At a news conference yesterday, Apple confirmed that all their new computers will now be shipped without Adobe Flash. The new MacBook Air released last week is the first Flash-less system, and all new desktops and notebooks will follow suit.
While Mac users will still be able to install Flash themselves, the fact that it wont be officially supported by Apple will have a number of security implications. Instead of Flash security updates being installed as part of the OS X patch process, it will be left up to individual users to download and install all future security updates.
While no-one really knows why Apple have taken this stance towards Flash, the relationship between Apple and Adobe has not been particularly good of late. Apple received a lot of criticism for not including Flash support in its iPhone or iPad, and this latest move is also likely to confuse a lot of people. However, some people do have problems with security and performance issues due to Flash, so not everyone is going to be unhappy about this decision.
Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security has said “What Apple is doing is separating themselves from the security community,” adding “Users, who are likely running an outdated version, typically don’t even know when Adobe issues patches.” While Adobe are likely to include an auto-notification feature for Mac users in the future, at the moment they seem to be on their own.
While Microsoft have also dumped Flash bundling since Windows XP, they seem a lot more pro-active about collaborating with Adobe directly regarding security issues. While Microsoft are working on third-party security through the Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP), it seems this decision by Apple is more about cutting ties than looking for new solutions.
Apple and Adobe haven’t had a good relationship for a while now, and things have been getting even more heated this past year. Steve Jobs trashed Flash in April saying it was slow, not secure, and not suitable for touchscreen devices, and the Adobe board of directors hit back in April saying that Apple was “undermining the web”.