By Alan Murray and Geoffrey Smith
July 27, 2017

Good morning.

Adobe announced yesterday that it is going to stop supporting Flash, a transformative technology that brought the Internet to life two decades ago by allowing motion graphics, interactive games and videos to be inserted into web pages; it then fell out of popularity in the mobile era. It would be just another story of a popular product made obsolete by the disruption of technology except for this fact: Flash didn’t die of natural causes. The late Steve Jobs killed it.

To understand how critical Flash was to a generation of media developers, you can read this personal paean by Fortune’s Stacy Jones. Flash’s fate was sealed by Jobs’ decision not to support the popular technology in the iPhone or the iPad. That was a business decision, forcing developers to build things specifically for his devices, rather than retrofitting stuff built for the open web. But the extraordinary move came in 2010 when he personally penned a 1,700 word attack on the Adobe product. I had been a business reporter for three decades by that point, and had spent countless hours reading business history. Yet I couldn’t think of another example of the CEO of a large company engaging so consciously and personally in an attack on the product of a business partner. I interviewed Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen the day after the hit job, and you can see his shell-shocked response here.

In the post-Jobs era, there have been copycat examples—think of T-Mobile CEO John Legere’s ugly Twitter spat with Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure last year. But in this, as in so many other areas, Jobs was an innovator—pioneering CEO hand-to-hand combat.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@timeinc.com

 

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