The row that means your iPhone cannot play videos

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The Independent Tech

It was an important event in the lead-up to the election; but many people may have missed the chance to watch the final televised leaders' debate.

So yesterday's work commute would have been the ideal time for them to catch up by logging on to the BBC website to view the highlights on cutting-edge mobile devices.

Unfortunately, there would have been one minor drawback: the video wouldn't have worked.

An ongoing disagreement means hundreds of millions of Apple customers are unable to watch an estimated 75 per cent of online video on their cutting-edge mobile devices.

With the iPad's arrival in the UK imminent, the fallout has escalated, with significant implications for the future of the internet.

Almost all online video embedded in websites requires a programme called Adobe Flash Player to work. Despite the pervasive presence of Flash on the internet, Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, long ago barred it from working on his company's iPhones, iPods and iPads.

In February, Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe, accused Mr Jobs of building a "walled garden" around his products, arguing that the restrictions on Flash were part of a plot to ensure that Apple customers could only use software bought from the company's own online store.

Others in the technology industry have accused the company of monopoly building.

But on Thursday, Mr Jobs hit back. A 1,600 word post entitled "Thoughts on Flash" appeared on Apple's website, in which he said the two companies had "few joint interests", adding that "Flash has not performed well on mobile devices" and that "we also know first-hand that Flash is the number one reason [Apple's desktop computer] Macs crash".

He added that Flash had a poor security record and that "we don't want to reduce the reliability and security of our iPhones, iPods and iPads by adding Flash".

"Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers," he wrote, before adding: "Adobe should focus more on creating great... tools for the future, and less on criticising Apple for leaving the past behind."

Apple has reiterated its disapproval of Apps using a third-party development tool like Flash. The reasoning behind it is that development platforms target the lowest common denominator. Jobs writes "we cannot accept an outcome where developers are blocked from using our innovations and enhancements because they are not available on our competitor's platforms".

Mr Narayen responded by saying the post was "really a smokescreen", telling the Wall Street Journal that Apple's policy of blocking Flash had "nothing to do with technology". He also pointed out that if the programme crashes Apple devices, it had more "to do with the Apple operating system" than with Flash.

Adobe's chief technology officer, Kevin Lynch, said the company would create a "great landscape of choice" for other, Flash-enabled mobile devices manufactured by Apple's rivals, including Google, Nokia, Palm and Microsoft.

But for the foreseeable future, commuters with iPhones will just have to make do with the written word.

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