My Take: Apple's iPad and Flash

I happened to be in San Jose when Apple announced the new iPad. I was in town for an Adobe video influencers event. The morning of the announcement, I was having breakfast with Rachel Luxemburg – the coordinator for Adobe’s community programs. We were watching the announcement via TWIT.tv as Alex Lindsay and Leo Laporte did a live stream of the event. The next table over from us in the hotel restaurant, were a dozen or so of my colleagues from the video world – also fully engaged with Apple’s announcement.

I am a huge Apple fan. My first computer was an Apple II. I’ve been hooked ever since. When the iPhone came out – I was elated. I am a gadget person. I love technology. To this day, the iPhone still ranks as the ‘number one’ invention of my lifetime. It can do … well, just about anything. As we all know…there’s an app for that!

The announcement of the iPad was somewhat bittersweet for me. Given that the iPhone can fill so many needs – just how would an iPad fit into my techno lifestyle? It’s not a computer – as it doesn’t run Mac OS X. I don’t need a large iPhone. But I definitely could get into a truly engaging ‘media device’.

Ergonomically speaking, the iPad fits the bill. It’s lightweight – only 1.5lbs.  At about 10×7.5, the screen is perfect for reading a book – in full color – something the Kindle doesn’t offer. It’s a great size for gaming. As an artist, with the addition of a third-party drawing stylus, it’s also the perfect size for a ‘sketchbook’. And I can only begin to imagine the next generation multimedia ‘magazines’ that could be viewed on this device. Web browsing, email, movies . . . they’re all a given.

But without Flash? What was Apple thinking? In my opinion, Apple made a decision that is not in our best interests, but instead, some remnant of a long ongoing Apple vs. Adobe battle. It’s the first time I’ve been disappointed in Apple.

Coincidentally, about a month ago, I watched the fascinating documentary ‘MacHEADS‘. It profiled Apple’s history and culture. It brought back many memories. Historically, Apple was a company that listened to it’s end-user. Apple user groups were huge. Apple prided itself on innovation. Apple stood out. They wanted to be different. They taught us to ‘Think-Different’. While the number of Apple users were less than windows users, Apple users were fanatics. I know this very well, as I was truly a part of the Apple ‘cult’.

The last part of the documentary made the most impact on me though. It spoke of the ‘new’ Apple – a company that has left its user groups feeling abandoned, lost its personal relationships with end-users – all in the pursuit of . . . the bottom line. Granted – it’s a business. Apple is part of corporate America. And in corporate America – it’s only the bottom line that matters.

Or not? More and more marketing gurus are talking about the era we are in. They explain that marketing and business concepts of the past no longer viable. That for businesses to truly succeed in the long run – they need to realize that the old ways of doing business are a thing of the past.

In creating the iPad, did Apple make the mistake of letting their ego get in the way of releasing a truly great product? I believe they did.

Apple argues that HTML5 will replace Flash. Is that possible? Just do a search on Google – you’ll be inundated with opinions. One consistent opinion you will see though, is that HTML5 is not ready for prime-time yet.

The Apple iPad is supposed to start shipping next month. I don’t want to wait for HTML5. I want a device that is a truly engaging multimedia device . . . now! The simple solution iPad + Flash.

85% of the top websites use Flash technologies. Go to the home page of the New York Times. What do you see? Embedded Flash. I work in motion graphics, vfx and animation. I spend a lot of time on Vimeo. On the iPad, all I would see on Vimeo is the missing Flash plugin symbol.

But there’s more to it than that. Beyond the video capabilities of Flash, not including Flash on the iPad precludes us from utilizing many of the rich-internet applications that are developed in Adobe Flex (now called Flash Builder). Flash Builder allows developers to rapidly build engaging applications – anything from games – to that ‘next’ generation multimedia ‘magazine’ that I referenced earlier. All of these could be readily available on the iPad, when it ships next month – if they had included Flash.

So, just what does Adobe have to say about all of this? Check out Kara Swisher of All Things Digital recent interview with Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch.

And then, when you’re done with that, take a look at what some of these ‘next generation magazines’ could look like using Flash.

Then, stop and ask yourself – who does Apple’s decision to not include Flash on the iPad really impact?

3 Comments

  1. I don’t think it is any secret that Apple’s decision not to include Flash is centered squarely on the fact that they don’t want the competition on their device. If they were to allow Flash and/or AIR there would be a whole slew of applications that could be deployed to their device for which they would not be able to extract their pound of flesh.

    What I don’t understand, and this could be that there are dependencies I am not aware of, is why someone hasn’t figured out a way to get a Flash-enabled browser onto jailbroken iPhones. While granted, it’s not technically legal yet, its illegality is questionable and under review by the powers that be. To me it would seem that the jailbreaking community would figure something out, out of sheer principle of throwing off “the man.”

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  2. I’m confused why all developers are angry at the lack of flash on the ‘pad. Don’t get me wrong, I love flash and it’s been my bread and butter for the better part of 15 years. But as a developer apple is putting us in a better position to make extra coin. CS5 is preparing us to be capable of a develop once publish-to-everything-people-can-carry environment where we can charge for our hard work rather than continue to give it away to anyone with a browser. I think a lot of people are a little short-cited on apple’s decisions regarding flash, at the end of the day you can still get your hard work in front of an audience – who cares if it needs a plug-in? I’m all for the native app export from CS5 to apple’s products and air and browser publishing for everyone elses device. Granted it changes the landscape for existing work which solely leverages flash, but we should all realize by now that progress and learning are good things.

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  3. @pixelplacement – I hear what you are saying from a developer’s perspective, and agree that CS5 puts developers in an excellent position to create for multiple platforms. Flash CS5’s ability to package iPhone apps is a great boost to the developer community http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashcs5/appsfor_iphone

    But what about the end-user who orders their iPad in March – and is subject to a ‘less-than-stellar’ online experience because of Apple’s decision to not include Flash. Given the fact that Flash is currently used in more than 85 percent of websites, including the NY Times, BBC, and top sites around the world – Apple did not have consumer’s best interest at heart.

    It’s been {reported} that over 7 million attempts were made by iPhone users to download the Flash player by December 2009, that’s up from 3 million attempts in June 2009. How can that be ignored?

    I agree with @Nick Collins – maybe it’s time for the jailbreak community to come up with the solution.

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