended anyone," but not before it was captured by the folks at Cult of Mac.

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