Microsoft vs IBM; Atari vs Commodore; Firefox vs Internet Explorer -- the biggest battles in computing pale into insignificance compared to the spat between Apple (news, site) and Adobe over Flash.

The Pre-Fight Hype

In the battle for Web standards, there is always friction, but rarely do we see the amount of sparks flying as in the "debate" between Steve Jobs and Adobe when supporting his company's stance against the use of Flash in Apple's iPhone and iPad products.

None of the battles mentioned before have had the element of personality that this fight has. Is this really about Steve Jobs versus Adobe? Is it really about HTML5 vs. Flash? Or how about open source versus proprietary? The sub-plots and twists to this tale could see it culminate in a WWE bout at Wrestlemania.

How Did We Get Here?

For those not following this soap opera, Adobe announced back in early 2008 that Flash would go mobile via the Open Screen project. Apple has never brought into this in the mobile space and is backed up (rather surprisingly) by Microsoft where a recent IE9 blog post highlights that Flash has problems and the project is not meeting its goals or timetable. Now Steve Jobs is regularly arguing against Adobe while Adobe recently ran a series of loving adverts for its erstwhile partner.

Flash's failings is one part of the reason why Apple is taking such a hardline stance against it. Another is Steve Jobs' assertion that he is developing a future platform, one that makes a clean break with legacy technology and wants a "pure" environment for developers and users.

Since HTML 5 is a future standard (although you could argue its just an update to previous standards) and Flash isn't, perhaps that is a sound argument, from certain angles.

A Reality Check

While it's fun (or painful, depending on your point of view and tolerance of the Web's obsession with the story) to watch, whoever wins isn't necessarily down to these two combatants. It is down to which big name sites switch from Flash to HTML 5 for their own reasons, or to appeal to the iPhone/iPad-toting masses.

Hulu recently announced it was sticking with Flash for now. Some companies go both ways. The BBC News website content won't play on an iPhone but shows from the BBC iPlayer site will. Many media enterprises are producing an iPhone/iPad app for their content that bypasses the need to browse the Web and others are sitting on the fence.

The ultimate winner could also be down to the phone makers, Microsoft plans to support Flash at some point in its Windows Series 7 Phones while Android will openly embrace Flash technology in its next revision. One thing is certain, Flash will be a part of the common Web for years to come and can still play a part in the mobile Web for some time.

Who Will Save Us?

We've covered solutions in CMSWire that could negate a lot of this arguing. BrightCove announced an iPhone solution to go alongside its video content platform. The prime agitators themselves are also changing, with the iPhone evolving with OS4 and Adobe working hard on its mobile offerings, many things could yet change on both sides of the argument.

Finally, it might be the law that gets Apple to change its ways, with antitrust and competition lawyers taking an interest in the walled garden that Apple lives in.