Adobe’s Adrian Ludwig posted a quick reaction to the news that iPad, at least in its initial form, won’t have Flash. The decision not to include Flash on iPhones was already controversial, but now with a bigger screen and a different usage profile, the iPad’s decision not to use Flash has even more people up in arms.
It looks like Apple is continuing to impose restrictions on their devices that limit both content publishers and consumers. Unlike many other ebook readers using the ePub file format, consumers will not be able to access ePub content with Apple’s DRM technology on devices made by other manufacturers. And without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70% of games and 75% of video on the web.
If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate, or JibJab — not to mention the millions of other sites on the web — I’ll be out of luck.
Would Flash make the iPad better? Surely, even Apple’s go-to publication, the NYTimes.com uses it (and uses it extremely well). For me, Hulu is the most important Flash site that won’t work on the iPad. Instead of being able to watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report free with ads, my only option is to buy them on iTunes (or download a torrent and convert to a format that the iPad can use – but that’s getting absurd).
Will Apple continue to shut out Hulu if they don’t go to HTML5 or build a dedicated app? There might be other iTunes-related politics on that particular case. But what about the NYTimes or any of the sites mentioned above by Ludwig? Until there is a good HTML5 SDK (might not be a bad idea to tack this onto the Webkit team, Apple?), Flash is the best alternative for companies that want to put out interactive content for the web.
The Flash issue was, for the past three years, a technical issue on the iPhone. Those Samsung ARM chips wouldn’t deliver a good Flash experience and Steve Jobs even mentioned that as the reason for not including Flash. But now Android phones and others with ARM Cortex A8 processors are getting a very usable version of Flash. It stands to reason, then, that Apple’s new A4 ARM Cortex A9 chip would provide a good experience, especially with Adobe working with ARM on optimizing the experience for their architecture.
So now it isn’t about speed. The iPad’s processor can handle Flash. It is politics.
On one side, you have Apple who doesn’t want to rely on Adobe to keep its application running well on its platform (see Mac version of Flash) or nor do they want competition for App Store developers. On the other, you have Adobe who’ve optimized their code for mobile devices and have millions of Flash apps already on the web and thousands of developers spitting out new applications every day.
In the middle, is the consumer who wants to buy an iPad to watch Hulu TV.
Perhaps, if implemented like Safari on the desktop with Flash running as a separate process with a ClicktoFlash implementation, it would make sense for Apple to support it. It could be done like Copy/Paste, MMS or tethering (whoops!) on the iPhone: Slow, behind the curve, but eventually done right.
But there is also every possibility that Apple will never let the Flash player onto any of its iPhone OS products.