Apple dumps Flash from Mac OS X

New Macs come without Adobe's Flash, leaving users to install security updates themselves

Apple will stop bundling Adobe's Flash with Mac OS X, the company confirmed Friday.

The new MacBook Air, which debuted earlier in the week, is the first Flash-less system from Apple. Other systems will follow suit as the company clears out inventory of Mac desktops and notebooks that include Flash.

Mac users will still be able to install Flash themselves, and Apple has done nothing to block Flash from running.

"We're happy to continue to support Flash on the Mac, and the best way for users to always have the most up to date and secure version is to download it directly from Adobe," Apple spokesman Bill Evans said in reply to questions on Friday.

The move also puts an end to Apple supplying Flash security updates to Mac OS X users as part of the operating system's patch process. Instead, users will have to know about, locate, download and install those fixes themselves.

That's not smart, said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security.

"What Apple is doing is separating themselves from the security community," said Storms, who didn't cotton to Apple's decision. "Users, who are likely running an outdated version, typically don't even know when Adobe issues patches."

"I just don't see the upside of this. Apple's not helping out," Storms said.

In the absence of Apple patching Flash, Adobe said Mac users were on their own for now. "Adobe recommends that users download the most up to date version of Adobe Flash Player from Adobe.com," a spokeswoman said.

She urged Mac users to regularly monitor Adobe's security blog, which posts news of impending and available Flash updates, or subscribe to its RSS feed to stay atop fixes.

Adobe plans to produce an auto-update notification feature in a future release of Flash Player for the Mac, but declined to set a release date. The feature would be similar to what's now offered to Windows users.

People running Mozilla's Firefox or Google's Chrome will have an edge during the interim.

Firefox, for example, includes a plug-in checker that detects out-of-date add-ons, including Flash Player, and provides a link to Adobe's download site. Chrome, meanwhile, automatically upgrades Flash Player in the background.

While Evans made no mention of Apple's anti-Flash stance, Storms saw the decision as another example of the rocky relationship between Apple and Adobe over the technology.

"Apple's trying to separate themselves even further from Flash," Storms said. " Microsoft doesn't update Flash either, but they seem more interested in working with vendors than Apple. Adobe is a good example."

Microsoft and Adobe collaborate on security, Storms argued, pointing to the latter's July announcement to join the Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP), which gives select security companies early warning on upcoming patches.

Adobe has also adopted a version of Microsoft's Software Development Lifecycle (SDL), a program designed to bake security awareness into products, and picked Microsoft developers' brains to create the "sandbox" technology, slated to show up in Reader next month.

Storms, who in the past has criticized Apple for patching Flash months after the same fixes were available for Windows, wondered why the company singled out Adobe's software.

"If they're going to say they're doing it so that users have the most up-to-date versions, then they should stop issuing patches for every other third-party application in Mac OS X," Storms said.

Apple and Adobe have been at loggerheads over Flash ever since the former refused to allow the popular technology on its iPhone. The dispute has been heated this year, as the two companies traded blows over Flash content on Apple's iOS mobile operating system, with CEO Steve Jobs trashing Flash in an April public missive and the co-chairs of Adobe's board of directors accusing Apple of undermining the Web in mid-May.

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Tags Appleoperating systemssoftwareMalware and VulnerabilitiesMac OS

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Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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